Home / The Latest / Tags

Tag: Rabbi Efrat Zarren-Zohar

May 25, 2023

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

As we observe Shavuot tonight through Shabbat, G!D-willing with family and friends, I’d like to share with you what I learned at the Jewish Education Innovation Challenge (JEIC) retreat that I was invited to attend last week, and how it directly relates to perceptions of Judaism and Torah in our day schools.

May 19, 2023

There Is A Place For Us

“Every person has their time, and every thing has its place.” Pirkei Avot 4:3. It isn’t just the soloist who has a time and place, but every member of the orchestral is vital to the whole. “Count the whole Israelite community by the clans of its ancestral houses, according to the number of their names” Num. 1:2.

May 12, 2023

Mutual Responsibilities

If the laws of the Jubilee year refer to the emancipation of only Hebrew servants, why does the passage proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof? Is not this liberty, in fact, referring to only a small percentage of the population?

May 5, 2023

The More Torah, The More Life

Parshat Emor teaches us about the festivals that make up the Jewish year. From the second night of Pesach, we begin counting upwards towards Shavuot where we celebrate the receiving of Torah at Mount Sinai. The ritual of counting days has become a spiritual practice where we imagine ourselves on a profound journey towards Sinai.

Apr 28, 2023

An Ancient Ritual with Modern Meaning: the "Scapegoat"

Throughout history, human beings have the tragic tendency to divide the world between "G!D" and "Azazel" or "the devil" (whatever that means to a particular person or culture). Then add to that oversimplification, the psychological need to apportion blame and fault to something / someone other than self / culture / country, and we end up with a deadly mix.

Apr 21, 2023

Freedom of Speech: a Right and a Huge Responsibility

This week’s parsha, Parashat Tazria, is paired with Parashat Metzora, because both deal with the identification and treatment of someone who contracts a condition called “tsara’at.” The translation of this is leprosy, although it is spiritual rather than biological in nature…

Apr 14, 2023

Silence in the Face of Horror

The Shoah is a part of our history that often impels us to speak out loudly against antisemitism, hate, and genocide wherever it lives. And it is also a part of our history that sometimes inspires silence as we contemplate the horrors that humankind is capable of inflicting on itself and the tragedies members of our community have endured.

Mar 31, 2023

Pesach: An Opportunity to Reflect

This Shabbat is Shabbat HaGadol, the Sabbath immediately preceding Pesach, our Festival celebrating Freedom and Redemption. We are preparing to gather with family, friends, and neighbors around our Seder tables. We are cleaning our homes and preparing our festival foods and celebrations. Many of us find this a season of hitbonenut / reflection as we review our lives since Pesach one year ago.

Mar 24, 2023

Calling: A Gesture of Affection

So much of Leviticus, and Bamidbar (Numbers) after it, is about approaching and drawing away. Moments when you offer something (Korban), moments when… you must withdraw. A sacred dance between Taharah, pure closeness, and Tumah, the state of extreme distance. Slowly, steadily, step-by-step, we all get chances to try and feel that we are also called to be close and grateful.

Mar 17, 2023

Does Art Civilize Us?

After all, the Ten Commandments itself contains a prohibition against graven images and the Torah forbids representation of any astral bodies. Modern Jews have simply assumed that Jews never made representations of people, animals, or divine beings because such art would violate our stringent standards against idolatry.

Mar 10, 2023

When You Take...

Moshe has led the Israelites out of slavery to this very important moment. G-D has split the Red or Reed Sea, fed everyone from the sky with manna and organized the people in such a way that they were well taken care of in every aspect of their daily lives, all while roaming in the desert.

Mar 3, 2023

Do Clothes Make…the Torah?

Our parsha this week is called Tetzaveh and is taken from the Book of Shemot / Exodus. It goes into great detail about the vestments (i.e., the sacred clothing) worn by the Kohain Gadol (High Priest)- a crown, a breast plate, a robe, a sash and a fringed tunic with little bells on the bottom, among other items.

Feb 24, 2023

We are Equal and Unique

When it comes to the specific faculties of the soul—intelligence, emotion, wisdom, kindness, and willpower – everyone is unique… . However, the foundation of both the structure and relationship with G-d, as well as the power of commitment and devotion, is the same for all of us. Everyone is equal in their ability to dedicate themselves to G-d, but the circumstances of the relationship is a result of our own personality, and therefore, unique to each of us.

Feb 16, 2023

My Body, My Decision?

I remember hearing a phrase from one of my Catholic friends: When you want it, it’s called a baby; when you don’t, it’s called a fetus... Why does Judaism differ from Christianity on abortion? It all comes down to two missing nouns in this week’s Torah reading. Let’s take a look at that text to see the ambiguity...

Feb 10, 2023

Why is Shabbat One of the 10 “Commandments”?

I did not grow up in a Shomer Shabbat home, by any stretch. While holiday observance and synagogue membership were important in our family, we never celebrated Shabbat.

Feb 3, 2023

Multipliers vs Diminishers

Multipliers debate ideas and decisions with those around them. They don’t provide easy answers and try, instead, to coax direction out of others and empower them. They challenge others to create an intense atmosphere that helps bring out people’s best efforts.

Jan 27, 2023

Hardening Our Hearts

Throughout the years, as Jews gather to recount the exodus from Egyptian slavery, one passage causes puzzlement, resentment, and embarrassment. It sounds like God purposely makes it impossible for Pharaoh to do the right thing, even if he wanted to.

Jan 13, 2023

The Constriction of the Spirit

If there is any place that represents a toxic environment, it is the Torah’s portrayal of the crucible of Egypt, which not only broke backs, but destroyed souls and spirits. It is a world in which people may survive for a while, but certainly cannot thrive. In this week’s Parashat Shemot, Moses comes to the Hebrew elders with a clarion call of liberation.

Jan 6, 2023

Waiting for God: Expressing Frustration in Prayer

Where is God in my life and why am I stuck in a difficult place? Will God ever intervene on my behalf, and help me—and all of us—come to a better place? What if I am skeptical if God can rescue at all?

Dec 30, 2022

Store Your Grain in the Good Times

"We are such stuff as dreams are made on,” wrote Shakespeare. For an elegant enactment of this insight, we can look at the story of Joseph, where his interpretations came not only from prophetic powers, but from the story of his own life.