Saturday, May 20, 2023

Prayer for Righteous Anger

I call out to the Holy Wholeness,
Hear my righteous anger! 

Cursed be the users of sexual panic to gain power!
May the fearful ones free themselves from this manipulation. 

Cursed be the celebrants of cruelty!
May our children grow into healthy warriors for sanity.  

Cursed be the desecrators of love!
May these avatars of hate meet their inevitable defeat, and soon. 
Cursed be the fascists who use religion to oppress!
May a spirituality of freedom and pluralism thrive. 

Cursed be the willfully ignorant!
May the loud mouths be humbled and the humble be heard. 

Blessed be those who organize and create for compassion and justice,
And may they not, in their fury, forget their goodness. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Our History

Bless our inventive ancestors, 

Who gave us 

The Daddy God of the Torah and 

The Lawyer God of the Talmud,

The Dreaming God of immigrants and 

The Pediatric God of children,

The Unlimited God of the mystics and

The Unmoving God of the philosophers, 

The Many Gendered God of community and

The Personal God who is each of ours, alone,

The non-existent god of our skepticism and 

The Holy Whole-ness of our adult searching.

The Loving God of our births and

The Redemptive God of our deaths,

With our imaginations and creations,

With our memories and traumas, 

With awe and concern for those who came before 

And with fear and love for all who will come after,

We stand within the One-ness. 

Blessed Was•Is•Will Be,  

Our shield

Our doubt

Our history. 

To this God we pray. 


Sunday, May 7, 2023



Liturgy Writing for Prayer Leaders

May 24 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm EDT


May 24, 31, June 7, 14, 21, 28, 2023

Liturgy may be poetry, but is a poem necessarily liturgy? What turns a piece of writing into liturgy, something you can use during a prayer service? In this immersion, led by liturgist Trisha Arlin, you will learn criteria and techniques to transform your poems and prayers into liturgy. In each session, we will discuss a topic you might need to address during a prayer service or event; then you will be prompted to write your personal take on it, as a first step toward creating your own liturgy. This immersion is for prayer leaders who have some experience writing prayers and want to receive feedback and hone their skills as liturgists in a supportive environment.

Friday, April 7, 2023

What I Do Now


Art by Carolyn Hall

I didn’t find what I do now

(not remunerative but very satisfying) 

Until my fifties. 

But first I lost interest 

In everything I was doing 


Or it lost interest in me.  

I mourned, 

I got bored. 

Then I was surprised 

By the new thing. 

I wish for you that surprise.

Monday, April 3, 2023

Telling The Story

Telling the story
By describing the tellers
But never the hero,
By praising the outcome
But ignoring the plot
Is weird.

So let’s tell the story. 

We were slaves. 
Pharaoh ordered the boy babies killed,
Shifra and Puah saved them. 
Miriam put her brother in a basket on the Nile,
A princess saved him. 
J0chabed his mother nursed him,
The Princess raised him. 
Pharaoh was pharaoh,
The slaves suffered. 
Moses killed an oppressor
And ran. 
He married Zipporah,
He shepherded sheep,
A bush didn’t burn,
It said
I am that I am,
Save the people. 
Our hero went back,
Aaron worked the communications,
God inspired,
Moses organized. 
Innocents died
But not us. 
Pharaoh said yes then no then yes,
We left. 
Nachshon stepped in the sea,
Everyone stepped into the sea,
Pharaoh drowned
And rhe Hebrews were free. 
On the other side of the water
Miriam and the women danced,
Aaron prayed,
Everyone kvetched. 
God fed them in the desert. 
Moses went up the mountain and
Everybody freaked out .
Torah was acquired.
Moses talked with God,
Bezazel created beauty.
A cloud led them through the desert.
Jethro advised them,
Korech agitated them, 
Joshua fought for them and
They walked for forty years
Most everybody died.
Their children got to the Promised Land
Which is a whole other story.  

And because we were slaves,
We don’t enslave.
Because we were oppressed, 
We mustn’t oppress. 
Because we fought for freedom,
We are allies. 
Because when you know the story,
You know.  

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Ki Tissa

Art by Mike Cockrill


There’s a tradition of doing learning in honor of someone who has died, so I’d like to do this drash in honor of the memory of Rabbi Jeff Marker.  

So Ki Tissa.  This is a fabulous parsha, my favorite by far and it’s an honor to do a drash on it. A lot happens in this parsha, but I’d like to concentrate this week on two parts of it,  the story of the Golden Calf, and the moment when Moses asks to see God.

Moses is up on Mount Sinai, getting the Torah and the laws from God, and this is a task that takes time.  The people are just recently out of slavery, and they’re still used to living under authoritarians who discourage critical thinking, to put it nicely, but they have learned to trust Moses, who has delivered them out of Egypt, across the Sea of Reeds, made sure they were fed and led them to where they expect to hear from their God.  Moses sees them, he knows them and they know him.  But then he’s gone, for weeks, and they are afraid.  Their lives in Eqypt were awful  but at least they knew who they were and where they belonged.  Now here, at the foot of a mountain in a scary desert, everything they knew is no more. And the one person who they had faith in, gone. 

They are alone.  They don’t yet understand the idea of God’s presence, how that can be with them even if they can’t see it in a concrete form like an idol.  So they ask Aaron to create a substitute, something they can see, which can be worshipped the way gods are worshipped in Egypt, and for a moment they experience relief.  It feels like home.

