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A Bisl Torah

She Spoke, And Her Voice Was Heard


Last week, Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky of B’nai David wrote the following message to his congregation: “This Shabbat morning, with God’s help, Rabbanit Alissa Thomas-Newborn will be offering the drasha at B’nai David – Judea, the Orthodox shul of which I am the senior rabbi. As I am presently on a study trip in Israel, this is not really news. Rabbanit Alissa is the only other member of our clergy. The news is that this is the first time that her words of Torah will be not only inspiring, but they will also be of historic importance. Though not intended or…

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A Stroll Around the Block


This morning I joined a family in their conclusion of shiva, the Jewish week of mourning a loved one. As is the custom, we rose from our chairs and took a stroll around the block. The Rabbinical Assembly offers a beautiful prayer and intention before the walk. These are the words we recited today: “God of spirit and flesh, this family has turned to You for comfort and strength in these days of grief. When the cup of sorrow passed into their hands, Your Presence consoled them. Now they rise up to face the tasks of life once more… For…

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Seasons of Love


How do you measure—measure a year? It is a question that comes up a few times for the Jewish people. Certainly discussed at Rosh Hashana, the birthday of the world, and around this season, the secular new year. So…in the famous words from the musical Rent, “How do you measure a year in the life?” The song gives a few answers. “In daylights-in sunsets, in midnights-in cups of coffee. In inches-in miles, in laughter-in strife.” And it’s true. Go through your Facebook posts, emails, pictures or mental memories. A year is made of trivialities: standing in line at Starbucks and…

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December Dilemma?


For years I was inundated with the term, “The December Dilemma.” For Jewish kids, there was or perhaps is an ingrained notion that celebrating Channukah is inferior and less exciting than celebrating Christmas. And so Channukah became commercialized, more gift focused, and I was often asked to explain the meaning of Channukah in my secular classrooms although I was rarely asked to explain the holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. But early on, my parents helped solve this problem. Because I grew up with many non-Jewish friends, I was invited to their homes to help decorate Christmas trees, drink…

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An Entire Hand


Ok…there’s another birthday in the Guzik-Sherman household. Our first born is turning five. An entire hand. I was thinking about the number five in our tradition. The five books of Moses. The chamsa—five fingers that symbolize God’s protective hand; a hand embracing God’s children. But what seems beautiful and different about turning five is knowing that while on one hand, your baby still teeters on toddler hood, she is inching towards that other hand…and you can start to see glimpses of six, seven, eight, nine and ten…such special years of growth, maturity, and independence. Almost every day of Annie as a…

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Why a Ladder?


Many of you know that in March my husband is running the Jerusalem marathon. When he runs the streets of Los Angeles, he refuses to wear headphones, always trying to be aware of the landscape and environment around him. The other day I asked him, “How do you keep going? What motivates you to keep up your pace?” He explained that he constantly encourages himself to run one more block. Not one more mile—in the moment, that goal seems too lofty. One more street light. One more corner. And before he knows it, he has reached his determined destination…or gone…

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Bids for Connection


Every Thursday I take my 10 month old to a wonderful Parent n’ Me class through the Sinai Akiba Parenting Center. Our teacher, Julia Kantor, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist engages our babies through play, story, observation and song. But at the end of every class is an opportunity for the parents to learn something new—about our children, our relationships, ourselves. I just never expected to learn something about God as well. Julia introduced the idea, “bids for connection.” She explained that Drs. John and Julie Gottman have studied couples’ behaviors for over thirty years, pre and post having children….

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Did You Get What You Need?


There are high hopes, high expectations around the holidays. Perfecting recipes, reuniting with loved ones and good friends, spending quality time together and reflecting on what you’re most grateful for. But then you wake up and remember, nothing goes as expected. The Yiddish phrase reads, “Human beings plan and God laughs.” The pie didn’t set, there was back to back traffic on the 405, someone spilled the wine, the kids were noisy, and conversation went awry. Oh yeah, you also overslept during the Black Friday sales. Instead of burrowing back into bed, our faith encourages us to seize the day,…

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Skipping A Page


Rushing has become normative behavior. We rush to work, rush to put dinner on the table, rush to finish the chores, and rush to meet a deadline. Funny thing is, rushing doesn’t necessarily mean productivity. Often the faster we work, the less detailed, nuanced and thoughtful is the final outcome. Bedtime with my children is a favorite example. My almost five year knows all of our tricks. If it feels as if the story she has chosen to read is ridiculously long and unending, admittedly, I try to skip a page here and there. My heart is racing, wondering when…

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I’ll Save You A Seat


This week has been difficult and emotionally exhausting for our country. No matter where we stand on the political spectrum, no matter whom we voted for, it is clear there is a deep seeded fear of the “other”. The objection to reach out, lean in, inquire, probe, and wonder why someone feels or acts differently than we do is antithetical to the Jewish faith. For thousands of years, Jews question, converse, debate, argue and reason with those that do not necessarily view the world with a similar lens. What is our Jewish obligation? To extend a hand, ear and heart…

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