Home / The Latest / Tags

Tag: Rabbi Efrat Zarren-Zohar

May 20, 2022

Expanding Our Circle of Caring

The small holiday of Lag BaOmer (the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer) occurred this week. It’s a break in the semi-“Lenten” time period between Passover and Shavuot when tradition forbids weddings and celebrations and asks Jews to adopt the custom of not shaving or cutting one’s hair as an act of mourning.

May 13, 2022

Brokenness: The Path to Growth

Over the centuries, most of humanity responded to the disabled in others ways, by turning their backs to them, preferring to blame them in some ways for their disabilities rather than make the effort to strengthen the human connection that binds each to all.

May 6, 2022

When Loving Is Difficult

The name of the parsha is taken from the first important word at the outset of the portion (which is how all parshiot get their name)—Kedoshim Tehiyu/ Be holy! No one is entirely sure what the word Kedusha / Holiness means, but at bare minimum, it implies the elevation of human beings and our actions from animal-like to G!D-like.

Apr 29, 2022

The GOAT That Isn’t So Great

The term "scapegoat" was apparently coined by William Tyndale, the first great English Bible translator, and has come to mean "someone whom people blame for their own misfortunes and even for their faults and sins--though the original notion of a scapegoat included the public acknowledgement by the community of its own transgressions."

Apr 21, 2022

Counting the Omer: The Next Phase of Our Spiritual Journey

This week, at the conclusion of Havdalah, we will bid farewell to Shabbat and the festival of Pesach, and begin a new journey, a spiritual ascent to Mt. Sinai. On the second night of Pesach, we began counting the omer, a spiritual exercise, as we prepare to receive the gift of Torah.

Apr 15, 2022

Slavery: Inside and Out

One of the more challenging questions about the seder - How do we make it relevant today? Here is one suggestion. Let’s start by discussing a well-known statement found in the Haggadah: “In every generation a person is required to see oneself as if he personally went out of Egypt.” How is it possible to do this? And why is this necessary?

Apr 8, 2022

Pesach: How to Preserve Our Freedom

The Pesach seder is an event filled with symbols that have dual and opposite meanings; likewise, there’s a subtext of argumentation. It’s ‘organized’ argumentation - like the Talmud - but built into the Haggadah (the “script’ of the seder) is debate and even conflict among the participants.

Apr 1, 2022

The Slap

When I was 12, a few weeks before my Bat Mitzvah, I went in to meet with one of the rabbis of my synagogue. At the time, the synagogue newsletter included a “pasuk of the week,” a verse from that week’s Torah portion that was particularly interesting or thought provoking. However, as the rabbi confessed to me, the week of my bat mitzvah was to be the end of that custom. He just couldn’t find anything that fit the bill. That week’s parashah? Tazria.

Mar 25, 2022

Igniting The Fire Within Ourselves

While there is an ocean of difference between pagan Greek myth [of Icarus] and our Torah, often cross-cultural comparisons can be enlightening. Interestingly, the very hubris that motivated Icarus’s downfall is reflected in a different way in this week’s parashah (Shmini) in a story, which has troubled many.

Mar 18, 2022

Purim Redux: Jew vs. Haman Once Again

As I write these words, I have just watched a young 44-year-old former comedian in an olive drab t-shirt address the Congress of the United States and indeed the world. It is a Churchillian moment, although he is speaking in Ukrainian, and this young political novice within weeks has not only become the voice of his people but has embodied the consciousness of the world.

Mar 11, 2022

How Do We Make Jewish Learning Relevant?

One of the main challenges of Jewish education in the twenty-first century is finding relevance in Jewish learning... This week’s Torah portion is Vayikra, the first portion in the book of Vayikra, translated [from Hebrew to Latin] as Leviticus. It discusses aspects of the korbanot or sacrifices that were made in the Tabernacle and later the Temple, but it is hard to find meaning in the detailed ancient practices.

Mar 4, 2022

The Work of Our Hands

This Shabbat we read Parashat P’kudei, containing the final verses of the Book of Exodus. The Exodus narrative takes us on an incredible journey from bondage in Egypt to the experience of revelation at Sinai and the transformation of the Israelites to a people committed to a life guided by Torah and walking in G!d’s ways.

Feb 25, 2022

We’ve Seen This Before

Every literate Jew knows the word: SHOAH. It’s the Hebrew word for the Holocaust, derived from the biblical word Shoah (שואה), meaning "catastrophe." Most of us, me included, have never heard of the term: Holodomor. According to the History Channel, it’s a combination of the Ukrainian words for “starvation” and “to inflict death,” and is a key event in Ukrainian history.

Feb 18, 2022

Who Made You Who You Are?

Jewish education forms the backbone of our communities. We assure the community of vitality and endurance through the Hebrew studies of our children, the outreach programs for those considering conversion, and the continuing education programs for other seeking adults. And those programs need our support.

Feb 11, 2022

Rekindling Your Lamp

On some weekday evenings, when our schedule permits, my wife and I will watch something on TV before retiring for the night. We want a few minutes to sit and laugh together. We’ve found that laughing is more conducive to good sleep than the news, or a series about some sort of futuristic dystopia that all too closely resembles daily reality.

Feb 4, 2022

Are Jews White People?

... perhaps it is not such a coincidence that this week’s parsha about building the Tabernacle, a thing of space, is the backdrop for the controversy swirling around Whoopi Goldberg’s statement that to her eyes, as an African-American woman, the Holocaust wasn’t about racism, since it was one group of white people (Nazis) murdering another group of white people (Jews).

Jan 28, 2022

To Renew and Reimagine the Covenant

When we decided that my eldest son had reached that fateful age - the age when it seemed appropriate that he have a cell phone - we waded in with hesitation and deep reservation. It was uncharted territory for us as parents, and we were filled with anxiety. Were we making the right decision?

Jan 21, 2022

Confusing Metaphor with Reality

The difficulty with providing any kind of imagery for G!D is that people end up confusing metaphor with the reality. This week’s Parshat Yitro contains the 10 Statements (not commandments, as it’s been erroneously rendered in English) within which we find “Thou shalt not make graven images….” Why is it such a horror— one of the top 10! —to make a graven image of the Divine?

Jan 14, 2022

Are You a Functional Atheist?

If you’re anything like me, you spend a lot of time up in your head thinking about getting your work done--planning, striving, checking items off the mental to-do list, worrying about how to keep all the balls in the air and how to meet this or that deadline or get ahead.

Jan 7, 2022

Hardening Our Hearts

Immersed in the drama of liberating his enslaved people, Moses prepares to appear before Pharaoh, to insist that the Israelites be allowed to leave Egypt. God instructs his servant, Moses, "Go to Pharaoh. For I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his courtiers, in order that I may display these My signs among them..." [Shemot/ Exodus 10:1]