Titzaveh 5776: Scent of the Divine

What does God smell like? The question seems to be absurd—as much as asking what God looks like or sounds like. Even more so, perhaps, since the Bible brims with accounts of the divine voice and appearance, ineffable though they may have been, but says nothing about God’s scent. Any physical quality of God is…

Shabbat Terumah 5776: Becoming Cherubic

What is the function of cherubs? Not the love-struck angel babies of Valentine’s day, but the winged ark ornaments that we read of this week in Parashat Terumah. Their wings were spread upwards, and their faces were towards one another, and also down toward the kapporet—the golden lid of the ark upon which they were…

Mishpatim 5776: The Significance of Strange Visions

One my strangest experiences came during my last visit with my grandmother Belle Nevins, z”l. She was dying, and although conscious it was not clear that she was aware of us. Suddenly she looked to the empty chair in the corner of the room and addressed her husband, my Papa Sam, who had died many years before. “Wait…

Yitro 5776: Clearing the Mind to Hear the Voice

What do you feel when listening to the Shofar on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur? It is very difficult to describe the experience of hearing the shofar. There are many regulations and associations that come with the shofar, of course, and some of these may come to mind while we listen to the “voices of shofar.” We…