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Posts by Rabbi Nicole Guzik

What happens when it is over?


These past few days in the sukkah have been nothing short of magical. The food, company, sweet smells of the outdoors, and special time allotted to reconnect with familiar faces and engage with friends anew. The challenge is transposing life within the sukkah post the seven days of Sukkot. How does the joy experienced during this finite time make its way past the makeshift booths and into the monotonous details of everyday life? Such is the sentiment expressed by British novelist and Jewish communal leader, Israel Zangwill in his poem, “A Tabernacle Thought”: Lovely grapes and apples, And such pretty…

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It Is Time To Build


Jewish law advises that one should build a sukkah immediately at the end of Yom Kippur. Why? It is meritorious to go from one mitzvah to another. On Yom Kippur we spend thoughtful moments taking an account of our soul. We pray to God for the ability to forgive and be forgiven, wrestle with our mortality, and name where we fall and which parts of our lives need repair. In other words, we shape our spiritual lives. On Sukkot, we build our spiritual homes. Literally, we drive a nail into the ground and put up a sukkah, a temporary structure…

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What Do You Seek?


Over the Days of Awe, so many of us return to the synagogue, seeking something. In response, Rabbi Harold Kushner writes the following: “It may well be the case that the word “religion” is related to the word “ligament,” from the Latin ligare, ‘to connect.’ One might argue that the word refers to beliefs that connect a person to God, but I am inclined to side with Emil Durkheim that the role of religion is to bind us to other people in order to evoke together the sense that God is in our midst. We don’t go to church or…

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Come to Synagogue


In just a few days, many of us will sit in synagogue, trying to achieve…something. Inspiration, a change of heart, motivation to conquer the year’s challenges and trials. Instead of waiting for something to happen, let’s start preparing…right now. Enjoy this spiritual homework from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel: What does a person expect to attain when entering a synagogue? In the pursuit of learning, one goes to the library; for esthetic enrichment, one goes to the art museum; for pure music, to the concert hall. What then, is the purpose of going to the synagogue? Many are the facilities that…

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Don’t Change That


It is the season for change. As I was thinking about growth and improvement, I realized something shouldn’t diminish in the process: sense of self. Of all facets of life, being true to my values and morals and honest with who I am…that I want to stay exactly the same. Change allows life to continue, a forward movement. But if we lose ourselves in the process, the tikkun (repair) is for naught. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” We all wish it was that easy. To not allow someone else to chip away…

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Uncertainty


In this season of searching for truths and wondering why and how, enjoy this beautiful musing from Gilda Radner: I wanted a perfect ending, So I sat down to write the book with the ending in place before there even was an ending. Now I’ve learned the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Like my life, this book has ambiguity. Like my life, this book is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next….

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Confessional


It is hard to admit that “confessional” stands at the heart of the High Holy Day season. But throughout the liturgy, we beat our chests, publicly state our misgivings and pray that God has enough compassion this year to guide through repentance and change. To place confession at the core of the holidays means that we each have something to admit; something we’ve concealed and would rather keep unrevealed. Confession conveys that we are all hiding something from someone. The Maharal of Prague said, “All the month of Elul, before eating and sleeping, a person should look into his soul…

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Do You Really Mean It?


This week’s Bisl Torah is featured in the Jewish Journal. There is clearly a right and wrong way of expressing an apology. So many of us experience the latter. A mistake is made, and the following dialogue is used: I am so sorry that you feel this way. As if the anguished party is at fault for feeling anguished. While we seem to understand that expressing our wrongdoing is the “right” thing to do, there is disconnect between knowing and admitting that we just fell short. Our Torah portion delineates the proper way one offers a sacrifice to God. Where…

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Our Week at Camp


This week, Rabbi Sherman and I are serving as Rabbis-in-Residence at Camp Ramah in Ojai, CA. Please enjoy the words that Rabbi Sherman wrote and sent to the families of Ramah campers. Shabbat shalom! While I cannot count the number of times I have put on tefillin, I do know that I have never been witness to or a participant in the process of creating a pair of tefillin…..Until today. How do you answer the question, “What happens at Jewish summer camp?” The typical responses are celebrate Shabbat, learn about and connect to Israel, and create strong Jewish relationships that…

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After the Quake


We just came back from a short trip to San Francisco. We visited many San Francisco landmarks and the tour guides often quipped the same refrain, “We learned our lesson after the quake.” Sometimes it was the 1906 earthquake; other times the 1989 quake was referenced. With each disaster, buildings and bridges were retrofitted to withstand the impending next tremor. It was fascinating listening to the amount of time, effort and talent that goes into protecting lives and sustaining the existing beauty of this northern Californian metropolis. I couldn’t help but think about what it would look like if we…

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