Hanukkah, The Force, & 2017


“I am one with the Force. The Force is with me. I am one with the Force. The Force is with me. I am one with the Force. The Force is with me.”

meditative chant of Chirrut Imwe, Guardian of the Jedi Temple in Jedha City, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

This week, my 12-year-old son told me he had realized the story of the Maccabees is like the story of the rebels in Star Wars, and that realization led him to start thinking that the true miracle of Hanukkah was that a small group of rebels could defeat a mighty Empire.

I told my son he was correct that the Maccabees’ victory was the real miracle of Hanukkah, and I explained that this connection he had begun to understand between the Maccabees and the Star Wars rebels was why I had always encouraged his love of Star Wars… to help me raise him to be a Jew!!

Faith in The Power greater than ourselves that flows through the universe –regardless whether we call it The Force, or Gd, or The Unity, or any of the thousand other inadequate names– can give us the strength and courage to struggle to create a better future… to fight for what is most just, not only for ourselves but for everyone.  And THIS is why I wanted to raise my son as a Jew and as a fan of the Rebels in Star Wars… so that in his life, when he sees people acting as bullies or sees a situation that is unjust, he will have the faith, strength, and courage of conviction to stand up for himself and others.

We enter this year of 2017 on the same evening that we light eight candles for Hanukkah — may we carry the Light and Holiness of our fully lit menorahs with us into the new year. And, whatever the future brings, may we find strength, peace, and courage in knowing we are One with a Force much greater than ourselves!

with blessings, jen



We are back to Mikeitz, the portion in which the ten brothers who sold Joseph into slavery arrive before him years later in Egypt to purchase grain during a famine. Joseph — who has the authority to grant or deny their request for grain — recognizes his brothers, but they do not recognize him. As the story continues to unfold, Joseph engages in deception and trickery… taking one brother hostage, demanding the brothers bring their youngest brother if they ever again return, hiding money or valuables in their bags, etc.

The question that goes without explicit answer is: “Why?”

Is Joseph hiding the truth of his identity and placing his brothers in situations that make them look like thieves because he is:

getting revenge on the brothers who sold him into slavery; OR

testing the brothers to see if they have changed, so that he would be safe to reveal himself to them??

The Torah portion ends without any clear answer to that question. We are left to struggle with its resolution and, if we so choose, are offered an opportunity to set aside our personal filters and learn to see that either motivation is equally likely to be driving Joseph’s behavior … or that, maybe, Joseph is tricking his brothers both to protect himself and to get revenge?

After all, why should Torah be different from our own lives, which are dynamic and complex??

Does any of us ever act from a single motivating force? We, of course, usually want to claim that our motives are pure, just, or upright. But are they ever completely?

If we could step back from our own lives and see our stories the way we see Torah stories, would we see our motives … and those of our “friends” or “enemies” … as more grey than we typically imagine them to be?

And is it not true that … no matter how “high” any of us appears to have risen in our society … each of us remains, at least in some small part, a younger, more fragile version of ourselves who is afraid of disappointing, losing, or being abandoned by those we love?

This Shabbat, may Joseph’s story teach us to see those around us, and their stories, as more multi-layered and dynamic than we ever before could have imagined them to be, and may our seeing allow us to view others, and ourselves, with more compassion…

Shabbat shalom and chag sameach, jen

nothing and The One


nothing and The One

If I could grant myself one wish
when I am filled with Gd’s Love,
I’d be able to open my chest
and ladle it out.

I’d pour it like Holy Water
on the heads of ‘lost’ souls,
and let that Love sink down deep,
shattering open their heart-caves.

Then suddenly they’d know
just as surely as I know:
•Gd’s Eternal Love is the only Truth;
•Gd’s Creative Power resides within us;
•living an eternity is being present in each day.

In time those souls would be ready
to open themselves to others
and give away the secrets
that transformed their lives,
the secrets I received
when I sat with the Guru
whose peace and compassion
shattered open my heart-cave,
allowing me to comprehend:

We’re each “nothing and The One.”



praying Shabbat brings shalom to us all, jen

make me a vessel


make me a vessel
shattered apart to be built anew, please make me a vessel who’s worthy of You, who can carry Your Spirit and hand out Your Love, who finds others to help me so we might be enough to counteract all the violence, anger, sadness, and fear swallowing a world too blind to Your Abiding Presence here  
peace and blessings, jen 



I LOVE snow!!    I love the way it crunches under shoes, creates a special silence as it falls, and packs into globs that can be thrown at friends and family… 
But I especially love when it lands on my windshield and lets me see the details of its crystalline structure . . . the little “limbs” protruding off each branch . . . I can’t help but stop and stare (and take a few pictures!!!).   

When I look at the delicate beauty of those tiny creations, I can’t help but feel wonder and awe about this miraculous world in which we live!  Hopefully you also feel wonder when you look at the pictures.  

Praying Shabbat brings us all some moments of peace in which we my relax and enjoy the tiny miracles of Creation, jen 

Stretched across space and time


During my recent trip to Philadelphia, I visited the National Museum of American Jewish History.  The museum sits on the eastern side of the Independence National Historical Park, which contains The Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the National Constitution Center.   In front of the Jewish museum, facing west toward Independence Park, is an amazing statue dedicated on the 100th anniversary of US Independence by B’nai B’rith to celebrate the religious liberty this country provided.  

Inside the museum I learned all sorts of fun facts about the Jewish experience in America:

  • The first practicing Jew in North America was Joachim Gaunse, who arrived in 1585, but stayed only one year.  
  • North America’s first permanent Jewish settlers arrived in New Amsterdam (now New York) in the summer of 1654.  One man, Jacob Barsimon, arrived first on the Peereboom, and 23 men, women, and children arrived a few weeks later on the Sint Catrina.  
  • In 1790, when the US population was 3.9 million, there were 2,500 Jews in the US.  
  • In 1880, the US population was 50 million, and 250,000 were Jews. 
  • In 1890, Ray Frank, a Jewish woman born in San Francisco, led High Holiday services in Spokane, Washington, and was referred to as the “Girl Rabbi of the Golden West.” 

But the moment that stopped me in my tracks was a moment that I hadn’t expected.  I was, after all, in Philadelphia, learning about the founding of the country in which I have lived my entire life, and learning about the Jewish experience in and around that founding.   But, on the floor of the museum illustrating Jewish life in the US in the 1900’s, I rounded a corner to a video of David Ben-Gurion declaring the independence of the state of Israel in 1948… 

and suddenly, it was as if one of my feet was in standing in the birthplace of American Independence and my other foot was standing in the birthplace of Israeli Independence… Independence Hall in Tel Aviv… which I visited in 2007… 

In my mind’s eye I could see the wooden chairs with the golden name tags informing visitors which of the founding mothers and fathers had sat in each chair…

I love moments like these, when my present and past collide in ways that make each of the experiences more meaningful than either would have been alone!!  

If you’ve had an experience like this, feel free to share in the comments.  🙂

shavua tov, jen