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Posts by Rabbi Nicole Guzik

Those Shtiebel Moments


A dear congregant gifted me a beautiful memoir about her father growing up Poland during the Shoah. Prior to the onset of the war, her father described the ways in which religious men would frequent the “shtiebel.” He explained that although the shtiebel was a place for prayer, it was also a place where men flocked to schmooze, eat, give and take advice, and listen to each other. I miss the idea of the shtiebel. In a more mundane sense, I miss the coffee room at work, the lounge or lobby in office buildings, a place where people congregate to…

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Taco Tuesday


Our family went around the table to discuss our favorite Jewish holiday. My husband is rare in naming Yom Kippur. I love Sukkot. Our older children gave solid explanations for Channukah and Passover. And finally, with a serious expression, our youngest proclaimed, “My favorite holiday is Taco Tuesday.” Through our laughter, my husband and I can’t decide if we failed or succeeded in our passing down of Jewish knowledge. But we optimistically concluded that in our home, ritual reigns. Our youngest craves repetition. And it has been the Jewish calendar that helps regulate the tenor of the home: what we…

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Is the roof falling in?


Erez and I developed a new pattern upon entering and sitting in our sukkah. We look around, sideways, and eventually upwards. One of us says, “I love this sukkah.” The other responds, “Yeah, me too…I hope the roof doesn’t fall while we eat.” And we continue passing out napkins and water as if it is normal to remark that the roof might fall in during the meal. In fact, we settle further into our seats, comfortable with the understanding that we will know what to do if indeed the “ceiling” caves in. Sukkot is a holiday in which we remember…

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Same Sukkah, Big Changes


Several years ago, we inherited a beautiful sukkah from our good friends Cantor Arianne Brown and Rabbi Randall Brown. Next, we shared the sukkah with our dear colleague and neighbors Jessie Fruithandler and Rabbi Jason Fruithandler. Over the course of many years, the sukkah inhabited new members of our family, congregants, students from Sinai Akiba Academy and Sinai Temple Religious School, staff members, children, and adults alike. Our traditions expanded to include pumpkin pie at Sukkot dinner, serve apple cider, hang orange twinkle lights, and use funky outdoor rugs to brighten up the sukkah floor. This year, we finally decided…

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Ellipsis of a Lifetime


In speaking about relationships, my professor remarked, “With every first hello, there is an impending goodbye.” Meaning, with each birth, new connection, endeavor or beginning, an ending is inevitable. With a start, there is surely a conclusion. It is a natural phenomenon to begin missing someone even as they stand before us; knowing that one day, their physical presence will no longer be there. Knowing that one day, our physical presence will no longer be here. I believe this is the reason Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are adjacent to each other. We acknowledge the birth of the world, our…

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Thanks for Listening


I relay a wonderful story from Philip Goodman’s “The Rosh Hashanah Anthology”: At the conclusion of the service, the cantor approached Rabbi Vevel, the maggid of Wilna, to extend New Year greetings and to be complimented for the manner in which he led the congregation in prayer. The rabbi returned the greeting and added: “It says in Pirke Avot: ‘The world is based on three things: Torah, prayer and deeds of kindness.’ Blessed is our congregation which fulfills these three requisites. I teach them Torah; you pray for them; and they perform deeds of kindness by listening to both of…

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A 6am Wakeup


Our family is in possession of an abundance of shofarot. Many, many shofars. During quarantine, our children took up chess, learned to swim, and now, blow shofar. But unlike the other somewhat delightful skills, the practice of blowing shofar is not pretty. It’s loud. Sometimes sounding like a bird squawking in your ear. Other times, sounding like the sputtering of a car running on empty. Not melodic. Headache-inducing. One morning, with the sun barely peeking through the fold of darkness and dawn, I heard my conspiring children. “You blow it.” “You try it.” And before our new neighbors would have…

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To Our Teachers


Some superheroes wear capes and fly through the sky. Other superheroes manage classes of anxious, excited, confused students through a world pandemic. Whether instructing in person or via zoom, this Bisl Torah is in honor of the extraordinary people co-raising our children: our teachers. Perhaps your home sounds like ours: “What’s the new zoom code?” “I can’t connect. The internet is slow.” “I can see my friend’s baby brother and he’s drawing on their walls.” “Can my virtual background be outer space?” And yet, there is the steady voice of the teacher, prompting our children, smiling, reminding them that someone…

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The Missing Piece


Some people lose socks in the laundry. Others constantly lose their spare key. In my family: we cannot seem to create a full puzzle. No matter what, there is always one puzzle piece missing. I would understand if we were missing a few pieces or two puzzles jumbled together in the same box. But repeatedly, one ominous section of a puzzle taunts us, as if laughing at our naivete in thinking we might complete the masterpiece. And that missing piece steals the attention instead of giving honor to the remainder of an otherwise, intact beautiful scene. Do you remember Shel…

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Dream a Little Dream


In a rare escape from our home, my husband and I were driving through West Los Angeles, admiring the sunset and looming palm trees. Something compelled me to ask him, “What’s one of your dreams?” And I qualified the question, “Something you haven’t shared with me before. What’s something you want to do in your lifetime?” With a moment’s hesitation, he looked at me and said, “One day, I want us to live in Jerusalem. For a month, for a summer, but live in an apartment and share Jerusalem with our children.” We have always pined to go on an…

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