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Back to School One great thing about going back to school is it presents an opportunity to return to routines, though I will allow that I've had only moderate success. My eating and sleeping habits may have deteriorated this past week. On the plus side, I've reaffirmed my commitment to writing weekly and, so far, I'm on a winning streak. Here's...

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American Guild of Judaic Art New Vision. New Website. New Year. This new “virtual” home for the Guild was created by dedicated  members from all over the country with different talents and skills, who worked diligently to make the site easy to use, informative and—most importantly—the best venue to display AGJA members’ art.  I stand...

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Neshama Interfaith Center Marian Monahan, a founder of the Neshama Interfaith Center, speaks in the voice of a prophet. She preached these words on Mother's Day at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Atlanta, and has graciously allowed me to share them here: Those of you who know me are aware that I'm quite involved in the interfaith...

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Rabbis Without Borders Imagine the most diverse group of rabbis you can. Take a moment and summon a visual in your mind. Now compare it with this group: 22 men (some clean-shaven, others bearded) and women (one pregnant, another gray-haired); single and married; gay & straight; several recent graduates of seminaries and a few approaching...

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Pamela Jay Gottfried is a rabbi, parent, teacher, artist and author. An inveterate Scrabble player and New York Times Crossword Puzzle fanatic, she credits her love of words to her parents, who encouraged her to develop her vocabulary through reading and using the dictionary at an early age. Since her ordination from...

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Taste & See: More than a Book Review

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In case you missed my post and review of Ginny Kubitz Moyer’s new book on the Rabbis Without Borders blog at My Jewish Learning, here is another way to find it:

Awakening the Senses: Nothing has been more meaningful in my journey toward the High Holidays than reading Ginny Kubitz Moyer’s latest book from Loyola Press, Taste & See: Experiencing the Goodness of God with our Five Senses. This book — listed in the Ignatian Spirituality section of a Jesuit publishing house — is a source of inspiration in my search to elevate everyday experiences and imbue them with holiness. Read more →

I’m still thinking about how to engage all five senses and be fully present as the high holidays approach.

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Letting Go

Having left you here, I prepare to make the journey home. I am alone, yet you are still with me.

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I sit in the airport, scrolling through pictures on my phone and scribbling ideas in my notebook. I think about how you–perhaps more than your siblings–taught me a parent’s sense of control over a child’s life is pure delusion.

Once, when you were most intimately a part of my life, when I was your life support, your growing form sustained me as I mourned the loss of life. It is nineteen years to the day (if I’d delivered on time) that another child might have been born. Then you would not have been, my child, my teacher. I might not have learned to let go.

I look ahead–about to enter the High Holiday season in the Jewish calendar cycle–and prepare to let go of outmoded ways of thinking and being, which restrain me from becoming my best self. As your parent, the one who has left you in this place far from home, I trust you possess the strength to become yourself apart from me.

In this month of Elul and through Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, we recite Psalm 27 daily. The words resonate in a new way this year: “My heart says, ‘Seek my face and I will seek your face,'” and while I know the psalmist is addressing God and using God’s face as a metaphor for God’s presence in his life, I believe your presence in my life has helped me face challenges, seek justice and pursue peace.

In the days ahead, I will seek your face and gaze at your face in my mind’s eye, to be reminded we are always letting go and becoming who we are.

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When the Planets Aligned

According to my cursory Google search, the last time five planets aligned was in February.

According to my life experience, the planets were perfectly aligned yesterday.

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I was rushing from place to place when I became lightheaded. Realizing I hadn’t eaten a proper meal all day and knowing I could make it to my next appointment with five minutes to spare, I stopped at Whole Foods for coffee and a muffin. Let me be clear about something: I hardly ever go into Whole Foods. I can’t remember the last time I was there, but I’m certain it was more than six months ago.

I was looking down at my wallet on the counter to see if I had enough cash when I heard a familiar voice say, “I’ll call you back. I have to hug a friend.” I looked up just in time to throw my arms wide to receive Natali’s greeting.  A few days ago we were Facebook messaging back and forth, lamenting that we hadn’t seen each other since May and wouldn’t see each other before mid-September.

This would be unremarkable, a mere coincidence, if three hours later I hadn’t run into another person just moments after mentioning their name in an even more unlikely place.

Two hours after the second incident, a person I’d met only once before–who was sitting a few feet away from me– looked up and told me she’d suddenly realized my sister-in-law had mentioned me to her earlier in the summer, shortly after we’d first met. She pulled out her phone to show me a picture from when they were together.

I stayed up late into the night, into the early hours of this morning, pondering what Force in the universe brought these three people into my life yesterday.

Do you think God intervenes in the personal lives of humans?

Is it fate?

At dawn, I still don’t know what to believe.

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