Our Sacred Partnerships

Our Sacred Partnerships

May 22, 2020 By Mychal Springer | Commentary | Bemidbar

The Midrash teaches us that God destroyed the world several times before creating our world (Bereishit Rabbah 3:7 and 9:2). Famously, after the flood, God establishes a covenant with Noah, Noah’s sons, and all living things. God says: “I will maintain My covenant [beriti] with you: never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth” (Gen. 9:11). When we read this verse in light of the midrash, we understand that God came very close to destroying the world again, but managed to enact a symbolic destruction, providing some people and some of the living creatures with a way to survive. This covenant is the vehicle for keeping humanity and all of creation connected with the divine even when rupture looms as a possibility.

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The Promise of a New Heart and a New Spirit: <em>Lev Hadash Veruah Hadashah</EM>

The Promise of a New Heart and a New Spirit: Lev Hadash Veruah Hadashah

Mar 29, 2019 By Mychal Springer | Commentary | Shemini | Shabbat Parah

This Shabbat is Shabbat Parah, the Shabbat of the Red Heifer. The special Torah reading for this Shabbat, in Numbers 19, addresses the defilement of coming into contact with the dead. The Parah Adumah section makes clear that contact with the dead disrupts our ability to function, and that we must engage in a ritual in order to be restored into society and into proper relationship with God. And anyone who is involved with the ritual that purifies others will become impure in the process; there is no way to eradicate the impurity absolutely.

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Holding Fast

Holding Fast

Jul 27, 2018 By Mychal Springer | Commentary | Va'et-hannan

This week we emerge from the destitution of Tisha Be’av, the fast day that commemorates the destruction of the Temples, and receive the gift of Shabbat Nahamu, the Shabbat of our being comforted. נַחֲמוּ נַחֲמוּ עַמִּי יֹאמַר אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, “Comfort, oh comfort My people, Says your God” (Isaiah 40:1). What is comfort? One way of understanding the essence of comfort is by engaging with Moshe Rabbenu (our teacher, Moses) in this week’s parashah.

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Living With the Fragility of Life

Living With the Fragility of Life

Sep 29, 2017 By Mychal Springer | Commentary | Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is one 25-hour day that is capable of entering and enriching every day of the year. On Yom Kippur, we peel back some of our denial and make space for the fragility of life. The rituals help us and the liturgy helps us. At the center of the High Holiday Amidah, the collection of prayers known as Tefillah (Prayer), stands U-netaneh Tokef. It begins, “Let us speak of the sacred power of this day—profound and awe-inspiring” (Mahzor Lev Shalem). The list of ways in which we can die included in the prayer certainly captures our attention, and can feel overwhelming.

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Returning <em>with</em> God

Returning with God

Sep 30, 2016 By Mychal Springer | Commentary | Nitzavim

This week’s Torah Portion, Nitzavim, speaks profoundly about teshuvah, the literal and figurative struggle to return to God. When we turn back to God “with all [our] heart and soul,” the parashah tells us, then God “will bring you together again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you” (Deut 30:3). Being scattered is a state of disorientation and disconnection. Teshuvah represents a coming home. There’s an organic connection between the return to the Land of Israel—the land at the center of the Jewish soul, from which we have been banished—and the return that involves changing our ways and opening our hearts to God.

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Return Us to You

Return Us to You

Sep 26, 2016 By Mychal Springer | Short Video | Rosh Hashanah | Yom Kippur

Forgiving and Asking Forgiveness: Sound Bytes for the High Holidays 5777

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Safe in God’s Memory

Safe in God’s Memory

Sep 11, 2015 By Mychal Springer | Commentary | Nitzavim | Rosh Hashanah

This week’s Torah portion, Nitzavim, contains stunningly beautiful verses that teach us that God’s Torah “is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it” (Deut. 30:14). The language of the verses is full of rich, physical imagery, “It is not in the heavens, that you should say, ‘Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?’” The Torah, the wisdom, is not far away, is not other. It is in our hearts. If we give our hearts space to be known and embraced, our hearts can share the wisdom that dwells inside. With this space, the wisdom of Torah emerges in new ways. It is not general; it is very specific to each person, to the challenges and blessings that he or she has encountered in his or her life.

