Davar Acher: Finding God in a Quiet, Sacred Space

by Rebecca Einstein Schorr on 20 July 2017 @ 12:20 pm

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

In reading Rabbi Harris’ wise interpretation on this week’s parashah, I was particularly taken by the quote by Nehama Leibowitz regarding the request by the Gadites and Reubenites to settle outside the land as a “dilemma between the choice of a career — personal advancement — or the fulfillment of a mission.” Like many parents of a child with a disability, I have travelled to the intersection between personal advancement through career and a mission for the advancement of my child and rerouted my journey towards mission. While these are not mutually exclusive, listening to God’s voice in the quiet directed me to the choice that was sacred and right for our family.

Parenthood demands a certain level of selflessness. After all, one must put the needs of one’s child above one’s own needs on a continual basis. While most of those decisions are rather pedestrian in nature, there are those that are life-altering and can cause great agonizing.

Rabbi Harris directs us to “mind the gap” before making a potentially-upsetting change. She refers to Moses’ silence as quiet space. I would add “sacred” to that description. It recalls the passage in I Kings 19:12, where the prophet Elijah reminds us that God is found not in the loud sounds, but in the still, soft voice. In other words, God is in that quiet, sacred space. The place where we make those difficult decisions between what we want for ourselves and what others need of us.

In verse 13, God asks Elijah, Mah-l’cha fo, “Why are you here?” Surely, God knows what brought his prophet to him. The question, therefore, is meant to force Elijah to confront himself. To acknowledge and own his questions and his concerns and his fears.

When we draw into ourselves into that quiet, sacred space, God inquires of us as he did of Elijah. Why are you here? What dilemma is so troubling that you bring yourself — your most vulnerable self — into my comforting, supportive Presence? Stay here with Me until you are prepared to reroute yourself and know that I will never leave you.

[This post originally appeared on the blog of ReformJudaism.org. To receive Ten Minutes of Torah emails, including the Monday edition, Reform Voices of Torah, you can sign up here.]


When Gender-Denying Pronouns are Absolutely Soul-Crushing

by Rebecca Einstein Schorr on 12 July 2017 @ 9:52 pm

Credit: IvelinRadkov

I love language. And I pride myself on maintaining a certain level of grammatical rigor as far as its rule are concerned. Subject-noun agreement. Proper use of the apostrophe. Clear understanding of the difference between a dash and a hyphen. Every word, every punctuation mark, every diacritic – each in its proper place. Linguistic constructs provide order to a potentially chaotic world.


The world is changing. It has allowed for individuals to self-define. Gender. Sexuality. And in asserting that agency, we each have the freedom to express our pronoun preference.

In the past, when writing an essay or a sermon, I might say something like, “each person has the ability to choose for himself or herself.” When I try to write that sentence now, however, something nags at me. Not everyone fits into one of those two categories. Conscious of those who prefer “they/them,” I am loathe loath to use such exclusionary binary language.

How, then, am I to reconcile my desire to maintain grammatical order with my commitment to see each person as being created b’tzelem Elohim — that Divine Likeness embedded deep within each one of us? As pendatic as I am, I would never want my rather dogmatic use of grammar to alienate anyone. To inadvertanly devalue them. So, as all language does, I too must change.

I might stumble. I might falter in my attempts to honour each person while forcing my own rigidity to soften. And yet, by constantly reaching towards the Holy One, I will learn to fashion my language in such a way as to celebrate every soul.


Discover Meaningful Wisdom and Inspiration Among the Leaves

June 20, 2017

My personal tagline — because doesn’t everyone have a personal tagline — is “finding meaning in the sacred and not-yet-sacred intersections of daily life.” The idea of “not yet” is not mine. It belongs to Franz Rosenzweig, the 20th century German philosopher, who, when asked if he wore tefillin, responded, “not yet.” When I first […]

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Childhood Christmas Traditions

December 25, 2016

My family is Jewish. We don’t celebrate Christmas. And yet, I had three Christmas traditions as a kid that remain my warmest memories of Christmas. Midnight Mass from St. Peter’s Basilica — I think that I probably started staying up to watch this so that I could spend extra time with my dad. Over the […]

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Guns and Rights and the Sit-In

June 23, 2016

So… I spent a goodly amount of time yesterday on social media, as the House Democrat #SitIn unfolded before my very eyes, and shared my thoughts on Facebook and Twitter. I found the words of Representative John Lewis (D-GA), a Civil Rights activist since his youth in Alabama, inspiring. Not simply because they resonated with […]

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