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A Bisl Torah

Do You See It?


On a recent neighborhood walk with my children and their classmates, my son’s friend called out, “Do you see it?” His mom and I looked around and didn’t understand what he was referencing. But the child smallest in height pointed upwards. He drew our attention to an abandoned bird’s nest sitting on top of a traffic sign. He repeated, “Do you see it? Do you see the bird’s nest?” We both shook our heads, amazed by his abilities to see what we obviously could not.

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Lingering


There is a midrash that likens the chag of Shemini Atzeret to the image of a parent begging their child to stay a little longer. That after celebrating for a series of days, God can’t imagine leaving and instead, implores us to sit and wait a bit. Relax…the rest of the world can wait.

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Stretching Your Sukkah


I have a hypothesis as to the physical and symbolic challenge during Sukkot. Each year, I hear the following: the poles aren’t fitting the way they used to. Those that build a sukkah know what I mean: due to weather or deterioration over time, the poles sometimes need a little shaping, hammering, and stretching to fit the sukkah you’re trying to build this year.

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Praying and Building


The days after Yom Kippur are both easy and hard. We are spiritually uplifted and spiritually exhausted. We’re fueled to jump into the new year with renewed energy and vigor. And there is an equally sizable force drawing us to relax and lean back towards complacency.

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A Prayerful Challenge


At the heart of the Rosh Hashana service is the Unetaneh Tokef prayer, famously known for the phrase: “Who will live and who will die?” Associated with the prayer, there is a certain sense of trembling and fear. We know the only predictability of life’s circumstances is its unpredictability. One can’t help but wonder whether the phrases will directly impact in the year to come.

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It Takes a Village


This week, we are celebrating the Bat Mitzvah of our colleague’s daughter. The family hosted an online gathering of the women who have impacted their daughter’s life. Some of the women have known the Bat Mitzvah girl since her birth, others involved later. Grandmothers, aunts, cousins, rabbis, teachers, and friends each offered the Bat Mitzvah a special blessing, letting her know how loved she is. Throughout the evening, I realized how grateful I was to be part of her village. And since the gathering, I realize even more…we all need a village.

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Come Closer


There is an understanding that during this time of year, God comes closer. In spiritual proximity, God is explained to be “in the field” rather than enthroned on high, seemingly far from approach. Meaning, God is ready for conversation, eager to hear our thoughts, joys, and frustrations. The question is less about God’s ability to listen. The challenge is whether we will let ourselves pause long enough to admit what it is we need God to hear.

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Sweeter Than Honey


One of our Guzik-Sherman family traditions is displaying our apple and honey dishes. Over the years, we have collected a beautiful assortment—some of which are precious gifts, others our children have created over the years. We take about 20 minutes to determine which dish should go where and marvel over what our now big kids brought home during the preschool years. But always, we ask the question, why do we eat apples dipped in honey?

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Getting Ready


Last week, our clergy team stood on the corner of Wilshire and Beverly Glen, filming a pre-High Holy Day message for the community. Rabbi Taff blew the shofar. Loud, piercing, emotional blasts that caused the clergy to pause and stare. Not just us. Car by car, drivers rolled down their windows, unable to turn away, some with looks of awe, others with curiosity. One person yelled out, “Shana Tovah!” And as the blasts continued, I wondered if we are truly ready for Rosh Hashana to begin.

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