Jul 18, 2021

Watching Comedy (sort of) on Tisha Be'Av with my daughter

With just a few hours of Tisha Be'av left, my daughter and I sat down to watch Bo Burnham's Netflix special "Inside." It felt strange, I said, to watch a comedy special on a mournful day, but Ariel, who had seen it already, recommended it, and I was happy for the company and for the distraction from my rumbling belly.

It was devastating and amazing and I never want to see it again. Burnham's dizzying pace and satiric truth-telling are reminiscent of his earlier work, but this was a categorically different experience from his earlier work. It reminded me more of Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" than a comedy special. With fragmentary light, this was a deeply artful and frighteningly baring exploration of the Pandemic's impact on life itself.

I don't want to go too far in any comparison, but having myself sat in front of both the world and noone every morning for 16 months, sharing from my craft and from my soul, with none of the energy of a live class or congregation, I felt some resonance in Burnham's eyes. He hid nothing. It was scary to see the depth of his honesty. Ravaging even.

And that is why my daughter's recommendation was so attuned to Tisha Be'Av. On this day we are called by ancient tradition to face our world's destructions head-on, no production team making the lighting just right, no filters to erase the fissures of reality.

Halfway through the day we begin greeting each other again, emerging from the ritually-guided mourning. Because we are not meant to remain inside. That is where Tisha Be'Av multi-millennia wisdom surpasses Burnham's COVID period piece, brilliant though it is.

Tisha Be'Av is a container for the misery, with rituals that make the pain felt, and with a scheduled conclusion. As the sun begins to set and the minutes of Tisha Be'av are numbered, as the echo of Burnham's pained laughter (hopefully) fade in my mind, I bless us to never forget the lessons we've so painfully learned these long months, but more than that: to internalize an ancient teaching about Tisha Be'Av and offer it to a world in deep need of comfort:

Those who remember the destruction will merit to be part of its rebuilding. May we be so blessed.


Jul 16, 2021

A blessing for Tisha Be'av

I've often noticed the contrast between Yom Kippur and Tisha Be'Av. Their observances are similar; their intents are not. Yom Kippur's promises of return, of forgiveness, of reconnection stand starkly different from Tisha Be'Av's ritually enforced sadness and loneliness ("Jerusalem sits alone," as we read in the Book of Lamentations).

Given those modes of exile and return and given the 16 months we've all been through (and the urgent work ahead), I offer these blessings to us all before this pre-Tisha Be'Av Shabbat, also known as the Shabbat of Vision/Chazon:

May loneliness be met with reconnection.
May our collective vision restore so much that's been broken.
May our actions help the world become a kinder place.
May we not hesitate.



here's the poem. (thank you, Josh.)

"Don't Hesitate"
by Mary Oliver

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case.
Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.


photo: 'You're not alone' by Dionne White

Jul 6, 2021

Today's #MorningTorah is dedicated in honor of Elisha Wiesel's leadership of the NO FEAR: Rally in Solidarity with the Jewish People in Washington, DC this Sunday

 Today's #MorningTorah is dedicated in honor of Elisha Wiesel's leadership of the NO FEAR: Rally in Solidarity with the Jewish People in Washington, DC this Sunday where I'll be blessed share the stage with my brother in heart Joshua Washington and teach and sing. Find out more here - and join us there! - 


Jul 4, 2021

Captain America | July 4, 2021

Symbols speak loudly, raising to a visible level the language of a collective unconscious. When Marvel set out to tell the story of Sam Wilson, a Black American man who Steve Rogers chose as the next Captain America, they (and Disney) chose something important to convey, something I encourage us to consider this 4th of July: What is America? Who is America? Who isn't? What is the dream of America? We often use the phrase "the Founders" to describe those who fought for American independence. But there have been other Founders, often forgotten or erased from national self-understanding: those who built this land as slaves and those who, today, dedicate their lives to extending the circles of belonging in America. Today is for all the Founders, none of whom are undeserving. Our Captain America says it just right, mythic tone and all: "You people have just as much power as an insane god or a misguided teenager. The question you have to ask yourself is: how are you going to use it?"