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A Bisl Torah

Are You Busy?


A few months ago, I engaged in a conversation with a retired member of our community. I was moving around the sanctuary, and it was clear to the member that I was running from one task to the next. He noticed the strain on my face as I paused in my tasks to speak for a few minutes. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to chat; I was just running against the clock, trying to get everything done before the day’s end. He looked at me in the eye and said, “Nicole, never stop being busy. Being busy is a…

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Some Coffee and Some Gratitude


After your coffee, start your day with opportunity. I was recently in a conversation with a Bat Mitzvah student and she frequently used the word, “opportunity.” That to start her Bat Mitzvah studying and preparation was an opportunity. To have the ability to participate in the minyan, be counted, and improve this community with her presence was an opportunity and a gift. When I asked her what she meant, she explained that as a bat mitzvah, it will be her turn to infuse meaning in the mitzvot. It reminded me that so often we perform mitzvot, engage in obligations and…

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To Observe and Remember


Our little guy, Henry learned how to jump out of his crib. At 4:00am, we heard the pitter- patter of little feet and there he was. Blonde curls, pajama clad, huge smile. I remember our other children slightly frightened at the possibility of falling or injuring themselves. Not this kid. Just pure pride that he accomplished his goal. And now we look at the crib with a sense of nostalgia, understanding that the baby stages of Henry’s life are creeping further and further away. When I mentioned that sadness to a friend, she remarked, “You’ll see. It only gets better.”…

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Do You Believe In God?


A recent Pew study finds that 80% of Americans believe in God and 9% of those that say they don’t, believe in some higher power. That is a pretty high percentage of people seeking something greater than themselves. It is even more astounding that those who claim to be “non-believers,” admit to believing something when pushed a little further. Perhaps you believe in a God that is described in the Bible. Maybe you believe in a God that is all-knowing and ever-present. Possibly you believe in something that doesn’t fit the name “God,” but you feel the presence of something reverberating throughout…

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If Only We Could Tell Them


Rabbi Sherman and I have developed a wonderful friendship with Pastor JP Foster from Faithful Central Bible Church, close by in Inglewood. Pastor Foster serves thousands and thousands of Christians; he spoke at our Orden Family MLK Shabbat, traveled to Israel with other Christian faith leaders, and is developing an unbreakable bond with the land of Israel. We most recently traveled together to the AIPAC conference and to experience the conference through his eyes was truly remarkable. He and I bantered through the sessions and we teased about which speaker, which moment would be the one we shared during our…

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To Remember and To Teach


I stood in Auschwitz one year ago. Sinai Temple’s Sisterhood took members of our congregation to Poland on March of the Living. On the trip we met Holocaust survivors that implored us to understand how easily hatred seeps into the brain, how easily we let ignorance take over. That one can’t imagine how “this” could happen…and then it does. We are not immune to the atrocities that transpired a little over seventy years ago. The Sinai Temple Teen Center made a beautiful video, asking Holocaust survivors for life advice: how to endure ups and downs, failures and disappointments and most…

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Do You Make Others Feel Powerless?


How do we translate the message of Passover into the reality of the everyday? Maimonides, in the Mishneh Torah, helps us in discovering an answer. He explains that in Leviticus 19:36 there are two seemingly disconnected ideas. The Torah speaks about not committing an injustice in the workplace and God freeing us from the land of Egypt. Why are these two ideas juxtaposed one to the other? Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller explains that Maimonides was trying to show that observing ethical behavior in one’s profession is living out the meaning of the Exodus. Not many of us have as much power…

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I Am Now Taking Questions


Every year I wonder what it is that someone should learn at the Passover seder. One might suggest that participants understand the entirety Passover story. Another might think that that every symbol be explained and the Haggadah deconstructed verse by verse. These are perfectly fine answers. But I am struck by Maimonides’ “take away” of seder night. He writes, “And it is required to make changes during the night for the children to notice and they will ask, ‘How is this night different from all other nights’ until you answer them by saying, ‘This and this happened.’ What changes should…

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See No Evil


How often do we see wrongdoing and do nothing about it? Examples abound: standing idle as others gossip about a friend, embarrassingly watching a waiter or waitress belittled by a patron or witnessing some kind of abuse and shrugging one’s shoulders. These kinds of acts happen every day, and we assume something is wrong with the perpetrator. We seldom infer that something is wrong with us. The fifth chapter of Leviticus explains that if a person witnesses someone else involved in a sinful matter and the person says nothing, the witness should be punished. The Baal Shem Tov adds, “If…

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A Little Restraint


Sometimes restraint is the biggest gift one can offer another. In this week’s Torah portion, the children of Israel contribute gifts to the building of the Tabernacle, the portable sanctuary in the desert. Overwhelmed with the abundance of giving, the builders let Moses know that the people should stop. That at this point, the children of Israel must practice restraint. The Alshich, a 16th century Biblical commentator elucidates, that it is just as important that when commanded, to stop doing a mitzvah as it is to do a mitzvah. That sometimes the intent of our act is overridden when performed…

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