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Posts by Rabbi Nicole Guzik

Challenge Accepted


My son brought home an autobiography. When you’re in kindergarten, an autobiography is filled with pictures. Drawings of his favorite food, a self-portrait, and an elaborate illustration of his family. Each person was characterized perfectly: older sister and younger brother with big smiles, middle brother right in between, and an Abba with a supportive grin. Then, I noticed a caricature of myself. A person with long hair and a wide-open mouth. I asked Zachary, “Why am I the only one with my mouth open?” And without missing a beat he replied, “Because you’re the one who’s always yelling.” My heart…

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A letter from God


To my children: A few gentle reminders as you gather during the High Holy Days. You may have purchased tickets to sit in a seat, but you haven’t purchased tickets for a seat in Olam HaBa. Which means… Be patient. Patient when lines are long, patient when another congregant starts a conversation that seems to have no end, patient when a child’s cries interrupts your train of thought. That person, that child is my creation too. Be open. Open to the possibility of hearing a new idea, open to exploring a piece of your soul revealed only to me, open…

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Going Home


We spend a lot of time making sure the building looks nice before Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. I imagine all places of worship do the same before a major holiday. Painting, cleaning the carpets, gardening, fixing the lights and ensuring everything is just…right. And this building looks beautiful. But we keep referring to the buildings as just that…places of brick, cement, mortar and nails. But I suggest we remember the name used for a synagogue: Beit Knesset, a House of Gathering. Meaning, over Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, whether or not you are an avid synagogue attendee, in a…

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It’s not an alarm clock


As a group of congregants gathered for a morning class, a few participants were startled by a jarring sound in the synagogue. Puzzled, someone asked, “What was that strange noise?” I thought for a moment, smiled and said, “Don’t worry. That was the sound of the shofar.” Blown every day during the Hebrew month of Elul, the shofar’s blasts are meant to feel strange, designed to make us feel out of place. We often compare the shofar to an alarm clock, but the image is a bit misleading. The 21st century alarm clock has a snooze button, giving the impression…

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Open your hand


In our recent visit to the beach, our children lamented that we had just one boogie board to share among the three kids. Such problems…I realize the sheltered lives they live. Overhearing our silly conversation was a homeless man, smiling while watching my bickering children. He looked at me and said, “I have an extra boogie board. Take it.” And before I knew it, he wrapped the board’s cord in my hand and smiled an even larger grin. I said, “Can I pay for the board?” And he responded with the most beautiful words, “Up to you. Now the blessings…

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Summer Break Assumptions


The first question someone usually asks after summer vacation is, “How was your break?” And the follow up, “Was it great?” The expected response is quick and to the point. “Yeah, it was wonderful.” “Yes, it was fine.” The conversation is over. I have asked the initial prompt several times this week. However, this year, I let the question linger a few seconds, so the person’s face has time to register the question. And actual analysis of facial expressions is quite astounding. Furrowed eyebrows. Eyes turned downward. A smile that doesn’t quite match the wearied face. Not everyone had a…

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To My Son As He Starts Kindergarten


Dear Zachary, The Talmud says that a child should be thrust off with the left hand only so long as one brings him near with the right. I take this to mean, I should be giving you enough room to grow, develop, use your voice, and exercise decisions without my opinions suffocating your own. You should feel my comforting presence without being stifled, pigeon-holed by parental expectations, wishes and desires. And yet, all I want to do, is hold you close, smother you with love, and remind you that no matter what age you are, in my eyes, I still…

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Stop Rushing


The day after Tisha B’Av, I walked into a local arts n’ crafts store. With the hot temperatures and blazing sun, it was unfathomable to me that skeletons and pumpkins met me at the entrance of the store. Aren’t we technically still in the middle of summer? Displayed ghosts, witches and cauldrons more than suggested that October was here, and costume season had begun. Shaking my head, I thought, “Thank God for the Jewish calendar.” The Jewish calendar isn’t owned by Hallmark. Meaning, each commemoration feels appropriately embraced by days of preparation, focused learning, celebration and often, eating. For example,…

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Hope Isn’t Lost


Special Edition: As Seen in This Week’s Jewish Journal One of my favorite spots in Philadelphia is the Please Touch Museum. Children run all over, pretending to be train conductors, checking out at the grocery store, and bringing characters to life through various childhood stories. A highlight is watching my own kids “paint the roses red.” They enter the world of Alice in Wonderland, pick up a paintbrush and let the stresses of the outside world melt away as imagination and invention take over. But our children are growing up in a world in which their sacred spaces of play…classrooms,…

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Everyone Has a Story to Tell


Independence Seaport hosts the USS Olympia, known to be the oldest steel-hulled American warship still afloat. Launching in 1892, one of the ship’s biggest claims to fame was returning the Unknown Soldier from WWI for a reburial ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery. On the backside of the Unknown Soldier’s Tomb reads the following, “Here Rests In Honored Glory An American Soldier Known But To God.” Interestingly enough and perhaps merely coincidental, down the path from the USS Olympia is a fence filled with ordinary locks. Rows after row of locks meets the eye, filled with inscriptions, names, and words of…

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