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A Bisl Torah

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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A Prayer for the Families of the Victims in the Manchester Bombing


R’bono shel Olam, Master of the Universe, do not allow our hearts to become complacent. We cannot afford to turn off the televisions or shut off our phones. Our babies—young women, men and children have been heart wrenchingly torn from this world because another a human being is unable to comprehend the miracle that we call life. God, teach us to respond. God, push us to reach out. When we see a picture of one of your murdered children, may we whisper prayers of strength for their loved ones and solace for their soul. Creator of all, do not let…

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Rock the Boat


This past Wednesday, a personal dream came true. I met Andrea Zuckerman from the show, 90210. For several years, I would sit with my father and sister and then later my UCLA roommates and watch Brenda, Brandon, Dylan, Kelly, Donna, David, Steve and Andrea learn about high school, the ups and downs of adolescence, and how to transform friendships into family. Ask anyone close to me…I loved 90210 and even sneak in a rerun here and there. Gabrielle Carteris, the woman that played Andrea, spoke at the American Jewish University Women’s luncheon. AJU honored Sinai Temple’s very own, Heidi Monkarsh. …

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24 Hours of Prayers


I recently taught a class in which a group of women discussed what distracts us when we pray. At first, the answers were benign: our children, someone else’s child, the sounds of the cars outside, our own personal worries, etc. But the conversation shifted and someone said, “Other women distract me when I pray.” Pushed further, the answer resonated with almost every woman around the table. When another woman walks into the synagogue, pretty harsh questions run through our mind: “Why did she choose to wear that dress with those shoes?”  “Doesn’t her skirt look a little short?” Or perhaps…

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Settling In


Doesn’t it always feel busy? My husband and I have a favorite conversation: remarking on the busy nature of the past few months and predicting that the following weeks are sure to be less chaotic. I bite my tongue as I watch personal and professional obligations rush through the door and my calendar fill up. One, two, three kids get sick and life in its most predictable way, takes over. Last night we looked at each other and one of us said, “I thought things were supposed to settle down.” And the other responded, “I don’t think life ever settles…

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The Time In Between


I am writing this bisl at 4:00am. Jet lag due to arriving home just last night from Krakow. A long day of over twenty hours of travel. And yet, writing in the early morning feels as if I stand between two worlds: a world of borrowed time, appreciation and gratitude and a world of practicality, efficiency and routine. The first world has fewer travelers and it’s often in these liminal moments where we wish the jet lag hit us more often. I can hear the wind rushing outside. The deep breathing of my sleeping family soothes me. I’m reminded of…

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