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Honorable Mensch-ion

Practice Happiness


It’s been said that we need to practice happiness in order to be happy. I never agreed with this. How can we practice an emotion without an authentic feeling? Our Torah teaches in the three part priestly blessing, “God should shine God’s countenance upon you.” I have heard this blessing recited thousands of times, at the Shabbat table and at baby naming, B’nai Mitzvah and weddings. Yet, it was this week that I understood this teaching in a deeper way. Rabbi Zelig Pliskin explains that if we are created in God’s image, then there is no excuse to greet our…

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A World of Torah


Over dinner, my children began to sing this song they learned in school. “We’re building a world of Torah, we’re building a world of Torah, one person at a time. And the world goes round and round and round.” This is the essence of Shavuot-revelation at Mount Sinai, but the act of building a world of Torah. It does not happen magically. In connection with the commandment, “Honor your father and mother,” our Rabbis teach; one refers to the Written Torah and the other to the Oral Torah. One parent is usually more strict, the other more tender and tolerant….

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One Step at a Time


After reading an article about one of my local sports broadcaster’s struggle and eventual successful search to find a kidney donor for his renal failure, I decided to send him a message. I simply let him know that his voice impacted my childhood. My brother and I would listen to all of the games, and pretend to be him. We even sat behind him at most of the games he broadcasted, but never met face to face. That evening, I received a message back from him. He wrote, “I’ve been overwhelmed and humbled by people’s response to my dilemma. It’s…

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Shabbat Shaloha


Aloha means hello. Aloha means goodbye. But aloha also means love. Aloha was the word of the day last Shabbat, as 90 young professionals from Sinai Temple’s Atid community celebrated Shabbat on the island of Maui. I have observed Shabbat all over the world- from New York to Los Angeles, from Poland and Hungary to Israel. Yet, last week was different, as Rabbi Guzik and I were the rabbis of this immersive experience. In our parsha, Behar, the Torah juxtaposes the prohibition of idolatry and the sanctity of Shabbat. This odd comparison teaches us a deep lesson-that which is real…

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To Be Holy


Abraham was called a God fearer and righteous. Jacob’s name changed to Yisrael. Yet, not one of our ancestors was called kadosh, holy. For when this sacred word appears in the Torah, it never occurs to describe an individual. Only when revelation appears at Mount Sinai, and the people become an am segula, a nation chosen to live a life of Torah, are we described as a goi kadosh, a holy nation. In essence, there are no holy individuals, but a group can transcend into that sate of being holy. Rabbi Kalonomus looks at the Jews’ exit from Egypt. Individuals…

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A Prophecy Fulfilled


As I came home from work on Wednesday afternoon, I heard a loud voice coming from our home office. As I approached the door, I observed my daughter singing Hatikvah at the top of her lungs, as part of her online Hebrew homework. I smiled and allowed her to continue. Just yesterday, as we celebrated the 71st birthday of the State of Israel, I tuned into the international Bible contest, held in Jerusalem, on Israel’s independence day. The finalists consisted of young students from Israel, Panama and the United States. Each morning, before the Shema, we recite the paragraph of…

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Voices of Peace


It is difficult to believe that we are just six days removed from the tragic shooting at the Chabad of Poway, which took the life of Lori Gilbert-Kaye and injuring the Rabbi and an 8 year old girl playing during Shabbat services. It is unfathomable that people attending Yizkor are now themselves being memorialized. This same week, I have watched from afar as thousands walked from Auschwitz to Birkenau for March of the Living. How can anti-Semitism be so alive and well? We read in our Torah this Shabbat of the scapegoat, the ritual of the Temple priests to rid…

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The Season of Counting


Each night at dinner, my children ask for math problems. They started with simple addition. They now challenge themselves with multiplication. This week was different. All the word problems revolved around Passover. My son said, “What is 3 plus 2?” My daughter replied, chamisha, five, and then quoted the well known “Seder Song,” Who Knows Five? I Know Five! Five are the books of the Torah! Through all the chaos at the table, it was music to my ears, because we have entered the season of counting. We count the omer for 49 days, from Passover until Shavuot. Sefer HaChinuch…

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The Season of Counting


Each night at dinner, my children ask for math problems. They started with simple addition. They now challenge themselves with multiplication. This week was different. All the word problems revolved around Passover. My son said, “What is 3 plus 2?” My daughter replied, chamisha, five, and then quoted the well known “Seder Song,” Who Knows Five? I Know Five! Five are the books of the Torah! Through all the chaos at the table, it was music to my ears, because we have entered the season of counting. We count the omer for 49 days, from Passover until Shavuot. Sefer HaChinuch…

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Freedom of Pesach


At my daughter’s model seder, as all of the parents smiled behind their iPhone cameras, proud of their children learning the various parts of the seder, I watched as one mother broke into tears. The next day, she stopped me in the hallway and explained her reaction. Her father grew up in the Soviet Union. Each Passover, she hears the story of how her father would go to the secret synagogue, with a black sheet over his head, and bring matzah to his family for Passover seder. Today, she watches her son chant the words of the Haggadah fluently in…

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