The Worry List

The Worry List

Yesterday was a fast day.  Which is not to say that it went by quickly, but that, for religious reasons, I did not eat.  The prayer that an individual says in the afternoon service on a fast day, within the final hour or two before eating, says, “Be near to our cry.”  It quotes a verse from Isaiah 65 where God says, “Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear.”

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Kindling… (#notaChanukahpost)

Kindling… (#notaChanukahpost)

Somehow, while I wasn’t paying attention…

The Kindle edition of my book is ready! Healing People, Not Patients is now available in e-book format on Amazon. If you or someone you know has gone paperless (or run out of shelf space, as I have) but wants to have a copy, now you can!

One Small Step

One Small Step

There’s a talmudic tradition that when a person takes their first steps in the morning, they should recite the blessing, “ha-meichin mitzadei gaver” – “who prepares a person’s steps.”[i]

Recently, I learned a new understanding of this prayer, and a new occasion on which to say it.  When one is uncertain, afraid, or overwhelmed, ha-meichin mitzadei gaver is a prayer to be shown where to place one’s feet next, to have a clear path appear.  In the traditional instance, the word gaver means “person,” but here it suggests to me gevurah, strength or fortitude.  “Blessed are you, God, who prepares a sure path, who makes my steps sturdy.”  I also think of the verb le-hitgaber, to overcome.  “Blessed are you, God, who shows me the way to overcome.”

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Twin Cities

New material will be coming shortly, but in the meantime please check my events page for the details of my trip to the Twin Cities in a couple weeks! Many thanks to my cousins Rabbi Jeffrey and Dr. Deborah Schein for their hospitality and to Liz Rappoport, SaraLynn Newberger, Susie Held, and Rabbi Alexander Davis for bringing this together!

Cutting Ties

Cutting Ties

I spent the morning of October 27, 2019 taking down my sukkah.

Not my sukkah, but this is what a sukkah looks like. From https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/the-sukkah/

Leviticus 23:42-3 tells us that God commands us to dwell seven days in the sukkah so that future generations will remember that God made the Israelites dwell in sukkot when God redeemed them from Egypt.  Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz comments that this period in Jewish history is like the childhood of the nation, quoting Jeremiah 2:2:

“I counted in your favor the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride; How you followed me in the wilderness in a land not sown.”

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Here We Sit Again

It is late Friday afternoon. 364 days ago, blissfully unaware of the awful events that would take place the next morning, I went to welcome the Sabbath Queen with joyous music, resounding off the walls, floor and ceiling of the lobby of my synagogue. You can read the story of that night, and the day and month that followed, in my earlier post “Sitting In the Valley of Tears.”

That night, October 26th, 2018, I imagined that the words of Lecha Dodi could heal a soul broken by unimaginable horror, unable to reintegrate despite years of distance from the event. In the year since I have had occasion to wonder whether I myself don’t find them to be mocking me.

And so I share these words with you now. I am beginning to feel I can sing again, and someday soon they will have music. They hurt me to write, they are a chore to read and a burden to sing, but the song must be written and sung. May they serve you well, and may they help to strengthen the memories of my 11 friends and neighbors.


“You have sat long enough in the vale of tears;

God will have compassion on you.”

We have sat too long in the vale of tears.

God will have compassion on us.

Sadness is a valley, crying a wide rift

And the rift of our tears is still deep

The wound is open, the soul injured

Who can say now we have sat long enough?

In a moment of haste You hid Your face

And in that same moment everything changed

With eternal lovingkindness reveal Your mercyThen we will no longer sit in the vale of tears.     

רב לך שבת בעמק הבכא

והוא יחמול עלייך חמלה

רב לנו שבת בעמק הבכא

והוא יחמול עלינו חמלה

הצער הוא עמק, הבכי הוא בקעה

ובקעת דמעותינו עוד עמוקה

הפצע הוא פתוח, הנפש פגועה

ומי יגיד עכשיו שרב לשבת בה?

שצף קצף הסתרת פניך

ובאותו הרגע הכל כבר השתנה

בחסד עולם גלה רחמיך

ולא נשב יותר בעמק הבכא

One Thing I Ask

One Thing I Ask

If you could only ask me one question, what would it be?

It sounds like a party game, a conversation starter designed to get people talking at a speed dating event or a team-building exercise.  But sadly it’s the way most people’s encounters with their healers go these days.  For all practical purposes, there is a “one question per visit rule.”  Better make it a good one.

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The Same Joy

The Same Joy

Update: Video of the talk is now available online, beginning at 18:18 of the video. Watch the entire clip to see the evening’s other excellent speakers, Rabbi Shira Stern, speaking about “Finding our Resilience by Owning Our Grief,” and Professor James Young, speaking on the process of creating memorials for traumatic events.

Remarks from a “FEDTalk” given at the annual meeting of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, September 5, 2019.

It was the morning of March 17th.  48 hours earlier, a co-worker had alerted me to the horrible terror attack in Christchurch, New Zealand.  I had been in a fog ever since.  The young Syrian man across from me stared at the floor and told me, “I watched the video online – he wasn’t showing any emotion.  He was shooting people like it was a video game.”

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Facial Recognition

I catch a half-smile, a hesitant wave, and a curt nod, and I realize I am supposed to recognize this person.  I return the gestures, but my memory refuses to be jogged.  Finally, they approach me close enough for conversation, and say, “Dr. Weinkle, how are you?”  After caring for a few thousand people in the course of my career, I cannot hold all the names and faces in my head any longer.  “I’m so sorry,” I reply, “please remind me of your name.”

The double-edged sword of “recognizing faces”
From https://thepioneeronline.com/category/metro/

If only I had chosen to be a judge.  According to the Torah, they’re not supposed to recognize faces – it says so right in Deuteronomy 16:19, when Moses is explaining the meaning of “judge the people with righteous judgment.”  Among other things, he says, “thou shalt not respect persons,” meaning not to show favor to a rich person because of their status, or to a poor person out of pity.  Equal treatment under the law is the meaning of righteous judgment.  But the Hebrew phrase that he uses to say this is lo takir panim – literally, “don’t recognize faces.”

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