A Spiritual Dynamics Approach to Spiritual Education
"In a spiritual dynamics approach, we ask: what do good pray-ers do when they pray? What goes into a transcendent moment and how do I make that happen more often? We explore topics such as putting heart into words, or connecting to our deepest yearnings, or we ask: what does the latest brain science teach us about teshuvah and self-change? God-ideas are not critical: we let God-ideas arise when our experience makes them relevant. Instead, we concentrate on what is critical: the skills of spiritual practice that produce God-moments."
"Ask a person where they feel God's presence, in a sanctuary or on a mountain, most will prefer the natural setting to even the most beautiful of buildings. Ask whether they are moved more by a synagogue service or a day walking in Yosemite, most will choose the latter. Of course, the comparison is unfair and does not rule out a positive experience in shul. Nevertheless, the Jewish people suffers when its leaders do not understand the implications of these facts."
Elijah and the "Still Small Voice"
Does reading a biblical story in the place it occurred affect one's understanding of the text?
I have had the privilege of guiding groups comprised largely of rabbis and rabbinical students through the central Sinai mountains. With their help, I have repeatedly studied the story of Elijah at Horeb/Sinai while sitting under the shadow of present day Mt. Sinai. The interpretations of this episode in Elijah's life are endless, and none has achieved definitive status. The story, as we shall see, is too complex for that. Each reading leaves a thread or two or three untied, as does the midrash/interpretation offered here. It is my hope that this reading will contribute, quite literally, a new perspective to the discussion: the view from Sinai."
Growing Tradition: Tu b'Shevat
"Tu b’Shevat may now be at its most popular moment in Jewish history, but I would argue that it is not prominent enough. When I look at the ideas and activities attracting the next generation, my judgment is that Israel, environmentalism and spirituality are in the top five. Tu b’Shevat combines them in a unique historical, political and moral context that demonstrates the vitality of Jewish culture and the creativity of the Jewish people. "
The Spiritual Desert
"Prophets, kings, monks – they have all gone to the desert. Some as political refugees, some as spiritual seekers. Some have searched for God, some have been accosted by burning bushes.
Today, more and more people are following our ancestors into the desert, but it is hard to see the desert they experienced. The ancients did not tour in air-conditioned jeeps or hike with state of the art camping equipment at their disposal. To follow our predecessors spiritually, we must try, at least, to feel the desert as they did."
Feast or Famine: Sukkot
"According to the rabbis, the holiday of Sukkot commemorates the 40 years of wandering in the Sinai Desert, and we eat and sleep in a sukkah— that temporary structure made with a roof of dried vegetation, such as palm fronds — because the Israelites slept in sukkot (the plural of sukkah) on their journeys. But this contradicts the Torah. The Israelites lived in tents in the Sinai. The prophet Balaam does not praise Israel against the wishes of his patron, Balak, by exclaiming, “How lovely are thy huts … O Israel” (Numbers 24:5)."
Jerusalem: A Border Town
"From her beginnings as a Jewish city, Yeru-shalem, whose name includes the Hebrew word for wholeness, sat on a border for the purpose of uniting the people around it. King David chose for his capital a Jebusite city, located on the border between two of the twelve tribes (Judah and Benjamin), rather than his powerbase, Hebron, the capital of his own tribe of Judah. Jerusalem the border town offered a challenge to unite the twelve tribes around a new center.
So too can Jerusalem's other borders be understood as challenges, as calls for integration rather than division."