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02/03/2020 08:59:46 PM


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Words of the Spirit, by Rabbi Liz Bolton, Or Haneshamah's rabbi and spiritual leader

The Awe in the New Year of the Trees

02/05/2020 10:18:41 AM


In anticipation of our annual Tu B'shevat seder taking place on Sunday, February 9, we are reprinting a Words of the Spirit column written in January 2016.

What is the most awesome, inspiring, jaw-dropping moment of all? This may be as close to a universal accord as one can find. Surely the answer must be: the birth moment.
The moment a baby comes into the world; the first tender slips of a bud; the emergence...Read more...

To Repair the World, One Spark at a Time

01/14/2020 09:17:29 PM


Vehayyei olam nat’a betochenu   … letaken ‘olam bemalkhut shaddai -  endless potential lies within us to repair the world through the power of malkhut.
These phrases are embedded in each and every prayer service, in the words of the Aleynu prayer.
We don’t just say it, we sing Aleynu – it is up to us, through malkhut – sovereignty.
It was during their interpretive message...

Connecting Heaven and Earth

12/10/2019 09:35:35 PM


On December 9th, 1948 the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and on December 10th voted to pass the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These landmark documents, created in direct response to the Holocaust, fundamentally transformed the ways in which the world thinks about responsibilities to every individual person.
The pair of documents calls to mind Jacob’s...

Filling in the Missing Pieces of Sarah's Life

11/26/2019 11:44:51 PM


Should we be surprised that a parasha entitled Hayey Sarah, “the life of Sarah”, in fact opens with the death of Sarah, and encompasses nothing of her life story?

Torah is full of round-about tales and messages. Here is one that is perhaps more significant for being less straightforward. It is about Sarah, and yet not about one person, for it clearly connects to the origins of a people.

To find the beginning of this tale...

Happy Living in "Two Civilizations"

10/29/2019 08:14:22 PM


And now, for something completely … regular.
We say farewell to Tishrey 5780 the same week that we welcome (regard with annoyance? celebrate? ignore?) Halloween. Because nothing says the Jewish fall festivals are over more clearly than the proliferation of skeletons, ghosts, and the creepy spray stuff that covers doorways and shrubs.
My view of Halloween? Two thumbs up, because it doubles the number of times...Read more...

Shelter for All

10/15/2019 09:12:23 PM


As a young Jewish Canadian kid, Thanksgiving was, well, nonexistent. I vaguely knew that it was a Big Thing in the United States, mainly because we had relatives there. And because it often overlapped with Sukkot, which I only celebrated at school or shul, the fall harvest festival season didn’t really have an impact in our home.
Particularly after living in the US for 23 years, I learned that Jews there take Thanksgiving...Read more...

A Light New Change

09/24/2019 07:55:11 PM


For some of us, this time of year evokes memories of new school items, perhaps a lunch box, sharp pencils with erasers that work, snazzy fresh outfits. For others, it’s the weather and its changes, from the hot-cool-warm-hot-cold pendulum swings to the changing colours.

Early in the week before Rosh Hashanah 2019/5779-5780 the fall equinox arrives, the date when the length of the day is perfectly balanced between light and dark. I...Read more...

Renew our Prayers, Renew our Days

09/03/2019 08:20:12 PM


Right in the middle of Labour Day weekend 2019, Rosh Hodesh Elul - the first day of the month of preparation for the Jewish New Year - fell on September 1st. For one month, the Jewish calendar numbers will completely align with the Gregorian dates.

The High Holy Days, paradoxically, line up pretty well with the rest of year. There is a lot more alignment than there is difference between what we do on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur than...Read more...

Marching From Margin to Center

08/22/2019 08:47:10 PM


[To mark the opening of Capital Pride Week we are reprinting a Words of the Spirit column from August 9, 2016]
In the early 1980s, when the AIDS crisis had already begun to cut its wide swath of devastation in the United States, the epidemic was just emerging in Canada. After my dearest high school friend died with AIDS in 1983, I vowed to do something to honour his memory.
A few years later, while living in...

Tisha B’Av: Mourning, Memory and Meaning

08/06/2019 06:25:56 PM


This mid-summer holiday-that-is-not-a-holy-day, mourning a historical event to which we have difficulty relating, is among the least-observed date on the calendar in liberal Jewish communities. Perhaps the early rabbis felt its difficulties as well, and so added to this fast day commemorating the destruction of the First (586 BCE) and Second Temples (70 CE) in Jerusalem a cumulative list of disasters that have befallen the Jewish people,...Read more...

Tue, February 25 2020 30 Sh'vat 5780