Home / The Latest / Tags

Tag: Rabbi Efrat Zarren-Zohar

Apr 19, 2024

We All Need to Leave Egypt Over and Over Again

The Exodus is mentioned in the weekly celebration of Shabbat in the words of the Kiddush, in the daily ritual of prayer in the siddur following the Shema/V’ahavta (in the Geula prayer when we sing Mi Chamocha), in the reasons for the custom of wearing tefillin and tallit, as well as in the ethical mandate not to oppress the stranger, remembering that we were once strangers in the land of Egypt, which is mentioned over 36 times in the Torah.

Apr 12, 2024

As If We Personally Had Come Out of Egypt

I went into a ladies’ room last fall and saw a ghost. I had just arrived at a synagogue in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to give a lecture on All Other Nights, my novel about Jewish spies during the Civil War. As I hurried to the restroom before greeting my hosts, I opened the door and stopped short. In the mirror, next to my 21st-century reflection, was a woman wearing a 19th-century corset and petticoats, struggling to pull a calico dress over her hoop skirts.

Apr 5, 2024

A Reform Rabbi Chooses to Keep Kosher

This week's Parashat Shemini contains a long exposition of the laws of kashrut, a practice I did not grow up observing. 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!" Family lore has it that when my great-grandmother (his grandmother) came to visit my parent’s new home in the suburbs, she was so horrified to find that the kitchen wasn’t kosher, she would only eat a piece of cold lettuce, on the back porch, on a paper plate, in the middle of a Boston winter!

Mar 29, 2024

Taking Control of Our Destiny - Purim 5784

Let’s face it, on Purim we Jews look pathetic... Think about it: on Passover, we confront the mighty Pharaoh and gain our freedom with bravery and portents; on Hanukkah, we defeat a Hellenist empire with a gutsy resistance, and on Purim… we win by trickery, seduction, and dumb luck. Jews seem to be at the mercy of the whims of a frivolous king and an evil viceroy… OK, now that I’ve ruined Purim for you, let me share what I consider to be its most redeeming quality: Purim is, probably, our most Zionist holiday.

Mar 22, 2024

"Be Happy It’s Adar?!?"

I’m having a difficult time getting my joy on for Adar and for Purim, because I don’t recall a time that both the state of the Jews (the Jewish people) and the State of the Jews (Israel / Medinat Yisrael) were in such bad shape… But then… I realized that our sages and our wise tradition have already shown us the way of living in an unsettling and painful reality… They taught us rituals that help us recognize sadness in the midst of our joy, and conversely, perceive joy in the midst of our sadness. We humans aren’t well designed to live solely in joy, nor should we dwell solely in sadness. Life is about finding balance, ‘the golden mean’ or ‘the middle path,’ as the rabbis put it.

Mar 15, 2024

A Special Thank You...

We at CAJE are so proud of Miami survivor and past March of the Living participant David Schaecter, who as president of the Holocaust Survivors’ Foundation USA (HSF), condemned The Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer for his divisive Oscar acceptance speech that linked his film’s Holocaust subject matter to criticism of Israel’s ongoing Gaza conflict with these words...

Mar 14, 2024

The Clothes We Wear

An entire chapter (Shemot/Exodus 39) is spent speaking about the priestly vestments, the uniform worn by Aaron and his sons when they performed the Divine sacrificial worship... In essence, like a superhero, the moment Aaron donned the priestly clothing he became a symbol for the enduring relationship between the Jewish people and God initiated at Mount Sinai.

Mar 8, 2024

When Having It All Isn't Enough

We live in an age of great material abundance. It isn't unusual for families to own several automobiles, for their homes to display telephones and televisions in more than one room, even to have several computers at home. We own multiple refrigerators and freezers, lavish amounts of clothing, and recreate in private facilities that offer state-of-the-art amusement. With all the luxuries that Americans enjoy, it is surely anomalous that so many of us are bored and lonely. You would think that all our possessions and distractions would keep us buzzing contentedly … Yet that isn't the case.

Mar 1, 2024

What It Means to Choose Freedom

This is a truth known viscerally to Jews today who hail from the unfree world — those from the former Soviet Union; those who were expelled from Iran and other autocratic regimes in the Middle East. And it is a truth faced daily by Jews in places that remain unfree. Just ask the Jews of Tunisia, who in October watched as a historic synagogue was reduced to rubble by a mob driven by false reports that Israel had bombed a hospital in Gaza.

