About Me

I'm the Rabbi of B'nai Israel Synagogue in West Bloomfield, MI, a highly-participatory, traditional, egalitarian synagogue.

Monday, March 15, 2010


עדלידע.  Adloyada.  To the non-Israeli who gives me the correct definition of this word go all our remaining chametz....
I’ll give you a few moments, and a few lines.
Keep on trying. 
You can get it.
OK.  The definition of adloyada is “Purim carnival.”  What?????
Here, the beauty of life in a Jewish country, with a Jewish language, at work.  Incorporating the purpose, the gestalt, of a word, within the word itself.  It’s simply unbelievable.
Let’s go back to the Talmud, tractate Megilla
“A person is obligated to drink on Purim until he does not know the difference between ‘cursed be Haman’ and ‘blessed be Mordechai’.”  Ad de-lo ya-da bayn arur Haman v’baruch Mordechai.
Albeit with considerable disagreement over manner and extent, the rabbis want us to drink, party and rest our minds on Purim.  “Until he does not know.”  To release the cognitive discipline of our lives, at least for a day.  To go with the heart, with what is different – hafuch – on this day.
Men dress up as women.  Women dress up as men.  Chilonim (the secular) don the garb of dati’im (the religious), and vice versa.  And, here in Israel, we go to parades where everything is turned on its head.
People really like it.  In fact, amazingly, Purim in Israel is longer than Pesach.  The stores start selling costumes months before.  Schools upend the normal order of things – with fun activities, dress-ups, spoofs – the minute the month of Purim (Adar) begins (2 weeks before Purim).  In fact, I don’t think our daughter had any academic studies at all for 2 weeks!
People clearly need to party here, to carpe diem.  And G-d knows they’re entitled.  They’re entitled to turn things on their head and pretend, in a sense, that they are elsewhere.  In mind, spirit and body.
Adloyada is at the heart of what Purim means to Israel.  Perhaps a “Purim carnival” is good enough for the Diaspora.  But not for here, where the Jewish past and present live.  In love, in tension.  Trying to make a life together.
My chametz inventory is getting low.  So whoever guessed correctly, get here soon….
A sneak preview:  Pesach preparation is much less insane in Israel than it is in the United States….


Tuesday, March 2, 2010



Tiyul -- its simple meaning, its pshat. “A walk, trip, hike, excursion, tour, outing, drive.”

Tiyul – its deeper meaning, its gestalt, its drash. Consider a linguistic root – natal. “To take, to lift.” The sense of ownership implied.

Let me take you on a tiyul, and we are just learning.

A chamseen, desert heat weave, has come. Back, for a moment, from its brief winter vacation. Our shorts are likewise back from their brief winter vacation on the top shelf.

Tu B’shvat, the blossoming of the trees – they’ve rung our doorbell for weeks. We’ve listened with half an ear. But the chamseen knocks wildly, and we can’t ignore its plea to come outside.

Ah, but it’s a school day. Not a problem...when your kids get out at 1:30 pm! Plenty of time for a tiyul.

T-shirts, water bottles, pita sandwiches, a mix of pretzels and raisins, sunglasses and sunscreen in hand, and we’re off. Destination – the Castel, gorgeous mountain and outlook, site of a decisive battle of the War of Independence.

We drive east. The meadows, the rolling hills – they are as verdant as they will ever be. We relish the bounty of the winter’s rains. Patches of wildflowers grace the landscape. The thin cows of Joseph’s dream graze in packs, fearing no sacrifice these days. The road is awesome, but short – like Israel itself.

We get on route 1, the lifeline of modern Israel, connecting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. 50 kilometers, 3500 feet, and a million miles away from each other.

The passage is proud. The trees of the JNF forest stand resplendently on all sides – embodying the souls of Israelis past and present, and the renewed self-confidence of the Jewish people.

We arrive at the Castel. The kids are already complaining. “I am bored!” Those decisively non-magical words, the bane of parents’ existence.

The Castel doesn’t cooperate, at least at first. “It’s just a hill. I’m tired. I don’t want to walk up.” But, yes, as if on cue, like so many other sites in Israel, the Castel speaks for itself. There’s a partially destroyed house at the top, an exclamation point from a different – or is it? – era. Its stone is weathered and beaten, grass sprouting out. But one with the land, it cannot be denied.

Coby races up. Adina picks up her slaggard pace. The house of the mukhtar (head of the village) is surrounded by an intricate series of trenches, a maze of delight for the children. We tell them of the battle that raged here 62 years ago. Battle -- the subtext of most sites in the land of Israel. The message of power, of kill or be killed – so dominant in the known time of the land.

Rattled, we are also stilled, rejoicing in our portion -- as we see the kids grasp, take and lift the land we have travelled so far in distance and in time to live in.