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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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Encountering Angels: Reading Genesis with my Children In this book, my children and I blend traditional Jewish learning and personal experience in our commentary on Genesis, making it unlike any other book written about the biblical text and rabbinic literature related to Genesis.  Like most books of biblical commentary written by rabbis, it examines the text through the...

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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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School’s Out

The last three weeks of the school year are a complete blur, not only because my glasses broke one Monday morning. Snapped in half at the bridge and fell right off my face. There were other funny things that happened, and quite a few serious things.

I spent a lot of time reading Psalms and singing quietly to fill the painful silence. I didn’t mean to stop posting to this blog; I didn’t mean to leave words of shock and grief on the front page of this website for three weeks.

Now school’s out and I’m returning to myself, clearing my mind every morning while walking the dog, challenging my mind every evening with crossword puzzles I’ve been saving for “when I have more time.”

Now school’s out and the rhythm of daily life shifts. “I lift my eyes to the mountains; from where does my help come? My help comes from God.” (Psalm 121)

Knowing this, I begin to write again.

* * * * * * *

walking the bridge b-wIf you missed my latest post on the Rabbis Without Borders blog, please follow the link below. I am humbled by the responses on Facebook, where it was shared by many friends, and I am grateful to MyJewishLearning.com and 70 Faces Media for sharing it on the Facebook page of Kveller.com and mentioning it in the “What We’re Reading” section of yesterday’s JTA Daily Briefing.

Crossing the Bridge: We are walking along a busy, suburban street that runs mostly parallel to the highway connecting our town to the city immediately to our east. The sidewalk begins at the bridge…Read more →

 

 

 

 

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Disbelief

We are sitting around Linda’s table. It is laden with Passover desserts—meringues, nuts, fruit, chocolate covered matzah—and we are discussing death. Somehow, a biography of King David leads us to the fire in Brooklyn that took the lives of seven children.

What do we say when a child dies? How do we believe in God when there is so much tragedy and suffering in the world?

We are mothers and grandmothers, daughters and sisters, wives and friends, grappling with theodicy during our Book Club meeting. There is a moment every month when I become suddenly aware of our level of intellectual and emotional engagement; it’s never surprising, always exhilarating, and I pause to savor it.

I acknowledge the challenge of believing in God when facing the death of a child, admit my own doubts and difficulties in praying to God in such circumstances, and recall the line in the Talmud, “Everything is in God’s hands except fear of God.” (Berakhot 33b) Linda expresses her abiding faith that everything is in God’s hands. “Maybe it’s simple, but that’s how I was raised,” she says.

It’s not simple, at all. Maintaining one’s belief in a transcendent God, the Ruler of the Universe, and an immanent God, who is near to us and acts in our lives, strikes me as complicated. I tell Linda she is lucky; her easy faith is one that does not come easily to many of us.

arlington cemetery

Not quite one month passes between this conversation and Linda’s untimely death.

My denial—I refuse to say “Blessed is the True Judge” upon hearing the news—and disbelief are absolute.

For twenty four hours I am numb. Then, unexpectedly, tears flow, as I realize we’ll be meeting this week at the cemetery, instead of next week for our final book discussion before summer break. I spend the rest of the day checking in with as many of the group I can reach by phone.  We cannot believe it, cannot imagine being together without her. How can a person of such timeless beauty and steadfast presence be gone?

It seems that, in leaving us so suddenly, Linda died as she lived, with perfect faith in God who would comfort us as we mourn her.

“Though I walk through the darkest valley or stand in the shadow of death, I am not afraid, for I know you are always with me.” (Psalm 23)

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RWB Blog

rwb_logo196There is some great Torah being taught by my Rabbis Without Borders colleagues at the blog on MyJewishLearning.com. We invite you to join our daily conversation! You can also engage with us on Facebook & Twitter: @rwbclal

Here are links to my latest posts: 

Memory and Desire: The heavy rains awaken me early on Saturday morning and dislodge a buried memory of a conversation… Read more →

From Futility to Freedom: The following is an excerpt from my personal Haggadah, a story of my enslavement to a principle and my discovery of the freedom to speak my mind. Read more →

Next month’s post will go live on May 26th at 9:00 a.m.

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