The Path to Freedom



My younger son is amused by emojis and he likes to get a note in his lunchbox, so after I pack his lunch, I quickly doodle a note that includes emojis. When I finished today’s doodle, I realized it illustrated some of the Passover lessons that I’ve been thinking about lately, so I thought I’d share it with all of you and tell you what I’ve been thinking about…

The Path to Freedom isn’t always the “easy” path. In fact, sometimes it’s a terrifying journey fraught with danger and difficult steps!!

However, if we want to live as people free of the ideologies, assumptions, habits, and thought patterns that enslave us . . .
then, despite our fear, we must keep walking forward — looking neither down at the muck around our feet nor over at the walls on each side that may collapse in on us, but rather out ahead in the distance, at the Freedom that awaits those willing to place unwavering faith in the One whose power can create us anew each day . . .

This year, may we all become free from more of the things that enslave us!

Happy Passover,
and Shabbat Shalom,

the secrets we share


         the secrets we share

I smile at him because I know that he knows. And he smiles at me because he knows that I know. From across a room, we can laugh together like young children, giggling over the littlest things, because the secrets we share rest in the child’s heart within each of us, giving us each great joy!

Such a simple, simple love. So personal and intimate, yet also transcendent and overwhelming. There is nothing else that compares to this!!

Others, seeing our smiles and our giggling, misunderstand. They think the secrets we share are about inappropriate things. They think our loves — personal and intimate, yet transcending everything — are for one another. How little they understand!!

Our great loves are for G-d.  

And those secrets we share?

Well . . .

. . . only G-d can tell you those!  😉




The photograph is of one of the first pages in a book that I love so much from my childhood that I purchased a copy for each of my sons.  The book is My Little Golden Book About GOD, written by Jane Werner Watson and illustrated by Eloise Wilkin (copyright 1956, renewed 1984 by Random House).  

Faith like Joseph’s


Our Torah portion this week is from Leviticus, but my heart and mind are back in Genesis. I’ve been thinking about Joseph, the dreamer whose brothers sold him into slavery but who rose to be second in command to Pharaoh. I’ve been pondering how Joseph may have reacted internally when approached for grain by the ten brothers who had sold him to traveling merchants all those years earlier.

Joseph must have felt a flood of emotion! Surely, at some level, Joseph must have been surprised that they had arrived before him, curious whether they would recognize him, and eager to know the status of his father Jacob and his full-sibling Benjamin. But did Joseph also feel anger that they had betrayed him? Joy that those brothers were still alive? Sadness about the years they hadn’t shared? Hope that family ties could be mended? Regret that he had taunted those brothers with his dreams of them bowing down to him?

As Joseph stood there, did memories of his intervening experiences pass through his mind — as a slave, in prison, interpreting dreams, rising in Pharaoh’s ranks to become the leader who stood before his brothers? Can you imagine how each of those experiences must have changed Joseph from the lad that the brothers had betrayed? Was he still, even in any small way, the Joseph they had known??

Initially, Joseph speaks roughly with his brothers and, before revealing his true identity, Joseph tests them to see whether they would allow Benjamin, who now held title as Jacob’s favorite, to be taken as a slave. Joseph wanted to determine whether the intervening years had changed his ten brothers into men who cared enough about their father’s happiness to protect Benjamin. He wanted to know that they had grown to see the safety and happiness of other family members as being as important as their own safety and happiness.

And his brothers passed that test; they demonstrated their growth by risking their own freedom to protect Benjamin. They had learned, and they had changed.

But what about Joseph? How had he come to see himself in the context of his family and his life?

When Joseph revealed his identity, the text tells us his ten brothers felt panic — and who could blame them?? They had betrayed a man who now had the power to determine whether they and their families would live or die!

And although Joseph tested his brothers, he did not display behavior that suggested he was angry or jealous or vengeful. Instead, when he revealed his identity, Joseph asked his brothers to approach him and he told them that it was not them, but G-d, who had sent him to Egypt. He didn’t say simply, “I forgive you;” he said, “You should forgive yourselves.” He told them they had only carried out G-d’s plan. He “wiped the slate clean,” making it as if no wrong had ever happened.

Can you imagine????

I try to imagine having the kind of faith in G-d that would allow me to see others’ betrayals as “just part of G-d’s plan”… but that’s a BIG leap of faith!!

Even if, at any particular moment, I feel absolutely certain that I am at the place G-d intended me to be in my journey . . .

and even if I can accept that I would not be in that place I am meant to be but for all the events of my past (including the negative ones) . . .

. . . to so freely absolve others of guilt because they had only been creating the path that G-d intended for me . . .

Is it possible to be that faithful?

If we’ve no way to test others to see if they have changed, or if their remorse is genuine, would such faith be only foolish?

If i could be that faithful, if I could wipe the slate clean for others in that way, how might it change me or my relationships with others?

I don’t have any answers. I just thought I’d share what I’ve been thinking about, to see if anyone else had thoughts to add to mine. If you do, please share in the comments.

Praying we all find blessings (and forgiveness!) along our paths, jen

“set out for the fields”


My boys and I have spent the last six days on a small organic farm — collecting chicken eggs, cuddling with dogs and cats, petting a horse and a donkey, tromping through muck in mud boots, watching the sun rise and set, clearing brush, building campfires, folding and floating paper boots across a little pond as cattle lazily munch grass in another part of the pasture, allowing ourselves to “journey on gently, according to the pace of the cattle.”  Genesis 33:14.

It’s not only been a wonderful break from our regular school and work routines, but also an amazing chance to reconnect to nature. We’ve been able to experience wonder at many simple things — the sight of a crawdad, the strength of tree vines, the number of eggs chickens lay, the beauty of a horse trotting, the texture of Spanish moss, the colors of the sunset, and the massive size of some bull frogs!!   😀

In Honey from the Rock, Rabbi Lawrence Kushner explains that sometimes we must

set out for the fields and rediscover the fundamental truth: Entrances to holiness are everywhere and all the time.

Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, Honey from a Rock ch. 34 (Jewish Lights Publishing 2000).

How true that is!!!


in the final analysis


Hesed (compassion)…is a manifestation of love, kindness, deep concern for others. … Jewish law, in the final analysis, must reflect an attitude of Hesed and sympathy. It’s purpose is to help people live happier, more meaningful lives.

Rabbi Marc D. Angel, But Who Am I, and Who Are My People? at 76-77, Ktav Publishing House, Inc., 2001.

Praying the peace and love of G-d’s Light descends upon us all this weekend, wherever we may be.

Shabbat shalom, jen