Havdalah Neophyte: Being Jewish Keeps Me on Learning Curve


I’m a havdalah neophyte. Until well into my 30s, I had no clue what havdalah was. Judaism, unbeknownst to me, had an ancient ritual to mark Sabbath’s end.

Why write about this ancient ritual now? For the first time on Saturday night, I experienced the beauty and simplicity of havdalah in my own home. It was not planned. We had our temple’s cantor, her husband, and 4-year-old over for dinner, and the idea slipped out of my mouth as the sky began to darken.

Mourners Share Powerful Experience on Shavuot


Is there a statute of limitations on mourning? I wavered as I sat in my car in the temple parking lot. It was 8:45 a.m., and for the first time, I planned to attend a Yizkor service on Shavuot, a Jewish holiday I usually ignored. There was one other car in the temple lot. Perhaps I should just drive away, run errands, and get my daily overpriced cup of iced chai at Starbucks. My brother died nearly 25 years ago. Did I belong among the mourners that would gather in … Continue reading

Flute-playing Creates Adrenalin, Spiritual Rush


Was it something spiritual or just an adrenalin rush? I had a dream part in a Shabbat service last week. As Jewish folk singer Julie Silver sang her musical composition of Shir Chadash, I accompanied on the flute. Listeners said later that they could sense my joy.

A decade ago, I would have said that playing flute in front of any audience only gave me an adrenalin rush. Now, I am closer to my faith, and my answer is a combination. When I sing or play flute on the bimah … Continue reading

Are Baby Showers a Jinx? Jews Often Debate the Question


It was not just about the presents. A baby shower would celebrate something I thought was out of my reach – parenthood. At 43, I was finally going to become a first-time mother. But I was also closer to my Jewish faith than in the past and knew Judaism frowned upon baby showers because of superstition passed down from one generation to the next. If parents-to-be celebrate prematurely, bad luck could follow. Oy. What a load to put on first-time parents.

Jewish woman’s reasons for marrying a Jew


Three daughters of rabbis startled me with their revelation in this spring’s Lilith magazine that each was okay with the idea of never marrying someone Jewish. The three 20-something women are passionate about their commitment to Judaism. They just do not think they necessarily need a Jewish partner.

Being Jewish is “internal,” the young women say. Agreed. Yet, being Jewish is also external. We are part of a bigger community. I was raised in a non-religious home in towns with few Jews. I dated non-Jews into my 20s. Then, in … Continue reading

Sex and the Texts


First off, an admission: I stole the title for this blog entry from one of the handouts at the sisterhood retreat. Thanks, Rabbi Carey Brown. The title of her lecture also was too juicy not to cite as well: “Sex is Good! … Modesty and Pleasure Both.”

In my 40-plus years on this earth, no rabbi has ever talked about sex in context of the Bible or anything else in my presence.