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Posts by Rabbi Nicole Guzik

Every Word Counts


The past few days, I have been teaching our 5th and 6th graders. In one session, we discussed how an unintended mispronunciation of a Hebrew word might completely change a sentence. In another session, we discussed how someone’s tone might have a lingering, negative impact. Even if just one word is said sarcastically, it is often difficult deciphering what was heard versus what was meant. Our words matter—the ones we say and the ones we don’t.

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Striking a Match


This past Sunday was my Nana’s unveiling. It was a small group, intimate and meaningful. In the days leading up to the ceremony, memories of Nana began to wash over me. Nana was superstitious and believed in signs. She firmly believed the soul could be revealed in the here and now. Just after she died, flowers bloomed in my garden; the first was a yellow rose. Yellow roses were her favorite. Once, when I was driving, I saw a shop sign that read, Nana Jackie. Clear indications that I am meant to feel her presence. But in the past few months, as I have been missing her more and more, it’s been harder and harder to pinpoint where and how she is reaching me from the world beyond.

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Please, A Little Patience


The rain subsided and suddenly, I see buds emerging on my roses. After a cold winter with blustery winds and uncharacteristically frigid California weather, we are all looking for pockets of sunlight. I’m waiting for the roses to bloom.

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To Heal and Be Healed


January marks the month in which we commemorate the death of beloved Jewish musician Debbie Friedman. I am deeply touched by her canon of liturgical compositions. Most notably, her misheberach, her prayer for healing, provides a space for pain to be expressed and courage to be accessed.

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Let It Rain


There was a smile on the face of discerning congregants at shul while Cantor Feldman sang, “Mashiv HaRuach U’Morid HaGashem.” The words translate as, “The one who causes the wind to blow, and the rain to fall.” The Cantor recites these words during the Amidah, praying for wind and rain to come in its proper season. We smiled, because, well, this time, the prayer worked. Really well.

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Have a Merry Life


My family spent Hanukkah and Christmas Day skiing in Big Bear. It was hard for me to watch so many people working on their holiday. From the people fitting us for our helmets to those helping us on and off the ski lifts, the mountain was filled with employees.

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Which Miracle?


With the way the Jewish calendar falls this year, our family is traveling almost all of Hanukkah. We meticulously packed our Hanukkiah, candles, and matches, wondering where exactly our celebrations would take place. Would there be a window to let others see the dancing lights? Perhaps we’d witness other stealthy guests lighting their hannukiyot, hidden within their rooms.

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No White Elephant


In our extended family, the “White Elephant” game is a fan favorite. The idea is to bring an undesirable gift from home and regift it, eventually leaving with something that is somewhat better than what you came with. As we left the family party, my son said to me, “Mommy, can we play White Elephant at my 7th birthday party?” Clearly, the tradition will continue with the next generation.

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Playing the Lottery


Standing in a grocery store, I found myself with an extra dollar in my pocket. I looked around and, on a whim, decided to buy a lottery ticket. Sticking the ticket in my wallet, I didn’t spend much time thinking about my purchase.

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Preparing for Light


The Jewish month of Kislev ushers in Hannukah, the Festival of Lights. Our family spent the last few days dusting off our hannukiyah, cleaning candle wax and making room for the holiday to find a place in our home. Like other holidays, there is preparation. For Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, one prepares their soul, making amends with God, understanding where in our relationships we have fallen short. For Pesach, we prepare our homes, ridding leavened products from refrigerators and pantries to signify an elimination of ego and loftiness. But with Hannukah, the preparation isn’t as formulaic. How does one prepare for light to emerge?

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