A Threefold Blessing for All Our Days – A Response to the Tragic Shootings at UCSB

Rabbi Karen Citrin

Two nights ago, I received a text from a freshman student at the University of California in Santa   Barbara.  It said: “Hi Rabbi Karen, I don’t know if you’ve heard what happened at my school Friday night, but there was a mass shooting and my sorority was the shooter’s target.  I’m having an extremely rough time dealing with everything.  I would love to talk to you soon about things if you have some time.”

Lindsey, the young woman who sent me this text, grew up at the congregation I served during the past ten years in northern California.  Lindsey was president of the temple’s high school youth group, and continued her Jewish studies at temple through 12th grade.  She is a dedicated Jew, and a thoughtful and caring young woman. 

Jewish Views on the Death Penalty – It Works in Theory

Rabbi Micah Citrin

When I was 17, at the end of a wonderful summer at UAHC Camp Swig in California, I remember a conversation I had with my best friends the night before we said goodbye for the summer.  We talked and laughed about the great time we had at camp. 

Then for reasons I can’t remember our conversation took a serious turn into the realm of Jewish ethics.  I vividly recall engaging in a heated debate about whether or not the death penalty was ethical.  Our litmus test was the execution of Adolf Eichmann by the State of Israel in 1962.  Eichmann was the Gestapo officer responsible for rounding up hundreds of thousands of Jews and sending them to their deaths in gas chambers and concentration camps. 

The Time Of Our Lives

Rabbi Micah Citrin

The French Catholic priest and theologian Michael Quoist penned the following poem about time: 

I went out, God.  People were coming and going, walking, and running.
Everything was rushing: cars, trucks, the street, the whole town.
People were rushing not to waste time.
They were rushing after time, to catch up with time, to gain time.
Good-bye sir, excuse me, I haven’t time.
I’ll come back, I can’t wait, I haven’t time.
I must end this letter – I haven’t time
I’d love to help you, but I haven’t time.

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

Rabbi Karen Citrin

“What’s love got to do with it” sang the pop star singer, Tina Turner.  “I just called to say I love you,” sang Stevie Wonder.  “Love, love, me do,” sang the Beatles.  Countless love songs give voice to the deep seated emotion of love, the passion and life force that is often so beyond what words alone can express.

But well before hundreds of pop songs were recorded, the Bible recorded divinely inspired human expressions of love.  For Jews, love is not a yearly act of cards, flowers, and chocolate (not that these things are bad), but rather, a daily, weekly, and eternal commitment.  Love is a big idea.  What is love really all about?  Are there different kinds of love?  How much of love is about yourself and how much is about others?  And what does Judaism have to say about it?

Shabbat Tzedek

Rabbi Karen Citrin

A little over fifty years ago, a Baptist minister preached this message, “Well, I don’t know what will happen now.  We’ve got some difficult days ahead.  But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop… And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land.  I may not get there with you.  But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”

These words, spoken by Martin Luther King Jr., in his final speech in Memphis before he was assassinated, should sound familiar.  His message embodies the prophet, Moses, who spent most of his life guiding the Israelites from slavery to freedom, only to die on a mountain top, looking at the promise of a future his people would attain.  King frequently invoked imagery from Exodus, the second book of the Torah, when speaking about civil rights.

An Empty Torah Mantle? Celebrating the 25 Year Struggle of Women of the Wall

Rabbi Karen Citrin

Does everyone know what this is?  It is a Torah mantle, the protective and decorative covering for our sacred Torah scroll.  But just holding it like this, it looks like something is missing.  It feels empty.  Can you imagine how you would have felt if we had walked around during the hakafah with only the Torah mantle?  Can you imagine a service with just a Torah mantle and no Torah?  Can you imagine Cantor Kari or Jenn Lorch or me not being able to chant from the Torah?  Can you imagine a girl not allowed to be called to the Torah as a bat mitzvah?

On Monday morning, November 4, just a few weeks ago on Rosh Chodesh Kislev, a sea of women and girls held up empty Torah mantles like this high in the air at the Kotel, the Western Wall in Jerusalem.