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Posts by Rabbi Nicole Guzik

Accept the Help


I reread the story about the three strangers visiting Abraham and Sarah. We know these are not three ordinary people. They are angels, emissaries of God. Abraham does not walk towards the angels; he rushes to help. But his hurrying doesn’t astonish me. Something else surprises me even more. There is very little hesitation from the angels. Abraham offers his service and the angels accept.They eat. They drink. They relax. Unlike many of us, there is no dramatic holding up of hands and protesting, “No, no, I’m fine. Don’t worry about me.” Rather, clearly in need, the angels accept the…

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The Signs Are There


Recently, my husband and I traveled to Woodbury Jewish Center to serve as scholars-in-residence. We preached from the bimah, learned with the congregation, and enjoyed getting to know this wonderful community. On Sunday, I attended their morning minyan, filled with awe as I witnessed a beautiful ritual. Two members of the congregation commemorated the yahrzeits of their fathers. At the end of the morning service, the cantor called the two men forward. We all rose as the ark opened, the cantor handing each man a Sefer Torah.  Before the recitation of the Memorial Prayer, each man shared a few words…

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Where is God’s Voice?


It has been a frightening time for the city of Los Angeles. High winds, extreme heat, blazing fires. For a city that is known for its jammed roads and bumper to bumper traffic, an empty 405 freeway is nothing but eerie. And with children wondering whether or not it is safe to play outside because of the smoky air, October can be spooky in more ways than one. Another image of the fires continues to catch my eye. As congregants and friends receive news about impending evacuations, they are told to position their car towards the street. A car pointed…

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Break the Glass


I recently read that historically, the Jews of Salonica held a beautiful tradition at the end of Sukkot and Simchat Torah. As the final prayer of Adon Olam began, the melody would transition to a minor tone. The children would tearfully sing, bidding Sukkot adieu. When we begin the week of Sukkot, we attempt to feel joy by sitting in a sukkah, exposed to the vulnerabilities of the outside world. At the end of the holiday season, we do the opposite. Feeling a sense of incredible delight, consumed with frivolity and merriment, we pause and temper our joy by changing…

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When the Sukkah Falls Down


At Sinai Temple’s Dor Chadash (programming and community for families with young children) Sukkot program, the kids made edible Sukkot out of graham crackers, candy and frosting. The little, yummy booths were adorable: chocolate smeared on the “walls”, pretzels serving as branches on top, fruit loops as decorations and sprinkles adorning the whole, messy thing. One little boy carefully carried his sukkah and friends of mine watched as the child’s sukkah wobbled every which way. As little ones do, he tripped over nothing and the entire sukkah collapsed on the floor, one big heap of broken graham crackers. My friends…

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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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