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This Time Could Be Different

This Time Could Be Different

Aug 31, 2015 By Mychal Springer | Short Video | Rosh Hashanah | Yom Kippur

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Final Blessings

Final Blessings

Dec 30, 2014 By Mychal Springer | Commentary | Vayehi

One model of family caring for the dying is embodied powerfully in this week’s parashah. Jacob, aware that he is dying, speaks plain words to his sons: “I am about to die” (Gen. 48:21) . . . “I am about to be gathered to my kin” (49:29). By giving voice to the reality that his life is ending, Jacob opens up sacred opportunities with his family. He creates moments to put his blessings into words and communicates his wishes for what will happen to his body: that he be buried with his family in the family cave so that he can be gathered to his kin in all ways. The naming of this truth enables closure and peace.

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Making Space for Light and for Darkness

Making Space for Light and for Darkness

Dec 15, 2014 By Mychal Springer | Short Video | Hanukkah

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The Source of Hope

The Source of Hope

Jul 21, 2012 By Mychal Springer | Commentary | Masei | Mattot | Tishah Be'av

In a dramatic reversal of the ordinary mourning process, ‎which begins in its starkest intensity and lifts over time as the mourners are comforted, ‎these are weeks of increasing mourning that move, inevitably, to the destruction of ‎God’s house and the banishment of the People into exile. The prophetic readings drive ‎home that we have brought this horrible tragedy on ourselves.

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Our Sacred Partnerships

Our Sacred Partnerships

May 27, 2011 By Mychal Springer | Commentary | Bemidbar

In this week’s Torah and haftarah portions, the specter of rupture looms repeatedly. First, we are reminded of the deaths of Aaron’s two older sons, Nadav and Avihu. Similarly, our parashah recounts the undoing of the sacred place held by the firstborn sons, chosen to be dedicated to God when they were saved from the 10th plague, the plague of the slaying of the firstborns. Finally, in the haftarah, Hosea tells the story of Israel the Unfaithful, through the vehicle of Gomer, his harlot-wife.

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The Day After Destruction

The Day After Destruction

Jul 24, 2010 By Mychal Springer | Commentary | Va'et-hannan

The dreaded has happened. The inconceivable has come to pass. The Temple has been destroyed. Our center is no more. Our sense of safety is shattered. The world is no longer familiar. We are in a place of disorientation. So this Shabbat we begin the hard work of consolation: Nachamu, nachamu ami (“Comfort, oh, comfort My people, Says your God” [Isa. 40:1]).

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Our Hope and Despair

Our Hope and Despair

Jul 18, 2009 By Mychal Springer | Commentary | Masei | Mattot | Tishah Be'av

We are now in the period known as the Three Weeks: the weeks between the fast of the seventeenth of Tammuz, which marks the day the outer walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Babylonians, and the ninth of Av, when the Babylonians destroyed the Temple. These weeks are the low point of the year. In a dramatic reversal of the ordinary mourning process, which begins in its starkest intensity and lifts over time as the mourners are comforted, these weeks of mourning increase in intensity as they move, inevitably, to the destruction of God’s house and the banishment of the people into exile. The prophetic readings drive home that we have brought this horrible tragedy on ourselves. This week’s haftarah, from chapter 2 of Jeremiah, is the second of three haftarot of affliction. Jeremiah chastises the people for having strayed from God and God’s Torah. 

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A Passion for Justice

A Passion for Justice

Sep 6, 2008 By Mychal Springer | Commentary | Shofetim

Next week we mark the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The number seven has biblical weight to it: seven days of creation, seven years of the shemitah cycle. Looking back over seven years has a power to it as well.

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God’s True Strength (And Ours Too)

God’s True Strength (And Ours Too)

Jun 21, 2008 By Mychal Springer | Commentary | Shelah Lekha

In this week’s Torah portion, Shelah Lekha, God tells Moses to send twelve scouts to the land of Canaan to see what there is to see.

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Making Meaning From Chaos

Making Meaning From Chaos

Oct 5, 2007 By Mychal Springer | Commentary | Bereishit

The opening words of B’reishit are exhilarating. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

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