Five Stages of Soul


Simchat Torah: a day for reading — and connecting — the beginning and end of the Torah. The Torah begins with the birth of the world. It ends with the death of Moshe. Between these two bookends, the Torah’s story unfolds. Explicitly, it’s the story of the early Israelite community. Implicitly, it’s also the story of a typical human developmental journey. You may know the Hebrew names of the five […]

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Ecclesiastes: What’s It All About?


Ecclesiastes. A Latin word meaning: a book you might find in church. A mysterious book of the Bible, called in Hebrew “Kohelet” or the preacher, after its enigmatic narrator. A book read annually by Jews, during the early fall holiday of Sukkot, reminding us: it’s a good year to ask questions. Kohelet asks: How should people spend their time on this good earth? Can we make our lives meaningful, or is life […]

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Questioning Abraham, God, and Ourselves


How shall we think about Akedat Yitzchak — the “Binding of Isaac” — the story of Abraham’s readiness to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering to God (Genesis 22:1-19)? How can the story enhance our self-examination this Rosh Hashanah? The story does not make sense. God has fulfilled a promise; Abraham has satisfied a lifelong yearning. Abraham is now a father. Yet God asks Abraham to harm the […]

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Compassion is God’s Revenge


The Ba’al Shem Tov taught: Compassion is God’s revenge. Is this not a beautiful teaching for the Jewish New Year? God doesn’t avenge. God only loves. When God feels your pain, God pours more love into the world. So don’t bother praying for God to help you harm someone. You’ll have to find a different prayer. Maybe one that asks God to help others let go of their rage, fear, […]

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Revelation on the Railroad

Train in tunnel by Charles Kaplan

Kabbalah’s key teachings encourage us to know God through creation. God is One, without limit and without end. So limitless that God is, in fact, the only being. Everything that exists is a facet of God. Everyday reality is a series of surface views of reality’s deep structure — God. Creation is simply God’s ongoing flow, God’s manifestation in the world’s forms. As we learn about those forms — nature, […]

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