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A Bisl Torah

Come Home


On Saturday night, I told my daughter, “It is ok to be afraid.” I couldn’t entirely shield her from the hostage situation at a Texas synagogue. She is old enough to know when her parents are worried and brushing off her fears would be akin to dismissing her. She wanted to know everything about the gunman. His name, his motives, his reasons for wanting to visit a synagogue. It became clear to her that although “Texas” feels far away, this was a person that came very close to harming a rabbi and his congregants. She has two parents as rabbis….

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A Lingering Darkness


This week, we set our wake-up alarms earlier than usual. The scene outside of the windows was shockingly frightening. Pitch-black, a thick darkness in which we couldn’t see the hint of sunrise. And while we knew it was too early for the sun’s majestic rays to filter into the kitchen, our minds began to race. Why did the darkness feel so heavy? The light seemed trapped. And for a bewildering moment, I thought to myself, is there a chance the darkness is choosing to linger? Why won’t it go away?

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The Magic of the New Year


One of my favorite traditions during the secular new year is a semi-annual deep organizing of my home. I go through my children’s closets and take out clothing now a size too small. I throw out old spice jars and check out the expiration dates on condiments in the pantry. Nothing escapes my scrutiny: linens, the refrigerator, desk drawers and kitchen cabinets. The purging of the “old” gives me mental space to allow for the emergence of the “new”.

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Secrets of the New Year


I used to make an effort to stay up until midnight to watch the ball drop in New York City. It was one of my favorite nights of the year. Usually a festive party, delicious food and drink and surrounded by family and friends. But as the years go by, I realize that while there is nothing wrong with a good party, I am more focused on time well spent; less about the guest list on December 31st and more about the guest list every other day of the year.

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What Is Your Final Destination?


With the end of the secular new year comes the self-imposition of life decisions. Whether it is a birthday, anniversary, or holiday, certain points in time encourage renewal, cessation, and reflection. One can’t help but ask the question, “Am I walking towards the right direction?”

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You Shall Be a Blessing


The Torah introduces what looks like a dying father’s parting words to his beloved children. Jacob gathers his offspring and begins to offer individual prophecies, what is later described as blessings. However, our contemporary understanding of blessings clouds our ability to comprehend the scene. Usually, when we bless someone, our words include wishes for good health, the ability to experience joy, and a capacity to garner inner strength. Other may bless with long age, the opportunity to see peace, and potential to find renewed faith. But Jacob’s words to his first three children are biting, seemingly angry and filled with contempt. Blessing in the ways we have grown accustomed? Certainly not. Instead, Jacob’s reproach seems self-serving. A shaming critique so that he is able to leave this world without regret.

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This is Good for All of Us


Like many of you, this past weekend I celebrated Hanukkah. But on Sunday, I witnessed my 95-year-old grandmother celebrating Hanukkah with many of her great-grandchildren. We congregated in a park, opened gifts, and shared stories. My Nana watched the next generation of “Guziks” play games, giggle together and enjoy celebrating the holiday. As everyone gathered to leave, each great-grandchild waved goodbye to Nana and wished her a “Happy Hanukkah.” My uncle remarked, “This is good for them.” He meant that it was good for them to make memories with their great-grandmother. And I couldn’t help but think, “Yes, but really, this is good for all of us.”

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Candle by Candle


There is an ancient debate as to how one should light the Hanukkiah. The House of Shammai says one should initially put all eight candles on the Hanukkiah and each night, take one candle off. The House of Hillel says the opposite. We should add candles as we celebrate each night of the holiday, increasing the light. The explanation given: as the week continues, we should ascend in holiness. Hillel’s tradition holds.

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Be the Hope


Although most of us are still enjoying Thanksgiving leftovers, Hannukah is just days away. Through the latkes and sufganiyot, we sometimes forget that Hannukah is the holiday of rededication. The Temple was rededicated after a duration of defilement and desecration.

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You Are the Light We Need


It once again feels odd that Hanukkah will take place during the Thanksgiving holiday. Technically, Hanukkah begins a week from Sunday. As strange the timing, the confluence of themes may elevate our holiday experience.

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