Reconsecrating Your Covenant with Each Other, My Covenant with You

June 4, 2017

Delivered by Rabbi Maderer Friday night when we offered Renewal of Marriage Vows, and it was also Rabbi Maderer’s first Shabbat as senior rabbi.  

When Cantor Frankel chants the 7 Blessings/the Sheva Brachot in the vows renewal ceremony, we will hear a list of almost every word the Hebrew dictionary knows for joy.  And what a joy it is to celebrate the bond of love and commitment!  The conclusions of the final two of the blessings ask God to cause the couple to rejoice.  Traditionally text says chatan and kallah, groom and bride; we are a community that thankfully includes LGBTQ couples and so we make a change to: reh-im and ahuvim, two words for beloved.  If you listen closely, you will hear that in the 6th blessing, we ask God to cause one beloved and (in Hebrew v’) the other beloved, to rejoice together.  In the 7th blessing, we ask God to cause one beloved with (in Hebrew im) the other beloved to rejoice together.  By the time we reach the 7th blessing, the couple is not only one and the other, but one with the other, bound together in covenant. Read the rest of this entry »


Have You Tried Turning It Off and On Again?

June 10, 2016

My husband, the I.T. professional, appreciates a certain tech-British sitcom he recently discovered.  On the show, the help desk repeats to each and every caller:

“Hello, I.T. Have you tried turning it off and on again?”

Not a bad response to our own challenges, I.T. or not.  Shabbat is here to say: “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”  Most things work better if, now and again, they get unplugged.  Shabbat shalom.

–Rabbi Jill Maderer


Choosing Gratitude

November 30, 2015

Last week, Dr. Dan Gottleib of WHYY hosted his final weekly Voices in the Family. He focused this final show on gratitude.  As callers thanked Dr. Dan for giving them something– courage or patience or thanks…  he responded: “I don’t give anyone anything that isn’t already there.  It’s about seeing what’s already there.”  (paraphrased)

Seeing what’s already there– this is Judaism’s approach to Thanksgiving.  One Hebrew term for gratitude is “hakarat hatov.”  The word thanks isn’t even in there.  Hakarat hatov means “recognizing the good.”  The good is already there.  It’s our mitzvah, our sacred action to, call it out. Why is it so important to call out the good — to see what’s already there?

One response comes from Ron Lieber, a Reform Jew and the author of  The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous and Smart About Money.  Lieber believes that saying grace is one of the single best things parents can do for their kids — no matter what god you do or don’t believe in. He explains there’s a link between gratitude and lower levels of envy and depression, because gratitude helps us to feel a sense of satisfaction, a sense of enough. Read the rest of this entry »


Turning Fate into Destiny with A “Sabbath Lie”

October 31, 2015

challah-lady-1445461668Can you see what this image, created by Anya Ulinich (speaking Sunday at RS) depicts?  A woman dressed in a business suit riding a Shabbat candle-fueled challah! The picture serves as an illustration for Susan Pashman’s column in the Jewish Forward, “My Big Sabbath Lie–And the Joy It Brought.

When Susan Pashman first became a single mother and sole wage-earner, she decided she needed to change careers in order to provide for her 2 sons.  So she went to law school and then secured a position in a prestigious firm.  That’s when she realized another problem: If she was going to work the expected 90-hour week, how would she find the time to provide a loving, caring home for her children?  Just then, Susan witnessed another member of the firm’s incoming cohort, explain to the boss that he was an observant Jew, and needed to leave early on Fridays and stay home on Saturdays, in order to observe the Sabbath.

Ah-hah! Read the rest of this entry »


Our Common Home: The Pope’s Encyclical in the Jewish Community

August 8, 2015

by Rabbi Jill Maderer

So… Who is in the box?  Who’s home falls in the Center City travel box when our special guest, the Pope, visits Philadelphia this fall? Me, too.  Although still not complete, this week’s transportation and security update began to feed my hunger for a better understanding about how my family will function, how emergencies will be addressed, and of course, how we are going to get the Jewish community to synagogue.  As complicated as the Pope’s visit will be from a logistical perspective, I am intrigued about how we in the Jewish community, might find meaning in this historical moment. Read the rest of this entry »


We All Have Rivers to Cross: Learning Prayer from our Ancestors

July 13, 2015

Glendasan River, Wicklow MountainsDelivered by Rabbi Jill Maderer this Shabbat...   Thank you to Roberta for your beautiful Torah reading.  When Roberta began to prepare for her Adult B’nei Mitzvah earlier this year, she felt especially draw to chanting Torah.  It was then that her mother reminded her: Roberta’s great-grandfather was a hazzan–a traditional cantor.  This powerful link to her roots — spanning time and space — deepened Roberta’s Torah experience all the more so.

This summer, as we encounter Mishkan HaNefesh, our new High Holy Day Machzor, we are posting a weekly question for your response. This week, we asked: From what person or event in Jewish history or in Jewish tradition do you draw inspiration?  In other words, what are the lessons you learn from Jews of the past?

In Roberta’s case, a teacher of Jewish ritual who was a relative from her own family touched her.  For many, teachers from Jewish history offer connection.  We are not alone in our Jewish quest for meaning. Read the rest of this entry »


The Aisles Are Open: Spiritual Release

September 4, 2014
Last month, a rabbi visiting Camp Harlam Overnight Camp scowled when in the dining hall, he saw the campers banging on tables to the beat of Birkat Hamazon, Grace After Meals.   He missed it.  This rabbi missed the whole point.  He missed the fact that hundreds of campers knew all the words to a very long Hebrew blessing.  He missed the fact that in that moment they were absolutely aware of the connection between eating and gratitude.  He missed the Jewish pride in their eyes as they felt that knowing Hebrew and connecting Jewishly, is cool.  And he missed the spiritual release that was happening for our campers in that dining hall, during Birkat Hamazon and song session.

Read the rest of this entry »