Under the Kippah • Thoughts from the Jewish Chaplain

Welcome to the “Under the Kippah” blog, featuring posts from the Jewish chaplain to Williams College.

You can contact Rabbi Rachel with any questions or comments at [email protected]

Deep Ecumenism and Being a Mixed Multitude

One of the things I love about the Passover story is that every year the story is the same, and every year I hear it anew. (This is true of the whole Torah, too, but I knew and loved the Pesach story before I knew and loved the whole Torah.) Every year we retell how

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Ready to be changed

This week we’re taking a break from the regular cycle of Torah readings. Our special Torah reading for Shabbat Chol Ha-Moed Pesach, the Shabbat that comes in the midst of this festival, returns us to the book of Exodus. In this Torah portion, Moshe pleads with God, “Let me behold Your presence!” And God says

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Cleaning (the internal) house before Pesach

It’s Shabbat HaGadol, “The Great Shabbat” — the Shabbat that comes right before Pesach. Traditionally, this is the day when rabbis are supposed to give lengthy sermons on the importance of properly cleaning one’s house for Pesach and getting rid of every crumb of leavenable grain. So that’s what I’m going to do, except that

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When Jews and Muslims Pray Together

  “I’m deeply distressed at the desecration of Jewish cemeteries,” said my colleague Sharif at the weekly chaplains’ staff meeting at our small liberal arts college.   “I’m deeply distressed by the mosques set afire,” I said to him in return.   We both find hope in stories of interfaith solidarity across what can be

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What Costumes Can Reveal

I remember the first time I saw a boy in drag and found him beautiful. It was fall of my freshman year. My first boyfriend lived in the entry next to mine, and he dressed in my clothes for a dance party thrown in Currier Ballroom by the organization that was then called the BGLU.

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Dwelling In Us

This week’s Torah portion, Terumah, contains one of my favorite verses in Torah: ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם — usually translated as “Let them make for Me a sanctuary, that I might dwell in their midst.” It comes as part of the instructions for building the mishkan, the portable tabernacle that our ancestors were instructed

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Yes we said yes we will yes

In this week’s Torah portion, the children of Israel tell Moses, כל אשר דבר ה׳ נעשה / “All that God has spoken, we will do.” After that, they receive the Ten Commandments. Wait. Doesn’t that seem backwards? How could we accept the mitzvot, and only then learn what they are? How does it make sense

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What’s Rising In You – a d’varling before Tu BiShvat

Tonight is the full moon of the month of Shvat, which means that it’s Tu BiShvat — the new year of the trees. (I realize that here at WCJA you’ll be celebrating Tu BiShvat next weekend. You get a week-long holiday! But tonight is the full moon — on some secular calendars it’s called the

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With What We Are To Serve

In this week’s Torah portion, Moses argues with Pharaoh about letting the people go. It’s framed as “let the people go so they may worship Adonai.” Torah doesn’t speak in terms of freedom for its own sake. Moshe seeks his people’s freedom from servitude and oppression and hard labor — and, it’s not just about being freed

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An Extra Soul

I’ve been thinking this week about the Torah of new beginnings. It’s a new semester, a new beginning for all of you and all of your professors. And tonight marks a new beginning for me, too, the beginning of a new chapter for me at Williams. The poet Jason Shinder teaches, “Whatever gets in the way of

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