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Friday Shabbat Shalom

Lessons from the Unexpected

Jul 3, 2020

Lessons from the Unexpected

This week’s combined Torah portion, Chukat-Balak , includes the story of the non-Jewish prophet Balaam (called Bilam in Hebrew) and his talking donkey . The portion of Balak opens with the king of Moav, (Balak), having heard what happened with the nations who fought against Israel.
Korach Still Lives On!

Jun 26, 2020

Korach Still Lives On!

Rabbis, including this rabbi, welcome the opportunity to write a Dvar Torah in which one of the most “beloved” of Biblical villains appears in his own eponymous Torah portion-- Korach. Born a Levite with great yichus (his great-grandfather was Levi, founder of the Tribe of Levi), along with wealth, intellect, ability and skill, Korach was greatly admired and looked up to by many Israelites.
Are You Transmitting Fear or Courage?

Jun 19, 2020

Are You Transmitting Fear or Courage?

As Jewish parents, grandparents, and teachers, we need to find ways to transmit the values of the Jewish tradition to each generation. In Parashat Shelach, Moses sends leaders to scout the land of Canaan in order to find a way to enter it and leave the desert behind them. These leaders return and tell Moses that while the land is flowing with milk and honey, it is inhabited by giants. Their fears overcame their better judgment and they exaggerated what they saw in order to instill fear in others.
Paradise Lost: Reflections on BeMidbar/The Book of Numbers and America circa 2020

Jun 11, 2020

Paradise Lost: Reflections on BeMidbar/The Book of Numbers and America circa 2020

Recent events have unleashed sad, self-evident and undeniable truths; far from “one union under God”, we act more like a loosely stitched patchwork of power structures and competing interest. Fear of the other and racial hatred, the unequal distribution of justice, and rampant violence have planted deep seeds of mistrust. Whatever our political persuasion, one thing is clear. To paraphrase Hamlet, “Something is rotten in the State of America.” We live next to our neighbors, but do we live with our neighbors?
Expressive Hands: The Blessing of the Cohen

Jun 5, 2020

Expressive Hands: The Blessing of the Cohen

One of the most exciting parts of Parashat Naso, this week’s Torah portion, is the inclusion of the three-part blessing recited by the Cohanim, the descendants of Aharon, who functioned as the priests of the Tabernacle and later of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem.
Naomi and Ruth: The Vulnerability of Women & Immigrants

May 28, 2020

Naomi and Ruth: The Vulnerability of Women & Immigrants

On Shavuot this past week, Megillat Rut/ the Scroll of Ruth is read, ostensibly because the barley harvest is a key plot line (Ruth 1:22- Ruth and Naomi arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest) and Shavuot takes place during the harvest season, celebrating the bringing of "bikkurim/ first fruits" (which most people don't realize refer to stalks of grain, not actual tree fruit). There are also other less obvious thematic parallels, but let's stick with this one for now.
The Wilderness Is Speaking to You

May 22, 2020

The Wilderness Is Speaking to You

It’s always fascinating when something that seems ancient and irrelevant to our lives today is shown to in fact, relate a powerful message for our times. In this week’s Torah portion BaMidbar, we find the tribes of Israel having escaped from Egypt, now marching through the wilderness of Sinai on their way to the “Promised Land.”
Even Dirt Gets to Rest (Pandemic Shmitah)

May 15, 2020

Even Dirt Gets to Rest (Pandemic Shmitah)

In this week’s parsha, Behar-Bechukotai, G!D tells the Israelites that when they arrived in the Land of Israel, they must allow the land to rest once every seven years. All of us around the world, Jewish and not, are now living this Shmitah (“release” on the 7th year) experience during the pandemic.
Elevating Sacred Moments

May 8, 2020

Elevating Sacred Moments

Four years ago at this same time, I was in Poland and Israel on the Leo Martin March of the Living. The trip fell precisely during Parashat Kedoshim (Be Holy), our Torah portion last week, and Parashat Emor (Say… to the Israelites), our Torah portion this week. I'll share two remarkable stories with you (among so many others that take place during this transformational program).
Transitioning from Death to Life

May 1, 2020

Transitioning from Death to Life

s a double portion, this parshah opens with Aharei Mot (Vayikra/Leviticus 16:1-18:30) and ends with Kedoshim (Vayikra/Leviticus 19:1- 20:27). In Acharei Mot, G-d tells Aaron how to move from the death of his sons back to the journey of life, how to make the transition from death to life, and how to create rituals that move us through our periods of transitions.