We interrupt your regularly scheduled Purim…

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If you have never heard Megillat Esther, the story of how Esther and Mordechai saved the Jews from the evil Haman, you must run, not walk to a synagogue tomorrow night. It is not just the story which is an awesome telling about the strength and fight of a WOMAN in Jewish history; but, it is also how the story is read.

All other public readings of sacred texts in the synagogue are usually done with a level of decorum and respect, but not this one. People come dressed in costume, a little tipsy and at the mere mention of Haman, the bad guy, everyone erupts into a cacophony of hissing and booing.

While the commandment is to HEAR the Megillah read twice, once at night and once during the following day, there is an equally important obligation to NOT HEAR the name of Haman.

“To Hear or not to hear” – Is this the question?

In the Mussar tradition these loud disruptions are not just a ritual of fun and jest. Rather they are “interruptive” commandments that force us to wake up from sleep walking through our lives. The loud noise is not to prevent us from listening; it is to force us to listen more carefully to eradicate the Haman, the evil in our lives?

Tomorrow night when you hear the groggers shake and the clergy bringing down the house of prayer, let the noise rouse you out of the evil of denial. Ask yourself, what truths am I hiding from others, from myself and from God?

During the 24 hour holiday of Purim:

  • Give yourself the gift of self-honesty.
  • Give yourself the courage to face the shame and indignities of your life.
  • Give yourself the chance to have a new freedom.

Haman […]

Oscars Highlight: Letter to Susan Sher

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Dear Susan Sher,

Thank you.

Last night at the Oscars your son, Graham Moore gave inspiration and hope not only to every adolescent that feels “weird and different” but to all the parents working desperately everyday to raise these children and to convey to them that “weird and different” is the stuff of greatness.

I know firsthand how hard it is to raise a child that does not fit into that proverbial box. I know how many days and nights you stayed awake praying that he would find solace in being himself. I know the pain and suffering that you endured when he believed at the core of his being that his life was not worth living.

And last night, when your son stood up in front of an audience of several hundred million people (at a time that he could have promoted himself) and spoke so honestly, he gave me and millions of other mothers around the world hope that our own sons may one day believe that they too matter in this world.

I have no dreams of having a son win an Oscar. But I  dream of having a self-actualized child who is comfortable being himself and confident enough to share this message with others.

Ms. Sher,  I hope you are floating today. You deserve it. You raised a boy that took the stage last night and gave all of us the courage and the faith to know that as hard as this moment may be, it will not last forever and it may lead to something great.

With the deepest of gratitude,

Rabbi Sherre Hirsch

 

A Valentine’s Day Special: Engagement Drama

A must read for anyone whose engaged or knows someone getting engaged!

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Love is in hyper-drive mode this week. Whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day or not, tune into the Today Show or scroll through your Facebook feed, you’ll see yet another perfect couple is getting engaged.

Except the reality is that engagement is far from perfect. What I often tell engaged couples that come to me for pre-marital counseling is that engagement is like being stuck on the tarmac for 12 hours. You are not in flight; and you are not in the airport lounge. You are betwixt and between. You are in transition.

This is the painful truth. Engagement is supposed to be the “happiest” time in your life; but it is often one of the most difficult. Every bride is expected to gush with joy and excitement. Except most brides feel a tremendous amount of pressure and stress. And most grooms feel confused and helpless.

A few reasons why:

  1. Planning an event together is a herculean task. Weddings, big or small, are productions; and everyone has an opinion — especially the people (read parents) that have been waiting for years to give you away. It takes a lot of compromising, people pleasing and rationalizing to create the show.
  2. Getting married is highly emotional. Everyone has high expectations of the wedding, but also of this time period. Each decision feels like life or death. Questions like should we have a small wedding and put a down payment on a house, or should we have a more extravagant dream wedding and stay in our rental, become sources of conflict rather than opportunities to dream and plan together.
  3. It is easy to lose sight of the goal. Engagements focus on the wedding not the marriage (This is why I […]

I am Proud to be a Jew…especially today.

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Today as I think about Martin Luther King and his impact, certain rhetoric of his magnificent “I Have a Dream” speech immediately echoes in my mind and gives me chills.

“I have a dream that all men are created equal.”

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character.”

But I often forget that towards the end, he quoted from the book of Isaiah Chapter 40 verses 4-5 from our Bible when he said that he has a dream that, “Every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain and the crooked places will be made straight; and the glory of God shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

What is disturbing is that when these words were written, most likely by an anonymous author of the sixth century, but attributed to the prophet Isaiah ben Amoz of the 8th century BCE, they were articulating the same hope back then that we still desperately need today.

On the one hand, it is infuriating. Why hundreds of years later there are still crooked places that need to be straightened? Why are there too many to mention? Why is this the plight of humanity? Why can’t we get it right?

On the other hand, it is profoundly moving. From the time of Isaiah to the civil rights movement until today, it is our tradition that continues to instill dreams in all people regardless of the color of their skin, the beliefs […]

What’s Your Opinion on Rosie O’Donnell selling Anti-Israel Artwork

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Rosie O’Donnell got caught red handed, but I am seriously worried about all the people of influence and power who don’t.

Just about three weeks ago on December 11, 2014, the Washington Post reported that Rosie O’Donnell was selling artwork on her website that was deeply critical of Israel’s actions towards Hamas. The problem with the collage like photo pieces were that they were taken in Syria. Yes. You read correctly Syria. She even had the chutzpa to comment with political messages on the anti-Israel pieces.  The blogger who writes for Israelly Cool under the pseudonym Aussie Dave said it most succinctly, “My first reaction was equal parts disappointment and WTF?”  Once her lies were made public, the “controversial pieces” were no longer available for purchase on her website.

Rosie O’Donnell is not my problem (although I think what she did is beyond the pale).  She is not the first nor the last celebrity to push her political beliefs on her fans banking on their trust. My problem is that every day we are fed tons of information that is frankly speculative or just plain false. We don’t have the time or the desire to verify every fact that we read. So we don’t. And then these lies shape public opinion and deepen the divide between us.

My husband’s favorite quote is “Trust but verify.” When you see anti-Israel propaganda by a celebrity, you may want to look for its validity. Or more broadly when you see someone inciting a controversy with no expertise or background in it and claiming it is in the name of peace, you may want to do a little background research.

You can’t research everything. You have to pick. So pick […]