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Tag: Rabbi Efrat Zarren-Zohar

May 7, 2021

Chosen To Be Choosers

“If you follow My laws and faithfully observe my commandments... I will look with favor upon you, and make you fertile and multiply you; and I will maintain my covenant with you. I will establish My abode in your midst, and I will not spurn you. I will be ever present in your midst I will be your God and you shall be My people.” (Parashat Bechukkotai, Leviticus Chapter 26)

Apr 30, 2021

The Texture of Time

Several summers ago, my husband and I took our children to see the movie “Inside Out.” I remember sitting through the animated film next to our children, and as the movie ended, the credits ran, and the lights began to come up in the theater, David and I both sat there, frozen in our seats, tears streaming down our cheeks. Our children stared at us in confusion. Why in the world were we crying?

Apr 23, 2021

Sarah Halimi and George Floyd: After Their Deaths…

One of the things that American Jews, especially Jews born after World War II, take for granted is that Jewish life is not cheap here. Jews in America are considered equal citizens with the right to protection by the government and when Jews are harmed, our government will respond and protect us as it should for any other American.

Apr 16, 2021

WHY I LOVE ISRAEL - AND WHY YOU SHOULD, TOO

I first fell in love with Jewish books at Camp Eisner, the Reform Jewish camp in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Almost fifty summers ago, as a young teenager, I was assigned the duty of cleaning out the camp library. I did a terrible job. The truth is cleaning has never been my strong suit. Reading is.

Apr 9, 2021

Sometimes A Mitzvah Really Calls To You

This week's Parashat Shemini contains a long exposition of the laws of kashrut, a practice I didn't grow up with. Though my father z”l loved tradition in general, he was the first one in his family to have a non-kosher home, saying: "" We're American! What is this craziness? We should eat like Americans!

Apr 2, 2021

THE BREAD OF FREEDOM

Matzah is the hard bread that Israelites initially ate in the desert because they plunged into liberty without delaying, “since they were driven out of Egypt and could not delay; nor had they prepared provisions for themselves” (Exodus 12:39). However, matzah carries a more complex message than “Freedom now!”

Mar 26, 2021

Imagining Liberation

The obligation is not only to recall the Exodus but to relive it. On the one hand, rituals of remembrance on festivals are commonplace: We light a menorah on Hanukkah to remember the miracle of the oil. We circle the bimah on Sukkot with the four species to remember a ritual performed on Sukkot in the Temple. On the 9th of Av, we read the Book of Lamentations to remember the destruction of the Temple.

Mar 19, 2021

Why Is It Important to Tell Stories?

This week's Torah portion, Ki Tisa, begins with Moshe/Moses atop Mount Sinai, communing with God. The last thing God says to Moshe is a set of verses we now know as V'shamru [Exodus 31:16-17], commanding us to keep Shabbat throughout the ages as a sign of covenant with God.Then God gives Moshe the two tablets, inscribed by God's own hand.

Mar 12, 2021

Having It All

This week's Torah portion, Ki Tisa, begins with Moshe/Moses atop Mount Sinai, communing with God. The last thing God says to Moshe is a set of verses we now know as V'shamru [Exodus 31:16-17], commanding us to keep Shabbat throughout the ages as a sign of covenant with God.Then God gives Moshe the two tablets, inscribed by God's own hand.

Mar 5, 2021

SPIRITUAL BROKENNESS & HEALING

This week's Torah portion, Ki Tisa, begins with Moshe/Moses atop Mount Sinai, communing with God. The last thing God says to Moshe is a set of verses we now know as V'shamru [Exodus 31:16-17], commanding us to keep Shabbat throughout the ages as a sign of covenant with God.Then God gives Moshe the two tablets, inscribed by God's own hand.

Feb 26, 2021

It’s Been a Year!

I remember that last year on Purim, we were aware of Covid-19, but not yet panicked. Our lives were still moving forward routinely. My family went to synagogue and celebrated Purim as we normally would - with our community, with raucous, shared fun and celebration. In big, crowded rooms filled with lots of people. A day later...

Feb 19, 2021

Becoming a Dwelling Place for the Divine

While I deeply appreciate and honor the ‘engineering’ aspect of the building of the Mishkan, and the significance of all the specifications and details, I have come to understand the building of the Mishkan as akin to a four-direction compass for the spiritual infrastructure of the Jewish people. In the current state of mayhem and upheaval that we are all experiencing, this compass allegory is especially important today.

Feb 12, 2021

So Poor You Sell Your Daughter

Sometimes when we read the parsha (weekly Torah portion), we are jolted by the disparity between the modern, privileged lives we live in the 21st century and the reality reflected in the Torah and the world in which it appeared. Parashat Mishpatim (Shemot/Exodus 21-24) this week gives us a lot of material to consider.

Feb 5, 2021

Family Layers

My distinguished father-in-law Richard has been an important person in my life for almost fifty years. I was a very young freshman in college when we met. An ardent believer and lover of Torah, I was also not very skilled or self-confident about expressing my opinions. This made it all the more challenging when the first thing he said to me after being introduced was: “I cannot fathom how anyone could believe in a God that would ask Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.” This was not what I was expecting to hear as I stood next to my boyfriend and tried to smile sweetly.

Jan 29, 2021

G!D Taught Him a Tree (?!?)

What is remarkable is not the behavior of the Israelites; rather, God’s response is what ought to capture our attention. Let us look again, a bit more closely than we did before: “the people grumbled against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’ So he cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood; he threw it into the water and the water became sweet.”

Jan 22, 2021

What is so punishing about darkness?

In Parshat Bo, we meet the final plagues of the ten meted out to the Egyptians. Before the last plague of the killing of the first-born males in the Egyptian households, God instructs Moses to deliver one penultimate punishment: darkness - choshech. But this darkness is not merely the dark of the night. It is called choshech afela - a thick darkness.

Jan 15, 2021

You Are Not Free Until You Are at Home

Moshe, in the cliffhanger at the end of Parashat Shemot, was demoralized by the Hebrew slaves’ apathy towards their impending freedom. He was devastated by Pharaoh’s tightening the screws on the slaves and increasing their suffering to crush Moshe’s initiative (Exodus 5:6-6:1).

Jan 8, 2021

The Moral Limits to Power

This week's Torah portion, Shemot, could be entitled "the birth of a leader." We see Moses, adopted by Pharaoh's daughter, growing up as a prince of Egypt. We see him as a young man, for the first time realising the implications of his true identity.

Dec 25, 2020

Why Is It So Hard?

One of the hardest things that human beings are called upon to wrestle with is: Forgiveness. In Parshat Vayigash we have one of the finest models of it in how Yosef/ Joseph deals with his brothers.

Dec 18, 2020

Making Dreams a Reality

This week's parasha, Miketz, and last week's parasha, Vayeishev, have the running theme of dreams. You'll recall that Yosef (Joseph) proclaims two dreams he has about his and his family's future --the bowing sheaves and the sun/moon/stars. Then later in life, Yosef listens to the dreams of Paro's (Pharoah's) chief cupbearer and chief baker who are imprisoned with him. And finally after being hauled out of prison, Paro himself tells Yosef his own dream that foreshadows the future for the entire nation of Egypt (7 fat cows/years, 7 lean cows/years).