Author Archives: Rabbi Steven G. Sager

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

Forgetting Reminds Me…

The national election created in me a deep sense that I wanted to meet and speak with more of my neighbors. In my busy-ness, it’s easy to walk past the community of the every-day. That seems wrong to me now. … Continue reading

Posted in Names, Parshat HaShavuah, Torah | 5 Comments

The Walk Is Painful

The poet, Muriel Rukeyser, learned from her mother the family tradition that she was a direct descendant of Rabbi Akiba. Muriel carried that legacy into a life of vision and activism, beginning in the 1930’s when she wrote and spoke … Continue reading

Posted in Midrash, Poetry | 2 Comments

Created On The Second Day

When was love created? asked a modern Israeli poet. When were the angels made? an ancient sage inquired. Each question contains an essential quest: to read a detail of personal interest both into, and out of, the few verses of … Continue reading

Posted in Angels, Midrash, Parshat HaShavuah, Poetry | 1 Comment

The Binding Of God

To my mind’s eye, Rabbi Berechiah appeared stoop-shouldered and mournful on Rosh Hashanah as he listened to the Torah reader recite Genesis 22, The Binding of Isaac. Berechiah, a 4th century sage of the land of Israel, was pained by … Continue reading

Posted in Days of Awe, Holidays, Midrash, Poetry, Torah | 1 Comment