Welcome to Mo-Drash ... the weird confluence of the Jewish tradition of Midrash and me!

What is Midrash? Literally, the word derives from the Hebrew root that expresses interpretation. Figuratively, it is the process by which Jews read between the lines of our sacred stories and seek insight from what we discover from each story, verse, word, letter and stroke of the pen.

Who am I? My name is Adam Morris, but known by many as Rabbi Mo. I spend a lot of my time serving in the role of rabbi, but I am also a husband, a dad, a runner and a 'weekend' craftsman (among other things). I try to move like Abraham to find my Place ... to wrestle like Jacob to know my Place ... and to snicker like Sarah to keep me in my Place.

B'makom she-ani omayd (from The Place where I stand),
Rabbi Mo

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

From Peter Beinart: An American Jewish Trump Emergency

Time to form an American Jewish Emergency Committee Against Donald Trump ... A mobilization would counter the shameful acquiescence to Trump in some corners of the American Jewish establishment.   By Peter Beinart | Jun. 22, 2016

In dangerous times, American Jews have a tradition of forming “Emergency Committees.” In 1939, fearing that World War II would imperil the activities of the London and Jerusalem-based World Zionist Organization, representatives of America’s major Zionist groups formed the Emergency Committee for Zionist Affairs. Later renamed the American Emergency Committee for Zionist Affairs and then the American Zionist Emergency Council, it operated until the establishment of the State of Israel. Meanwhile, in 1943, Ben Hecht and Peter Bergson created the Emergency Committee to Save the Jews in Europe to pressure Franklin Roosevelt’s government to do more to rescue Jews engulfed by the Holocaust. In 2010, Weekly Standard editor William Kristol and some like-minded conservatives created the Emergency Committee for Israel to support Benjamin Netanyahu’s hawkish agenda.

But more than a year since Donald Trump announced his presidential candidacy, and several months since he became the presumptive Republican nominee, there is still no American Jewish Emergency Committee against Fascism (or bigotry, or whatever name you choose to describe Donald Trump’s attacks on American Muslims, Mexican immigrants, an independent judiciary and a free press).

I hadn’t thought about this absence until last Shabbat, when an idealistic young Orthodox rabbi named Joshua Frankel came up to me during Kiddush and proposed creating one. His vision is to create a network of rabbis and lay leaders across the country so that wherever Trump speaks, there is always someone to protest, in Judaism’s name.

Of course, some American Jewish groups have already criticized Trump. The Forward’s Nathan Guttman reports that between last December and this May, the Anti-Defamation League condemned Trump’s statements at least five times. The American Jewish Committee called his proposed registry of American Muslims a “horror movie that we Jews are quite familiar with.” The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism organized a walkout of Trump’s speech at AIPAC. The Jewish social justice group Bend the Arc led anti-Trump protests just this week. And earlier this month, four prominent rabbis—one Orthodox, one Conservative, one Reform and one Reconstructionist—jointly declared that “Men and women of faith should indeed form a coalition to denounce the racism and bigotry that Trump spews forth and inspires.”

These protests are laudable. But they’ve been episodic. Frankel’s idea is to create something continuous, a protest that does not end until Trump’s presidential bid does. By challenging Trump wherever he goes, rabbis could use his campaign to rouse their own communities against bigotry. After protesting a Trump rally, some might take their congregants to a solidarity event at a local mosque. Others might help immigrants register to vote. The goal would be a rolling mobilization in which thousands or tens of thousands of American Jews join the struggle to defeat the most openly bigoted and authoritarian major party nominee in modern American history.

Such a mobilization would counter the shameful acquiescence to Trump in some corners of the American Jewish establishment. It would counter AIPAC’s decision to invite Trump to speak, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations’ failure to issue a single press release condemning him and Sheldon Adelson’s pledge to spend as much as $100 million helping him get elected.

