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A Bisl Torah

What is Your Tradition?


In just a few days, Jews all around the world will gather together for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. We will sit in synagogue, listening to many of the same melodies heard and sung by our grandparents and great-grandparents. We will partake in customs that Jews pass down from generation to generation. The customs vary. Perhaps we eat a special apple cake recipe a relative introduced into the family. Others might engage in a Rosh Hashana seder, eating foods that symbolize life and sweetness for the new year. Many will adorn white on Yom Kippur and walk to synagogue, reminiscent…

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Open Your Eyes


I’m not a huge fan of heights. Understatement. I detest heights. Even when flying in an airplane, I pretend that I am somewhere else, concentrate on my book or a movie, and choose to forget how very high up in the air I actually am. But somehow, with coercing from a certain five-year- old and friends, I went on the Santa Monica Pier Ferris Wheel. As the ride swiftly carried our carriage to the very top of the wheel, my eyes glued shut and beads of sweat formed on my forehead. My friend gently nudged me and said, “You really…

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Who Comes First?


My heart continues to break as I watch the destruction in Texas. And yet, it continues to be resewn again as I watch community members and strangers reach out to the stranded, homeless, injured and fallen. So many stories of humanity’s capacity for goodness are rising to the surface. One mother was found face down in a canal in Beaumont, Texas. Her three-year-old daughter was clinging to her back. The daughter survived. The mother did not. The officer that found the mother and daughter noted that this mother unquestionably saved her child. Her child came first. In your life, who…

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Facing Mortality


Will you find your melody? The beginning of the month of Elul forces us to come face to face with our mortality. In just weeks we will gather as a community, hoping to find prayers and words that match the brokenness that sits within our hearts. We can all name personal fissures: grief, insecurity, disappointment, emptiness, solitude. And the chasm grows when we feel as if our faith can’t identify or address or fix the problem. In “Moadei HaRav” Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Pick gives voice to Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik’s lectures on the High Holy Days. Rav Soloveitchik analyzed why there is…

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What Do You Need to Hear?


It has been a distressing, troubling week. Globally, nationally, and personally for the Sinai Temple community, the sound of hearts breaking seems constant and unavoidable. In a recent exchange, someone remarked to me, “This is going to be quite a year for High Holy Day sermons. Rabbi, have you thought about what you are going to say?” And while I certainly have some general ideas, my first response to the inquiry was, “What exactly do people need to hear?” When you feel as if the world is shattering before your eyes, what do you need to hear? When you feel…

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Man in the Moon


On August 21st, the world will be treated to a solar eclipse. But notably, a solar eclipse is usually paired with a lunar eclipse, this having occurred earlier this week. The moon travels through the outer part of the Earth’s shadow, partially blocking the sun’s light. Almost always coinciding with a full moon, this extraordinary spectacle often appears as red or a fiery orange. We are witnessing wonders of the world, beautiful masterpieces of God’s hand. The Talmud reminds us, “The person who sees…the moon in its power (its fullness)…should say, ‘Blessed be God who has shaped the work of…

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A Humble Heart


Last week from the bimah, I shared a story about a magical moment that took place at Camp Ramah: I was asked to teach the Ezra staff. Ezra is the summer program at Camp Ramah for adults with learning, emotional and developmental disabilities. Many are adults with severe special needs or learning differences.  I started my teaching with an ice breaker. I asked the adults, “What about yourself are you most proud of?” We went around the circle, and one by one, the Ezra participants answered. One woman said, “I am so proud that my brother graduated from college.” Another…

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Just Let Go


It has been a common theme this week. I started learning guitar a few months ago, and my teacher noticed how tightly I grip the neck of the instrument. How fiercely I push down on the strings. He looked at me and said, “Nicole, just let go.” ATID (our Sinai Temple group for young professionals) hosts weekly yoga. Sitting on my mat, instead of focusing on the words of the yogi, my mind wandered over my to-do-list, the sermon I am preparing, dinner recipes for next week, and other life responsibilities. Channeling my distraction, the yogi paused in her instructions…

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Selfies


Documenting our lives has never been easier. So many of us post on Facebook and Instagram, write personal blogs, send tweets and make a point to let the world know exactly what we are doing … each minute of the day. How different this is from the ways we used to write about ourselves. I remember keeping several diaries with locks to ensure that no other person was privy to my personal thoughts and feelings when I was growing up. Public exchanges about our lives were limited to family members and friends exchanging letters, offering annual updates about who passed…

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Imprints


I was recently at a location that advertised their “community footprints” program. The program emphasizes the business’ responsibility towards the environment. The point was that each one of us makes an imprint in this world–for better or worse. What kind of imprint do you imagine you are leaving? When the time comes to depart and bid adieu, will you look at your life and say, “I am proud of my legacy, how I conducted myself, the way I treated others and the space around me?” Or will you shake your head, wishing for the chance to live your life over…

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