“in the midst of the city”


In this week’s Torah portion, we read about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Before that destruction occurs, Abraham argues with G-d, trying to save the cities for the sake of the righteous people who are therein.

After G-d reveals his plan, Abraham asks:

“Will You also stamp out the righteous along with the wicked? What if there should be fifty righteous people in the midst of the city?”

Genesis 18:24.

Because every word in Torah has meaning, along the way someone asked– “What does it mean that the righteous must be not just “in” the city, but rather “in the midst of” the city?

The commentary to that verse explains that “in the midst of the city” means the fifty righteous people…

must display their righteousness not only privately, but also in public, in the midst of the city. The test of righteousness is that one is ready to act upon his convictions even in a hostile environment.  Furthermore, the truly righteous person should be involved with his fellows, trying to influence them to improve.

Stone Edition Chumash at 83 (Artscroll 2000).

As my study partner and I discussed this text the other night, I thought the commentary made perfect sense.  After all, to be righteous means to act “in an upright, moral way,” (dictionary.com), and if a person is moral at home, but immoral in public, the community would not imagine that person was truly righteous (so why should Gd count them as such?).   To be righteous is to do the “morally correct” thing even when we are surrounded by others who are behaving immorally in a public forum.

But after our study session ended, I’ve kept thinking about that third sentence.  What about the idea that a “truly righteous person should be involved with his fellows, trying to influence them to improve”?   What does it mean to be “involved with” others in a way that would give us “influence” over them?

Is it enough that we behave morally so that they see our example?

Or, when we see immoral behavior occurring, do we have an obligation to challenge those who are behaving immorally?

If we are going to do or say more, how might we go about that so as to not violate other Jewish expectations regarding our behavior — like the prohibition against shaming another person in public? After all, the Talmud tells us: “Shaming another in public is like shedding blood.” Baba Metzia 58b, and “Throw yourself into a blazing furnace rather than shame a neighbor in public.” Berakot, 43b.

What if we try speaking to someone in private, so as to not shame publicly, but thereafter his or her behavior does not change?

Gd knows when I have been faced with such situations in the past I have made choices that, in retrospect, certainly were not the best choice for each situation.  So I won’t even pretend to have a clue about whether, when, and how one should confront and try to influence people who are behaving immorally in the midst of the city.

But I do believe that the path to holiness requires that we struggle with these seemingly unanswerable questions, that we challenge ourselves to think about how to balance these values and virtues, so that then, when we see immoral behavior in the midst of the city, we at least know how to think about the issues involved and we give ourselves a chance to make the holiest decision possible.

Shavua tov, jen

A Prayer for My Journey


A Prayer for My Journey

As the brilliant light of the morning sun burns through the dense fog of rain-saturated clouds, the Eternal Light of Gd’s Infinite Love burns through the heavy grief of my tear-stained past.

Blessed are You, Eternal my Gd, who has held me in Love as I struggled to accept the path intended for me.

May the pain of my past increase my ability to respond to others with compassion.

And may I always remember that Unconditional Love –though it isn’t guaranteed to change my circumstances– will permit me to look past the inevitable pains of life, to see the abundant joy available when life is lived humbly, in the Eternity of Now… 



“Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh…”


This morning, regardless whether I looked to the East or to the West, I could image hearing Isaiah’s seraphim calling to one another and saying: “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.” Isaiah 6:3. 



What a beautiful way to start the day!!   

always more, never less



always more, never less

Didn’t think I could love You more
but –my Gd– I do!

There are no thoughts,
only sensations . . .
Infinite Sea of You
Eternal Ocean of Love
surrounded by dense liquid
slowly warmed by Fire
breathing pure oxygen
feeling lighter than air
floating on a warm breeze
moving toward Light
merging into Unity
So Very ALIVE!!!

How, ever, could I love You less?



Heal the World


If you look close you’ll find
there’s a moment in time
that can feel like it lasts forever.
And the truth is it does.
Just ignore all that was.
Let regret blow away like a feather.
Don’t fear what will be.
Can’t control the future, you see.
Imagine there’ll be sunny weather.
Take the moment you have.
Let Love flow like a salve.
Heal the world, you & Gd, together.


shavua tov, jen 

Taking the leap


It’s taken nearly two years for me to feel comfortable joining a new synagogue, but I’m finally going to take the leap.  I found an unpretentious little shul that rents space twice a month for Shabbat service and as needed for holiday observance.  It offers religious school and Hebrew lessons for my boys.  The people are friendly and genuinely welcoming.  And the worship service . . . well, refreshingly, it seems to really be about a community of people reaching for Gd together.  

Tonight’s Shabbat service will include a celebration of Simchat Torah, and for this I am grateful, not only because I love the holiday, but also because it will provide the perfect atmosphere to coincide with my having found a new shul to call my spiritual home!! 

shabbat shalom to all, jen