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Posts by Rabbi Nicole Guzik

Forgiveness isn’t synonymous with weakness.


Perhaps the greatest mystery of all is the capacity of the human heart. My father in law, Rabbi Charles Sherman invited Officer Steven McDonald, zichrono livracha to his congregation for Selichot services. Officer McDonald would share his life-altering story: He was 29 years old when he and his partner stopped to speak to three teenage boys loitering in Central Park. One of them, age 15 years old, pulled out a gun and shot McDonald three times. The incident left McDonald paralyzed from the neck down. And yet, regarding his attacker Shavod Jones, McDonald said, “I forgive him and hope that…

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When does a miracle take place?


When does a miracle take place? Identifying a miracle is tricky business. How does one define a miracle? Definitions include a surprising occurrence that has divine agency or an improbable, unexplainable event that is both welcoming and wondrous. But I am realizing that a miracle isn’t a miracle until someone takes the time to open their eyes and label the event. A sunset to one may just be a daily, routine event and to another, it is a miracle that the world continues to function according to a particular order. Waking up each day and taking a breath may be…

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How will you reach your Promised Land?


Imagine the scene: Moses is standing on the precipice, the cliff overlooking the Sea of Reeds. He is frightened and can’t imagine what the future holds. But he sees the armies of Pharaoh behind him and the water below. Seemingly stuck, he begins to pray. But God teaches Moses a life-changing lesson. God hears Moses’ cries and seems to understand the difference between prayer and paralysis. Between thoughtfully weighing out a decision and procrastinating enough so the moment passes us by. But God doesn’t let Moses stay still. Quite the opposite. God says, “Why are you praying to me? Tell…

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How would you describe your heart?


Carefully ponder the question. When you think about the beating, pulsating muscle within your body, would you describe your heart as giving? Open? Guarded? Closed? Is your heart filled with mercy and compassion or anger and spite? Pause for a moment and ask yourself: what is the word that best characterizes your heart? The Torah first describes Pharaoh has hardening his own heart and this week, God continues the action in making Pharaoh’s heart heavy. Suzanne Singer writes, “Only afterward (after the fifth plague) does God take over, starting with the sixth plague suggesting that Pharaoh has foregone the chance…

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Are You Getting On?


My children went on their first roller coaster. With each turn, I nearly squeezed the life out of my three-year-old, all five of us screaming with terror. By the end of the ride, I anticipated faces filled with tears and runny noses. Turns out, I was wrong. My little guy said, “That was scary and that was fun.” And now, when recalling the favorite memories of winter break, the roller coaster experience wins time and time again. It is a fascinating phenomenon: to feel a sense of thrill while actively being afraid. To experience joy while experiencing fear. Is that…

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A Life of Present & Future


When someone learns about my profession as a rabbi, I am often asked: As a woman, how is your experience in comparison with your male colleagues? I graduated from rabbinical school in 2009. By then, already more than 30 years had transpired since the ordination of the first female rabbi in the Reform movement, almost 25 years in the Conservative movement. My answer about my experience as a female rabbi must not be answered with, “It was mostly smooth sailing.” My answer must include both the positive sentiments of my six years at the Jewish Theological Seminary and willfully acknowledge…

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Living with Pain


Can we really get over the pain? When we feel betrayed, hurt, disappointed by someone else’s actions, how often are we able to forgive? And in which ways does the hurt dissipate? Joseph learns that Jacob has died, and his brothers fear that Joseph’s resentment is bound to return. That reconciliation only occurs out of respect of their father; not because of Joseph’s forgiveness over his brothers’ attempted murder. The Midrash explains that their fear returns when after the burial of Jacob, the brothers watch Joseph return to the pit in which his brothers had thrown him. And when he…

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Drama


I love drama. Who doesn’t love a story of lies, deception, romance and ambition? And no, I am not writing about “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” I will save that for another time. The narrative of Joseph is both surprising and familiar. Confusing and predictable. Wondrous and disappointing. Joseph’s brothers were set on his demise, throwing him into a pit, uncertain of whether he would live or die. As the story turns, he is saved, rises in power through Egyptian royalty, and faces his brothers, now groveling before this emotionally wounded man. The brothers return to Jacob, their father and reveal…

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True Colors


Our incredibly soulful Sinai Temple Director of Musical Engagement, Jacob Gown led our preschoolers in a Channukah celebration. Among traditional songs, he sang “True Colors”, most notably performed by Cyndi Lauper. Jacob explained that during Channukah, we should use the light of the Channukiah to remind us to see our light, allowing our true colors to shine brightly through the world. How often have we heard the phrase, “Be yourself.” But do we mean it? Be yourself…but don’t wear that. Be yourself…but don’t cause a raucous. Be yourself…but only to the extent that it is good for the crowd. Be…

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The Good Place


I am a latecomer to the watching of the Netflix show, “The Good Place.” Please don’t spoil the end of Season 1 or Season 2. I am really only at the beginning. With that being said, the show questions and interprets the existence of the afterlife. What does it look like in the world to come? How do you get there? Do your actions in life matter in relationship to what’s next? Without getting into Jewish accounts of the afterlife, I am most interested in the idea of being a just “ok” person. The main character, Eleanor, is troubled that…

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