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A Bisl Torah

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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Just Because


What do you do for someone else…just because? This week’s Torah portion begins with the confusing instructions regarding the ritual of the red heifer. Midrash paints an interesting picture of this confusion. King Solomon is recorded as saying, “I have labored to understand the word of God and have understood it all, except for the ritual of the brown cow.” Other commentators explain that while we may not always understand God’s way or God’s logic, some commandments should be followed without rationale. We must learn how to build faith. The red cow ritual is thousands of years away from the…

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Separation Anxiety


I recently attended a meeting in which we discussed the topic of separation. The meeting focused on parents separating from children–either leaving to go to work or leaving to run an errand. Often parents sneak out the door in order to diminish tears from their toddler. But the facilitator of the conversation explained parents leave quickly because they themselves do not want to face the personal feelings of sadness, guilt, and frustration. It isn’t so much about the child. It is more about the parent. I left thinking how true this is of most partings. How many of us would…

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A Lost Art


A Lost Art Recently I’ve noticed a disappointing trend. While some argue that opening the door for another person isn’t egalitarian and perhaps even seen as belittling, call me old fashioned, I appreciate the small gestures. I like when someone opens my door. I smile when I see a driver waving another driver to go ahead even though it’s clear, the first driver has the right of way. Although I’m strong and capable, I find it polite when another person offers their hand so I don’t stumble or graciously takes my heavy bags. And I think I’m overly sensitive when…

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I Want Both


I want both. Last week, my baby had croup. For those of you that have experienced croup, it’s miserable. A virus that causes wheezing and gasping for breath. Between the doctor visits and sitting near a steamy shower, the most comforting position is being held upright, rocking and swaying, rocking and swaying. And so, I did. I held my baby, rocking and swaying, rocking and swaying. All the while, lullabies playing, lights turned low, and images of stars and moons flashing across the ceiling—courtesy of a nightlight turtle that displays comets and shooting stars in purple, green and orange. My…

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Who Am I?


This Bisl Torah was featured in “The Times of Israel”: Healing lies within remembering who we are. My recent interactions display a common theme. “Rabbi, after my husband passed away, I don’t know who I am anymore.” “Now that my children have moved out of the house, my purpose is gone.” “All of my friends are starting a family; I am no longer sure of where I belong.” “Since the divorce, my community no longer looks the same.” The theme being: as life plays out, we all have shifts in our identity and struggle with how to move forward. The…

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