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Posts by Rabbi Nicole Guzik

As the Masks Come Off


It is extraordinary to watch California reopen. A year ago, our family was planning our 2020 summer routine: take three walks around the block, buy every puzzle at Target, become expert cookie bakers and figure out which movies on Netflix are most kid appropriate. We were blessed to stay at home, comfortable, well-fed with a roof over our heads. And yet, we never imagined the freedoms of flying across the country or going to summer camp would be stripped from our schedules. As our masks come off and we plan our summer vacations, we must pause and embrace this moment. We are experiencing a miracle.

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Making Time


For many, summertime connotes endless swimming, trips to the beach, cold lemonade and dripping ice cream cones. But for Jews, summer also means longer Shabbat afternoons, vacant hours ready to be filled. Traditionally, the time is spent studying Pirke Avot, passages of mishnah that offer life advice: how to be a leader, cultivate a righteous life, rise as a student and become a contributing human being. Passages that are often skipped because of the common refrain, “there’s never any time.”

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Graduation


This upcoming week we celebrate many graduations. The graduations of our eighth-grade students from Sinai Akiba Academy and Sinai Temple Religious School. The graduation of our own preschooler moving up towards kindergarten. Watching students say goodbye to teachers and friends bidding farewell for the summer. But in many ways, we’re all experiencing graduation: transitioning from the restrictions of pandemic life to a vastness that feels familiar and new at the very same time.

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Grow Up and Grow Wings


It is hard to believe that Eric Carle, the author of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” died this week at the age of 91. He also authored the “Brown Bear” series among others, opening up the world of reading to so many curious minds. My children are getting older and yet every once in a while, they still request a visit to the pages of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” We’ve memorized the book, know which food is eaten on which day and certainly can explain what happens at the end. But no matter. We all gasp and breathe a sigh of wonder when the caterpillar transforms into the beautiful butterfly.

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Cowering Under the Covers


In Los Angeles, as a group of people enjoyed a meal outside, a Pro-Palestinian mob targeted and attacked the diners because they are Jewish. A separate incident: An Orthodox man was chased by a vehicle donned by two Palestinian flags. These are not isolated events. In the last ten days, anti-Semitic events have increased by almost 500%. The frightening underbelly of anti-Zionistic statements is a movement that speaks towards the destruction and elimination of the Jewish people. The wiping of Israel off this earth.

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More Than Enough


More than enough. Enough shaming through Tweets, Facebook and Instagram posts about ways people voted in the election. Enough. Enough aggression through the misinformed use of anti-Semitic and anti-Zionistic slurs. Enough. Enough hiding behind uneducated social media celebrity influencers who have already moved on to the next trendy topic. Enough.

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Etchings of your Heart


This week I attended an in-person shloshim. While it is powerful hearing someone say “Amen” to your prayers, it is equally as powerful listening to the story of the deceased, letting their soul touch yours. We come to the house of the mourner offering comfort and yet, forget about the magic in absorbing someone else’s life. I experienced that magic in hearing about Homa.

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Lack of Perception


When I turned 16 years old, I went to take my driver’s license test. I remember getting into the car, feeling more than confident listening to the instructor explain the directions. About ten minutes into the test, the instructor directed me back to the DMV. I couldn’t contain my smile. I knew that we were probably ending the test early because I passed with flying colors. Who needed an extra 20 minutes of an exam if the instructor already knew how well I did? We reached the parking lot, I turned off the car and he said, “Automatic fail. You cut off an entire lane of cars. Next time, take a wider look.”

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Selectively Silent


I underestimate the value of silence. As a student, I used to think silence was a sign of weakness. If you don’t raise your hand, you clearly don’t know the answer. But years later I realize that just because you speak more or interrupt in a conversation, you are not necessarily any brighter than those that hold back. More and more, I admire those that are selectively silent.

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Happy Birthday to Israel


On Tuesday night, Sinai Temple made shakshuka with Danny Corsun and Zoey Corsun of Culinary Judaics Academy. The evening was a cooking celebration in honor of Israel’s birthday. Shakshuka is a well-known Middle Eastern dish, often served in Israeli homes and restaurants for breakfast or lunch. Peppers, tomatoes, harissa, za’atar, eggs and an assortment of other spices, the dish does not disappoint. But it’s spicy and strong. A mishmash of flavors all trying to get a word in. Ingredients you wouldn’t necessarily put together but somehow, stand out on their own and combine to make the most beautiful dish.

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