Did You See My Text Message?

Rabbi Jeff Salkin’s new book, Text Messages: A Torah Commentary for Teens, which includes my “text message” about Parashat Vayakhel, is now available from Jewish Lights. Follow the link to order your copy!



A River in Egypt


I imagine myself standing at the edge of the Nile, attuned to its cyclical ebb and flow which occasionally causes floods and overwhelms those who have built their lives alongside it.

I live near a different river. When I say it in my native New York accent, though, it may sound like the same place.


Actually, it’s not a place at all.  It’s a state of being.

Denial is an excellent defense against trauma.  At times, living in Denial is the only way to prevent myself from being engulfed by pain.

Grateful though I am to be spared physical pain, I suffer from a spiritual pain that threatens to drown me.  I grasp the branch of a tree which grows along the banks of the river.  I look up at the tree’s canopy. Seeing that I am sheltered by a weeping willow, I yearn for an unyielding stalk of bamboo.

I can’t bring myself to write about my feelings, because writing would lead to their acknowledgment and acceptance.  Denial allows me to keep anger and sorrow at bay.

Yet, I write:

“A mother who has only recently buried her son—the fruit of her womb—is forced to confront the injustice of her life. Her hope for the future was cut off, its death hastened by the son of another woman.  I have heard her cry for mercy.”

Beyond these few sentences, I cannot write a word.  As a mother, I can too easily imagine the nightmare of burying a child. I willfully deny myself Empathy in order to cope with the enormity of her Pain. I seek comfort in reading the written words of others, but I will not commit my own words to the pages of my notebook.

Instead, for now, I wade among the bulrushes of Denial.

Perhaps I will find words of consolation there.


Can you hear the beating of my heart?


Here’s a page from my “walking journal,” where I jot down things that occur to me when I manage to unchain myself from my desk:

I appreciate living in a place where I can safely walk the streets at most hours of the day and night. But there is a downside to having friendly neighbors, and I feel compelled to share it with you.

When I am power-walking up and down the hills of our neighborhood, listening to cardio-boosting music with one earbud and watching the sidewalk intently for obstacles in my path, I am in the zone…so, I have a request: Please don’t beep your car horn at me.

Why not? Three good reasons:
1) You will get my attention with the horn, but
2) I can’t see you behind your tinted windows. And
3) the horn usually scares the daylights out of me.

Although I generally regain my composure quickly and respond by smiling and waving, my heart stays in my throat. This is not so great for my workout.

Uh oh. I just reread this and it sounds like a complaint.

I don’t want to rewrite it completely. Instead, allow me to recommend a solution: Roll down your window and wave as you drive by me.

1) I still probably won’t recognize you, but
2) I will know that you are a friend, one who is intent on greeting me without startling me. And
3) my heart will beat happily in my chest as I raise my arm to wave.