It would show that American Jews take seriously the Torah’s 36 injunctions to remember the stranger because we were strangers in the land of Egypt. And it would put Jews on the right side during a moral crucible that Americans will remember for decades. Mexicans and Muslims will not always be the reviled outsiders they are in America today. One day, the children and grandchildren of the people Trump is demonizing will be highly integrated and politically influential and they will remember who defended their communities when they were under siege.

In defending Mexicans and Muslims, American Jews will also be defending ourselves. Trump is a bigotry entrepreneur. He looks for racial, ethnic and religious resentments that are being underserved by the political class. Today, Jews are not a primary target of those resentments. Nonetheless, Trump’s supporters have generated more public Jew-hatred than any campaign in decades. If you loathe “hyphenated Americans” and yearn to restore the hierarchies of 1950s America, chances are Jews may bother you too.

In the mid-twentieth century, American Jews participated in the civil rights movement in astonishing ways. The American Jewish Committee funded the research into the effects of segregation by African American psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark that helped sway the Supreme Court in Brown versus Board of Education. In the 1940s, notes J.J. Goldberg in his book, Jewish Power, the American Jewish Congress employed seven lawyers working to fighting segregation, more than either the Justice Department or the NAACP.

The reason was enlightened self-interest. American Jews knew that, as a conspicuous minority with a history of persecution, they would benefit immensely if America became a more equal, tolerant society. Conversely, they knew that if African Americans failed in their struggle for equal citizenship, Jews might also fail in theirs.

The same is true today. An election like this comes along once or twice a lifetime. Let the Trump campaign be an opportunity for American Jews to show our children the kind of people we still are.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Shavuot 5776 - A Mountain Exercise

On June 11-12 Jews around the world will commemorate the most significant mountain experience in the history of the Jewish people - Sinai. On the festival of Shavuot we relive this mountain moment that is such an essential part of the Jewish story. At Sinai our spiritual ancestors stood together and directly engaged with the divine - and their lives were changed. In honor of that part of the Jewish story and in the spirit of opening up to such moments in our lives, I invite you to take a few moments to commemorate Shavuot in the next couple of days.

Bringing the Mountain To You - A Shavuot Reflection
  1. Carve out some time where you can sit, relax and reflect.
  2. If you can make it a space where you can experience of bit of the majesty that is part of our Colorado mountains, better yet! 
  3. Bring along something to write with (if that is something you prefer) or something to sip on (if that is something you prefer). 
  4. Make yourself comfortable ... first physically, make sure you are good to sit for some time. 
  5. Then mentally, take a few moments, focus on your breathing, empty your mind of what you have to do or what you did not do ... just clear out your mind of the clutter of the everyday. 
  6. Read this teaching from our tradition a couple of times about the Sinai mountain moment: "When the Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai, they miraculously were made whole, so that their physical perfection reflected the integrity of their souls. This the Torah describes all the Israelites as ‘standing’ at the foot of the mountain, implying none was crippled; ‘hearing’ the words of God, implying that none was deaf; ‘seeing’ the thunder and lightning, suggesting that none was blind. As they distanced themselves from Sinai and began to grumble about the hardships of the journey, the effect of the miracle began to wear off. Their blemished souls began to be reflected in their blemished bodies." (Numbers Rabbah 7:1) 
  7. Consider the nature of this moment that the commentary suggests. You may think, write or even draw in response to the following prompts: 
  • Remember a time in your life when you felt you were able to ‘stand’ without any weakness or injury. 
  • Remember a time in your life when you felt you were able to ‘see’ with great clarity and vision. 
  • Remember a time in your life when you felt you were able to ‘hear’ with lucidity and comprehension. 
  • Compare and contrast those times - what is similar and different about them? 
  • The commentator names these moments of standing, seeing and hearing at Sinai as ‘miracles’. How comfortable are you applying that term to your moments of standing, seeing and hearing? 
  • How easy or difficult are your moments of standing, seeing and hearing to recreate? 
  • What can you do enable more moments like these in your life?
Take a few more moments to be in the moment, reflect on what you thought about, wrote or drew.
Shema Yisrael Adonai Elohaynu Adonai Echad.