Posted here are resources to learn about, join, and take action around the Shabbat Noach initiatives. Both the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation and the Religious Action Center of the Union for Reform Judaism are part of this important effort.

I somehow navigated to these terrific teachings and text sheets – we will use one of them for Torah study this shabbat. Another will be the basis of my Friday night talk. They are truly thought provoking and rich resources. Enjoy.


I’ve been under the weather so haven’t had a chance to post in a while. I came down with this bug the day after returning from this gig in Zumbrota, MN. It was an absolute blast to play with Garison Keillor and well worth the hours of travel down and back. Maybe it was even worth a bad bug… coverage from the Zumbrota newspaper here! The photo below is by Rick Lewis.

Garrison and Amy_ 070

Oeuvre Magazine Interview

October 7, 2009

A member of our Jewish community, Dennis Kempton, is the founder and editor of a fantastic online arts magazine for the Northland. You can view it online and read our conversation in this month’s issue. Help support this new project by viewing the magazine – it’s free and really done well. Yashar koach, Dennis!

Here we are on retreat at Camp Warren getting ready to build the sukkah…what confidence these Northern Minnesotans show! If only the directions had been intelligible….

Ready to build the sukkah

But we persisted and actually got it raised!

We got it up!

Oh, yeah, walls…..

Building those walls

I’ll ask Alice for her amazing photos by jpeg so you can all show off the beauty of the natural surroundings we immersed in for Shabbat and Yom Tov. What a lovely way to celebrate Sukkot and to close the High Holiday season….well, after dancing with sifrei Torah this Friday night that is……

Sydne’s Conversion Talk

October 1, 2009

As promised, below you’ll find the talk Sydne Westorff gave on Friday night or her conversion. It was a glorious day at my home that day doing Beit Din and then mikveh followed by a celebratory meal.  As you may know, Karen, Sydne’s mom, converted and it was an added joy to perform these rituals with and for a mother and her adult daughter. It was so moving….We’re very fortunate to have people like Karen and Synde choosing Judaism and I hope it sweetens your entrance into Sukkot to read Sydney’s talk.

It is our tradition to begin the month of Tishrei by taking time to determine where we will stand with God and with each other when the new year begins.  We do so by looking both at our own life and by listening to Moses retell the story of how we became the People Israel.  We are here on Shabbat Shuvah, in a time between what was and what will be, to make a choice as to where our journey will go from here.  In order to prepare my self for this new beginning I have been reflecting back on the journey that brought me to today; a story of my own that joins me with this people.

Growing up in a Lutheran family there were times when I was deeply devoted to the teachings and other times when I found myself at odds with the tradition.  Read the rest of this entry »

On A Lighter Note

September 22, 2009

For all of us who have worked hard to reflect on who we’ve been…a lighthearted Rosh Hashannah video. Happy New Year!!!!!!!!

Rosh Hashannah video click here!

Rabbinic Preparation

September 17, 2009

The setting for my sermons these High Holy Days is, of course, the world economic crisis. I found so many resources that address the  underlying moral issues that produced this meltdown and couldn’t begin to share them all from the pulpit. One resource I found particularly meaningful is  the Speaking of Faith website. Krista Tippet is doing a remarkable job of asking the really important questions and has access the wisest people of our time to ask them of.  I will be using several of her interviews with people to formulate the basis of my remarks this year but wanted to post this link to a show that started me down the path to the interviews I will use. This show is a talk with Parker Palmer, an amazing Quaker thinker and teacher who has written many books that I have found inspirational. His thoughts on where we are as a society are so helpful as I prepare for the end of Elul and the beginning of Tishrei.

The Power of Words

September 10, 2009

Our Sages say that the most dangerous weapon we have is the tongue.  According to them, this is why God provided two gates to keep it in – the teeth and the lips. We are approaching the time when we assess what we have created and what we have destroyed with our words.

The Power of Words

Words, the power of words, is all important.  Words can inspire. Words can destroy.  There is an insightful Midrash which says, “These are the words.”  Read Devarim and also devorim, wasps.  Read the rest of this entry »


September 9, 2009

My colleague, Rabbi Andrea London, with Julie Singer and Carol Wagner has created a course for the month of Elul for spiritual preparation for the High Holidays. Below is her teaching for the second week of that program (which includes many other components) which focuses on regret. This is an important step in teshuva and, according to Rabbi London, should not be left as a hurried practice sitting in services….if you’re reading this blog you already understand the great truth of that….

“How does one acknowledge sin?  One says: I implore You God…Behold, I regret [what I did] and am embarrassed by my deeds.  I promise never to repeat this act again.” [Rambam, Laws of Repentance 1:1, from Preparing Your Heart for the High Holy Days, Kerry M. Olitzky and Rachel T. Sabath]

Maimonides listed regret as the first part step necessary for teshuva..  S.Y. Agnon agrees with the Rambam about the importance of regret, as he wrote in the Days of Awe, “The essential purpose of teshuva is to regret the past and commit oneself not to return to that folly again in the future; for even if a man fasts frequently from Sabbath to Sabbath and performs every known form of chastisement, if he has not taken it upon himself not to return to his sin – behold, he is as one who takes a ritual bath while holding an unclean reptile in his hand.” [Siddur Derekh ha-Hayyim]

The following is a story to help us think about what role we must play during the month of Elul. Read the rest of this entry »


September 8, 2009

Many of us who attend Shabbat morning services here at Temple Israel are familiar with the kavannot/teachings by Rabbi Sheila Weinberg. Sheila, in addition to being a contributor to our prayer book, Kol Haneshamah, is a core part of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality faculty. She is a meditation teacher of amazing depth and one of the most delightful people I know. I read this poem of hers in our IJS newsletter and am posting it as our Elul reflection for today. Enjoy.

The Altar of my Life


You are a plump furry gray cat.

You plop on my lap. I am pinned in place. The old sofa sags, the springs hang


You know I am afraid of you. Read the rest of this entry »