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Showing posts from May, 2010

The Soul Never Repeats

We Jews have a funny relationship to counting and numbering ourselves.If you have ever been to a daily minyan, or any service, and it’s not clear if there are ten Jewspresent (the minimum number of Jews to have a communal service), some people count by NOT counting:they’ll go around the room and number people as ‘not one, not two, not three.’Why this strange “un-counting?”It seems that we Jews have a kind of superstition about numbering our people.We believe that it will bring on bad consequences for the Jewish people if we directly number ourselves.And this belief is not without good justification:in the book of 1 Chronicles (Chapter 20), we read the story of how King David ordered his troops numbered with a census, and this incurred Divine wrath, and God punished the Israelites for this brazen counting.There are all kinds of theories as to why God was angry that we counted, but the fact remains:counting our people is something that we deem to be highly problematic and dangerous.Is i…

Recognizing the Miracle

We all love stories about miracles--not just the parting-of-the-Red-Sea kind of miracles.We love the modern-day miracle stories:the mother who miraculously finds the strength to lift the car to free her child.The miracle cures to seemingly incurable diseases.We love stories of miraculous human perseverance and survival against all odds; the Jewish modern-day miracle in the creation and survival of the State of Israel.Each story gives us pause in the midst of our busy, distracted lives to remember that there may indeed be a dimension of something beyond our ken at work in the world.If I were to go around the room right now, almost every one of us could recount a story of a miracle that we personally experienced in our lives.We might have our doubts, but there’s something tantalizing and renewing in these stories that is irresistible.But, of course, there is also the skeptic in each of us who then notices that there are plenty of times in history and in our lives where a miracle would h…

If We Would Only Listen for the Voice...

In the Talmud in Sanhedrin, there is a story of a rabbi named Yehoshua ben Levi who lived in the Land of Israel 2,000 years ago.He went to Meron in the Gallilee, to a cave where the great Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was buried and had spent 13 years of his life a generation before.In that cave, bar Yochai purportedly delved into deep and esoteric mysteries of God and creation.And so Yehoshua ben Levi went to that very cave years later to find his own deep insights to the ultimate question: he wanted to know when the Messiah would finally come to redeem the Jewish people and the whole world.The story goes that when Yehoshua ben Levi got the cave, he encountered none other than Elijah the Prophet himself.Now, we all know that that Elijah is the one who will herald the coming of the Messiah.So Yehoshua ben Levi asked Elijah to please tell him when the Messiah would come.Elijah said to him:why don’t you go ask him yourself!Where is he, Yehoshua ben Levi asked?He sits among the Lepers outside …