Author Archives: Rabbi Steven G. Sager

Hesed Is The Prayer And The Answer

When Sarah died at the age of 127, Abraham’s family lost its hesed, the caring, steadfast acts that connect people and sustain the world. Sarah’s hesed was unfailing, even in difficult times. Let this be your hesed to me, Abraham … Continue reading

Posted in Blessing, Parshat HaShavuah, Poetry, Torah | 1 Comment

Wholly Complete And Holy Incomplete

The Torah’s first creation story concludes: Va-yechulu…And the heaven and the earth and all of their ranks were finished. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done and rested on the seventh day from all … Continue reading

Posted in Parshat HaShavuah, Poetry, Prayer, Shabbat, Talmud | Leave a comment

Heroes Who Limp

Jacob’s midnight assailant was surprised at his adversary’s great strength. He wondered if Jacob might be an angel like himself. Angels have no leg joints, the midrash teaches, so he touched Jacob at the hip to determine whether his opponent’s … Continue reading

Posted in Angels, Blessing, Midrash, Poetry, Torah | 4 Comments

Meaning Beyond All Blessings And Poems

“I want my kids to say Kaddish for me after I die, but I can’t explain to them why, or what Kaddish means to me. I’ve looked at the translation—but that’s not what the Kaddish means to me; and if … Continue reading

Posted in Kaddish, Poetry, Prayer | 3 Comments

Jerusalem And The Held Back Scream

The Jerusalem Talmud recounts:  When David came to dig the foundations of the Temple he dug fifteen thousand cubits but had not reached the Deep.  Finally, he uncovered a cluster of stones and was about to lift it when one rock … Continue reading

Posted in Jerusalem, Poetry, Talmud | 4 Comments

Naming The Unimaginable

At the harrowing end, a ram replaced Yitzhak as the sacrifice; a narrow escape that came only after two divine interventions to divert father Abraham from his unimaginable mission. Generations of rabbinic storytellers imagined even narrower escapes for Yitzhak, placing … Continue reading

Posted in Midrash, Names, Parshat HaShavuah, Poetry, Torah | Leave a comment

Believe it—And Not

Noah was lacking in belief, taught the 3rd century teacher, Rabbi Yohanan. If not for the water reaching his ankles, he would not have entered the ark. Lacking in belief? Noah, who fulfilled the twin tasks of building the great … Continue reading

Posted in Midrash, Parshat HaShavuah, Torah | 4 Comments

So That You Will Remember

In the first days after the liberation of Dachau, a US soldier and a wounded survivor chanced to meet on the grounds of that infamous concentration camp. The now liberated prisoner thrust upon the soldier a cake of compacted ashes … Continue reading

Posted in Poetry | 2 Comments

Steps, Blessed Be They

God is steps, declared Yehuda Amichai. Such an outright assertion about God was unusual for the great Israeli poet. He was fond of similes that invited listeners closer to the mystery without violating the distance that mystery needs. Among his … Continue reading

Posted in Midrash, Poetry, Prayer, Torah | 1 Comment

How Deep? How High?

How much do I love you? I’ll tell you no lie. How deep is the ocean? How high is the sky? Irving Berlin wrote the song, How Deep Is the Ocean? in 1932. It consists mainly of rhetorical questions that point … Continue reading

Posted in Holidays, Midrash, Passover, Poetry, Torah | Leave a comment