Author Archives: Erica Brown

Dr. Erica Brown is a writer and educator who works as the scholar-in-residence for The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and consults with for the Jewish Agency and other Jewish non-profits. She has published a number of books and writes a monthly column for The New York Jewish Week and the website Psychology Today, and a weekly column for JTA on Jewish leadership.

Raise Your Right Hand

by Dr. Erica Brown “The Lord has sworn by His right hand.” Isaiah 62:8 If you haven’t been in a courtroom, you’ve watched the scene dozens of times on television and in the movies. A judge calls the court to order and says to the person on the stand: “Please raise your right hand to take the oath” as a ...

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Good Enough?

by Dr. Erica Brown “You shall do that which is right and good in the sight of the Lord…” Deuteronomy 6:18 This week I spoke with someone on the phone who asked me several questions about Sabbath observance. He told me he found it interesting but was raised as a Catholic and is now lapsed. “I don’t really believe in ...

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Healing Waters

by Dr. Erica Brown “I shall sprinkle upon you water of purification, and you shall be purified. I will cleanse you from all impurities…” Ezekiel 36:25 In the past few weeks, the mikve, a space of sacred purity and privacy, has become a subject of scrutiny and suspicion. For those who perform this mitzva regularly, an obligation of holiness suddenly ...

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Say No to Snark

by Dr. Erica Brown “A fool’s lips bring strife…A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are the snare of his soul.” Proverbs 18:6-7 We’ve all been in the unhappy presence of snark. We know people who make critical, cutting, biting or snide comments when they could have easily said the same thing in a more pleasant way. The ...

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Early Risers

by Dr. Erica Brown “Wake up like a lion…” Shulkhan Arukh, Code of Jewish Law Laws of Rising in the Morning 1:1 When I taught young adults, I often found myself saying: “Those who hoot with the owls at night, cannot soar with the eagles in the morning.” My children have heard this countless times when they’ve stayed up late ...

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Eat Something

by Erica Brown “Be happy as you sit at your table and the hungry are enjoying your hospitality” Derech Eretz Zuta 9 The big news in Washington is that Michelle Obama’ 50th birthday party is coming, and the invitations are out. But – get this – the DC gossip columns are all buzzing about a small sentence on the invite: ...

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The Sukka Challenge

We ask God to shelter us in the shadow of a sukka, not once a year but regularly. For a sukka to be a place of peace, it needs to be a place that brings people together in a genuine and deep way. Simone Weil wrote, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” This sukkot is a great ...

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Commitment Matters

by Dr. Erica Brown / This week’s newspapers dished out the dirt or shmutz, as we say in Yiddish. We read about a love child that broke up a public marriage and a very unpleasant hotel stay for one unlucky chambermaid. Then, to top it off, Sunday’s New York Times featured an article called “Divorce, in Style” abut the businessman and philanthropist Charles Bronfman who, together with the woman he is divorcing, is inviting 100 friends for an evening of cocktails to celebrate their divorce amicably. Engraved invitations requested business attire. Is this a new high or a new low in ending a marriage? Jewish law believes in divorce; it is a mitzva in the instance where two people simply cannot live together. Maybe it’s better to end with a party than to end in a puddle of tears, but this all doesn’t offer much hope as we begin a spring and summer season of weddings. It should make us question whether or not cultural depictions of marriage collude with what we know about real life outside the world of fickle celebrity romance. It should also give us pause when we enter commitments where we say, “Till death do us part.”

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