I’ve been there.  Doubt was definitely not an act of faith at the Westbury Hebrew Congregation back in the day.  So I declared myself an atheist at 14 and ran screaming from it all.  But I had believed it when I was little.  And I liked it, even loved it.  I mean, I read the books they gave us cover to cover and I even had a crush on David the king and Rabbi Akiva, god I was such a nerd.  But they reached in with their illogical sexist dogma and scooped my love for Judaism out of me and put nothing in its place.  So, in me there was a hole where faith had been. But it wanted to be filled, which I did, sort of, with various ideologies and causes, but never enough.   I wanted to feel God’s presence.    I moved to Seattle and built my own Golden Calf as I tried to morph into a blonde scandanavian.  Yeah.  It didn’t work. I simply didn’t know yet that if I wanted to, I could find a life that was Jewish, where I could ask questions, where I could be an artist and a socialist and a feminist and a mystic and a Jew all at the same.  But eventually I found my way out of Egypt.  And I came to the promised land: Brooklyn. 

A little later in the parsha, after the debacle of the Golden Calf, in Chapter 33, verse 18, Moses speaks to God and says,

“Oh let me behold your presence!”

And God answers, “I will make all my goodness pass before you.”, continuing, but you cannot see my face, for a human being may not see my face and live.

So God had Moses position himself in a cleft of a rock and shields him with God’s metaphorical hand as God passes by.

The torah does not record what Moses thought of what he saw, which is the most mindblowing part of Ki Tissa, in my opinion. So much of this parsha, including other stuff in Ki Tissa I’m not talking about today, is about seeing or being seen by your leaders or by God or by what you hope is God, (and when I say God I mean whatever that means for you, it might be a concept, a metaphor, a myth, a connection, an inner knowingness, an old man with a white beard sitting on a throne in the clouds, indescribable, unnameable) and more relevant, vitally important and central to Moses in every way, yet in the one passage in which Moses actually sort of sees God, we don’t hear a word about the experience.  Nothing from torah, not a word from Moses.  Perhaps experiencing God or Godness or connection doesn’t always need to be described?  I will have to look into this   

Then this makes me think about the Kaddish, which is used in many different forms and on many more occasions than as the mourner’s kaddish, which is probably how most of you know it.  I’m teaching a class in it right now so it’s on my mind, particularly the fact that it doesn’t name or address God directly, that all its praise is directed at God’s name, a name that is invented to use instead of Adonai or Elohim, which are names invented to use instead of the name spelled, Yud Hey Vuv Hey, that we’re not supposed to say out loud but which kind of means, I Am That I Am, but is also a substitute for the real name of God which nobody knows anymore because we’re not supposed to know it so we forgot it.    And yet this Kaddish, is used, among other things,  to comfort us after a death, though there is absolutely no mention of death in it.  I used to think this was bizarre, but now I see it as beautiful, as a way to remind us that no matter how sad we are, we are all still connected to God’s presence, through praise and mindfulness, that in our most lonely times we can be in conversation with our history and our spirituality, and that that holy connection can be found in a cleft of a rock, at the foot of Sinai, or a shul in Brooklyn, sitting together in community, like right now.  God is passing over us.  We just have to pay attention.  


Adonai Echad,

Baruch HaShem

Yud Hey Vuv Hey



El Shaddai

Fierce Mystery

Holy Wholeness


Is us. 

With our eyes closed

We see and we are seen

As God’s presence passes over us.

Open your eyes. 





Friday, February 24, 2023

Join me at KALLAH!

 Join me at Kallah this July for a deep writing dive into the many uses and meanings of the Kaddish: Naming God, Praise/Mindfulness, Wholeness, Learning, Holy Separation, Mourning and Healing.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Lucky Esther. Chapter 2 of the Megillah

Lucky Hadassah,
She won a beauty contest!
Which is nice
Every girl 
Should own at least one tiara. 
The food is good at the palace
And there’s probably other perks.  

But she has to sleep 
(That’s putting it nicely)
With that grotesque,
That drunk, that autocrat,
That screamer, that narcissist,
That wastrel, that misogynist,
That idiot who will say yes to
Is the last person he talked to:
Kill the Jews
Don’t kill the Jews 

That’s jumping ahead in our story, 
We’re still in Chapter 2,
The one where Hadassah is
The one in which she
Loses her true name
And is used by Cousin Mordecai
To make his.

Lucky Esther,
She won a beauty contest. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Getting Old


Getting old
Is the slow loss of shame,
Especially if you’ve spent your life
Being watched

And judged
And found wanting. 
I wasn’t fat
But I wasn’t skinny. 

So I thought I was huge. 
My entire life was organized around my big ass. 
I dressed in loose clothes,
I didn’t go swimming. 

Young men on the street 
On the size of my ass
All the time. 

It never occurred to me 
That they liked my ass. 
It never occurred to me 
That my ass was none of their business. 

When I quit smoking 
I gained more weight. 
I’m told I was voluptuous,
I knew I was fat. 

When I hit my forties
The comments stopped. 
I could be on fire
And no man would see me. 

I missed them
For a while. 
It meant I was too old
To be sexy. 

But in my fifties
I slowly realized I was free!
If no one was looking
Then I could just be me. 

And me said,
No more dieting. 
And then me said,
If you don’t like it don’t look. 

And then me said,
No more hiding. 
And then me said,
No more apologies.  

My hair went gray
And I figured out that
If I used the right tone of voice,
Young men would do my bidding. 

I’m not a grandma. 
I’m not a mommy or an auntie. 
I don’t need them to love me. 
I need them to give me a seat on the subway.  

Except for the poverty
And the wrinkles 
And the impending decrepitude,
Getting old is lovely. 

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Listen In Shul

Listen in shul 

To the siddur pages turning; 

To the children squirming; 

To feet stepping back and forward three times; 

To those checking their phones; 

To the familiar tune; 

To the memories of our dead; 

To our worries for the future; 

To the questions and the doubt: 

To our yearning for a nap; 

To the schmoozers in the back row; 

To the silent prayers; 

To us; 

To Shabbat.