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Posts by Rabbi Nicole Guzik

The Day He Saw Thunder


My husband likes to tease me, claiming bad weather follows wherever I go. We traveled to Philadelphia, and for several days we experienced nothing but sunny, cloudless skies. The final day of our trip, we barely missed a rainstorm that delayed plane after plane. Arriving home to Los Angeles, it was almost laughable to hear the booms of thunder disrupting our California summer. Erez looked at me and said, “This is your fault.” A downpour commenced and bolts of lightning struck, as water sloshed amongst flip flops and tank tops. Californians are usually unprepared for wild summer weather. Our son,…

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Power of the Sea


A few weeks ago, Sinai Temple took Shabbat to the beach. We prayed in front of the Pacific, overwhelmed by the beauty and awe of God’s creation. I remember wondering what the children of Israel thought as they stood before the Sea of Reeds. The water was a barrier to freedom. An obstacle in escaping the narrowness of Egypt. And yet as the water parted, the sea began to represent infinite possibility and endless opportunity. This week we traveled to the Atlantic, from one majestic ocean to another. Stepping into the clear water, I smiled. God is constantly whispering and…

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You Are Beautiful Inside & Out


This “Bisl” is being featured in the Jewish Journal: I stood in front of a mirror with three of my college girlfriends. The mirror was inscribed with the following: You are beautiful inside and out. The four of us get together once a year and remind each other of what seems so hard to individually internalize. Together, we remember that we are strong, kind, loyal, beautiful women. Our dinners have no agenda. No judgment. We are women that want to raise strong, kind, loyal, beautiful women, but often let personal insecurities speak over what we know to be core to…

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Ice on Fire


There is a story about the Baal Shem Tov and his obsession with light. His disciples knew how much he loved a bright room and so, in his presence, they tried to fill every room with candles. But one day, the students could only muster one candle; no other form of wax or wick was found. The students were unsure of his reaction. Would he be angry? Would he be understanding? The Baal Shem Tov entered the dim room and asked the students to go outside and collect icicles. Taking the icicles, the students arranged the frozen sculptures around the…

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Morning Goodbyes


This week I dropped my son off at a new camp. In the mornings, I offer to sit on the gym steps and wait with him until a familiar face arrives. With a tight-lip and strong face, he shakes his head and stoically shoos me away. Feeling a bit negligent, I walk away. My thoughts begin a conversation: “But, he barely knows anyone.” “Stop. This is good for him. Let him figure it out.” “He’s only 4 ½. Maybe I should go back and take him home.” “He told you to leave. Let him grow up.” I always end up…

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Head Towards The Exit


A wonderful colleague of mine is leaving for the east coast. We decided to sit down and conduct “exit interviews.” An exit interview is usually a chance to explain the positives of an organization and offer suggestions for improvement, helping the next person that takes the vacant position to flourish and grow. It allows supervisors and peers to look inside themselves and determine where and when they have been an exemplary employee and where they fall short. Because this colleague and I have been friends and co-workers for seven years, the “exit interview” became much more. We were able to…

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Don’t Be A Bad Student


In my most recent guitar lesson, the teacher gently and firmly reminded me that he was the teacher and I was the student. I have no previous knowledge of how to play guitar or form chords, but I insisted he teach me according to my own preferences and what I deem important. Stubbornly, I felt as if I knew more. That I understand the way I learn best and he wasn’t following along. But at some point, he stopped the lesson and said, “I know you have many students. When you’re the rabbi, they listen to you. Now, I am…

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Those People


My family and I went to see Paul Simon at the Hollywood Bowl. I grew up listening to Simon and Garfunkel, my father training our young ears as he drove us to and from school each day. When I found out Paul Simon was coming to Los Angeles for his “Homeward Bound” tour, it felt like my childhood was patting my shoulder, saying hello. My husband surprised me with tickets and off we went. It seemed like we lucked out. Almost an entirely empty row in front of us, perfect viewing of Paul and the band. The sun began to…

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Are You Busy?


A few months ago, I engaged in a conversation with a retired member of our community. I was moving around the sanctuary, and it was clear to the member that I was running from one task to the next. He noticed the strain on my face as I paused in my tasks to speak for a few minutes. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to chat; I was just running against the clock, trying to get everything done before the day’s end. He looked at me in the eye and said, “Nicole, never stop being busy. Being busy is a…

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Some Coffee and Some Gratitude


After your coffee, start your day with opportunity. I was recently in a conversation with a Bat Mitzvah student and she frequently used the word, “opportunity.” That to start her Bat Mitzvah studying and preparation was an opportunity. To have the ability to participate in the minyan, be counted, and improve this community with her presence was an opportunity and a gift. When I asked her what she meant, she explained that as a bat mitzvah, it will be her turn to infuse meaning in the mitzvot. It reminded me that so often we perform mitzvot, engage in obligations and…

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