Love Is All You Need

It has been a week of LOVE, LOVE, LOVE…

On Sunday night, the eve of Tu B’Av in the Jewish calendar, my spouse and I attended a study session at the Neshama Interfaith Center with Rabbi Michael Bernstein on the love poetry of Rumi, Rilke & Rav Kook.  I cannot summarize the entire lesson, but one thing that we learned is love brings with it both suffering and joy. Perhaps my favorite text we read, which is just a taste of the wisdom of Rumi, is this: “If it’s true that the rules rise from love, it is also true that lovers pay no attention to the rules.”

Later in the week, Rabbi Rebecca Schorr shared a lovely story of her son’s discovery of love at summer camp. Ben’s experience in middle school this year, which she describes with heartbreaking honesty, left her less optimistic about his romantic prospects: “One of the things that makes Asperger’s so difficult is that Ben is aware of his differences. He knows kids his age are pairing off. But he isn’t clear how, or even why, that happens. He knows that it has something to do with love and with marriage in adulthood and in junior high, with the ability to talk to girls and pass his Communications class….So when he cries at night that he wants a girlfriend or that no one will ever love him, it is an expression of his fear that he will be alone…And like most teens, he doesn’t feel soothed by his mother’s reassurances.”  She goes on to share her elation that Ben not only has a girlfriend at summer camp, but is able to describe her using figurative language. Be sure to read the entire piece in The Jewish Week’s The New Normal blog.

Finally, I spent the morning packing up wedding gifts that I made in the studio this summer. One couple will be married this coming Sunday, and my spouse and I will stand with them at the huppah to recite one of the seven blessings: “Praised are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who created man and woman in Your image, fashioning woman from man as his mate, that together they might perpetuate life.” It’s a hopeful blessing; one that extends the wish that marriage will bring this new couple the joy and abundance known by the first couple in the Garden Beatles-AllYouNeedIsLoveof Eden.

I LOVE weddings, even more than love poems and stories of teenagers in love.

How lucky I am to have a week in which I get to enjoy all three!


I cannot make this assertion with certainty, yet with some confidence I would suggest that The Beatles were right.






earI admit it. I was eavesdropping.

But, in all fairness, they were being quite loud. And I was, apparently, invisible, as is often the case when I’m near a group of teens. I don’t mind, really. Invisibility helps with the eavesdropping.

“You’re from South Carolina?! A lot of Confederate flags there…”

“Yeah, there’s a lot of racists there.”

I resist the urge to correct her grammar.

“Which do you think is more racist, South Carolina or Georgia?”

“South Carolina, definitely.”

Others in the group murmur in agreement.

Their conversation continues in a direction I am not expecting. They are talking about the verdict, speculating about where the next Trayvon Martin will live and die. A few suggest Midwestern cities, saying that such an incident could happen anywhere.

“Guys, face it. This stuff happens all the time. Every day. Everywhere.  What’s weird is how this case is getting so much national attention.”

I glance up, sideways, to see the tall, lanky young man who speaks softly, persuasively and clearly from personal experience.

I remember talking with Reverend Floyd when he first arrived at Stanford University. Floyd told me that he was regularly stopped by Campus Police officers for “WWB: Walking While Black.” I remember finding it difficult to relate to his experience, because Campus Police was so helpful and solicitous to me.

I tune in to the teenagers again and find that they have moved on to another topic. One of the girls is talking about her decision to study at Emory University’s Oxford campus, because it is cheaper. When asked what the main difference is between the Oxford and Atlanta campuses, she replies, “They have marble steps and we don’t.”

No matter how sensitive we try to be, we are limited in our understanding of how others experience and perceive the world around us. Listening to their conversation, I am astonished by the astute observations and wise proclamations of these teens.  As a middle-aged Jewish mother of teens, I possess a completely different perspective.

As a rabbi, I cannot help but think of the collected wisdom of our ancient sages, who advise caution when judging others. Three ethical teachings from Pirke Avot, a tractate of the Mishnah, spring to mind:

“Give everyone the benefit of the doubt.” (1:6)

“Do not judge your fellow until you have been in his place.” (2:4)

“Let your fellow’s honor be as dear to you as your own.” (2:10)

As a human being who has felt she is the “other,” I want to join their conversation and share my views with them. But I know that I cannot.

I don’t mind, really. I love eavesdropping. I learn a lot by eavesdropping.

Later, when I go home to consult my books, I find a teaching of Rabbi Akiva to support my position: “The fence for wisdom is silence.” (Mishnah Avot 3:13)


In the Moment

This week I’m blogging over at Moment Magazine’s blog, thanks to the wonderful partnership between Becky Leavy of Moment and Sheri Baker, Director of Marketing & Communications at Ramah Darom. I especially enjoyed the opportunity to reflect and write about my experiences during the first summer that I taught in the art building at camp.

Moment Magazine is the official media sponsor of this year’s Jewish Women’s Retreat at Ramah Darom. Learn more about the wonderful women serving on staff for this event and register by August 5th to receive the early bird price!

10 claymandments

The Ten Claymandments were a gift from my campers in 2006; every summer campers consult and quote them! Read about them at Moment Magazine’s blog.