Rabbi’s Yom Kippur Lesson: It’s Ok to Stumble in Prayer


Yizkor at Yom Kippur can be one of the most powerful moments of the High Holy Days and one of the most terrifying. High Holy Days often draw the largest crowds, and mourners in different stages of grief may be nervous about displaying their personal sorrow among hundreds.

Today, I thank Rabbi David Stern, the senior rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, for teaching me about the beauty, power, and even the angst of yizkor. I left Dallas for Boston in 2004, but Rabbi Stern’s lesson of a decade ago remains … Continue reading

Err on Side of Participation at Funerals

Keep funerals participatory. Clergy should give advice on what makes a suitable eulogy so funerals do not become insufferable or have inappropriate content. They should urge family members to keep the number of speakers low. Sitting through a long funeral for a loved one can be traumatic and painful. Mourners need to hear that others loved the deceased, but the conversation can and should continue after the funeral ends. Continue reading

Night Without Ritual Has Shabbat Feel

>No candles were lit. No kiddush was chanted. No challah was on a table. And yet last Friday night still felt a lot like Shabbat.

My family met a friend and her 4-year-old daughter for a picnic in downtown Lexington and heard a free children’s music concert. Maybe Shabbat can be about more than ritual. It was a night about simply being together. Continue reading

Judaism, by baby steps


My 4-month-old baby boy nestled in my arms, I walked into the sanctuary hoping to discreetly slip back into a seat by my husband.

“Simon,” Rabbi Howard Jaffe called out in his booming voice. “Come join us.”

It was time for the Aleinu prayer, and our temple’s tradition was to invite children to participate and open the doors of the ark.

Take my baby up to the bimah? What was the point?

Learning to Pray is Lifelong Challenge


Some people seem so comfortable at praying. They shut their eyes and recite words praising God and fold into their own private space. I am still learning how to pray.

I celebrated my adult bat mitzvah four years ago and led others in the traditional prayers of a Shabbat morning service. I did not stumble over the Hebrew, and yet my adrenalin rush stemmed not so much from the words of the prayer. It came from the people around me. It came from the sense of community.