Feb 23, 2024

The Eternal Source of Light Sometimes Seems Hidden

This week’s Torah portion, Tetzaveh, means “You shall command” and refers to the many detailed instructions given to the children of Israel by G!D… I sometimes struggle with the idea of being “commanded” and some of the seemingly archaic aspects of Biblical Judaism, like the Temple service and animal sacrifices. However, a deeper dive into the parasha reveals something extraordinary and it is — you might even say — a revelation about our Peoplehood. As always, there are lessons for us as leaders in this resilient community of ours.

Feb 16, 2024

Make Space in Your Heart

Moshe/Moses is told to inform the Jewish people that they should provide gifts to G!D that will be used to create the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary. For a commandment, the verse seems to leave a lot of room for personalization of its fulfillment. It's done אשר ידבנו לבו, i.e, according to the generosity of the heart of each individual person.

Feb 9, 2024

Renewing and Reimagining the Covenant

In the previous parsha, Yitro, we moved through the climactic and other-worldly giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai… And then you reach Mishpatim: a prosaic litany of civil legislation and everyday situations…. This juxtaposition tells us: you may have thought that the dramatic revelation at Sinai was the covenant, but the real covenant is right here, down in the muddy waters of everyday human relations.

Feb 2, 2024

Care for Yourself, as Yitro Instructed Moses

Ever feel so alone when struggling with an adversity – health, financial, relationship – that it feels as if the world simply doesn’t understand or can’t relate to your pain? Could it be that in this week’s Torah reading, Moshe feels similarly, having experienced his own traumatic and exhausting experience, followed by anxiety and despair.

Jan 26, 2024

We Must Never Give Up Hope

It is 80 years since the armed resistance that led to the Warsaw Uprising began… With only a small number of guns, gasoline bottles and other makeshift weapons, the Jews managed to temporarily overpower the Nazis. In this week’s parasha, Beshalach, we read about the incredible courage displayed by an early figure in our history. The Jewish people had been released from slavery in Egypt, only for Pharaoh to change his mind and chase after them with a large army.

Jan 19, 2024

Leaving Your Egypt

The first three Torah portions of Sefer Sh'mot (the Book of Exodus) are the three portions that invite us to exist in Mitzrayim (Egypt), and it is here that I would invite us to dwell one more moment, despite our natural eagerness to leave the place of our degradation and enslavement… Why has the author left us here? Why did we have to stay in Mitzrayim during the ten plagues?

Jan 12, 2024

Why is Moses "Flawed"?

Hashem charges Moshe with a mission – to return to Egypt and demand from Pharaoh that he let the Jewish people go. Hashem tells him that he is the only person in the world who has the capacity to relay this message to Pharaoh. There’s only one problem: Moshe has a speech disability that left him with a stutter… Why would Hashem give a man with a speech impediment such an important task that depends on his ability to use words to convince?

Jan 5, 2024

Jew Hatred

Jew hatred is, and always has been, humanity’s canary in the coal mine, and this is why CAJE and Jewish education is so important. We must remain a distinctive people because we have a job to do in this world... to promote ethical monotheism (belief in a God who demands moral behavior) and to change the world for the better by challenging the gods, religious or secular, of the societies around us… we need to understand our traditions, believe in its sacred power to transform ourselves and the world, and live courageously as bearers of G!d’s hope for humanity.

Dec 29, 2023

Building Jewish Infrastructure

When people ask me what CAJE is and what CAJE does, I often refer to the famous advertising line and say “CAJE is the ‘Intel inside’ Jewish education in Miami-Dade.” CAJE helps the teachers and schools from early childhood through high school be the best they can be through outstanding professional development and other services. In sum, CAJE is part of the infrastructure of Jewish life and education in our community... This concept of “infrastructure” is embodied in this week’s parshah, Vayechi, which marks the conclusion of the book of Bereishit / Genesis, the first of the Five Books of the Torah.

Dec 22, 2023

A Call to Come Close in Traumatic Times

Our parsha this week, Vayigash, which means to approach, to come close, is the story of Yosef and Yehuda. As we navigate the collective trauma of 10/7, in Israel and abroad, the Torah’s call to come closer, as individuals and as a nation, resonates more than ever.

Dec 15, 2023

Hanukkah: A Light Dispelling Darkness

Our hope as parents and Jewish educators is that a child should rise up and say to themselves: “I am special; I have a special mission and I have special gifts given to me by G!D and the Torah to fulfill that mission.” That mindset is what launches a child into their future and that’s the secret sauce of Jewish education.