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Honorable Mensch-ion

When We Grow Up


Pastor Craig Johnson is the Associate Pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas and founder of Champions, a special needs ministry dedicated to kids, teens, and adults. After Pastor Johnson’s son Connor was diagnosed with autism, he quickly recognized the unseen special needs population within the faith communities. While the church members complimented him on the wonderful children’s programming offered each Sunday during worship, he also realized the absence of any special needs families.

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Jewish Summer


The Jews are not only a people of the book; they are a people of the calendar. When I explain this to those who are on a journey to Judaism, that each month of the Jewish year has either a commemoration or celebration (sans Cheshvan), I always receive looks of amazement. Yes, we will always find an occasion to laugh or to cry. When looking at the Jewish summer in conjunction with where and what we do as Jews, there is a bit of a contradiction.

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Moving Up


We are a people that moves, never settling in one place. The word teshuva means return, indicating a sedentary lifestyle is not preferred within Judaism. This week, I had attended the Sinai Akiba Academy Moving Up ceremony. The 5th graders were moving up to middle school. Yes, they will be in the same building come September with the same group of friends and even the same teachers, but these were not the same children I taught on Zoom for the last 15 months. And these were not the same children I sang Bib-Bam and Shalom Aleichem with sitting on a pre-school carpet six years ago.

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Mher, A Hero and Loyal Friend


Yesterday, I met a hero. He didn’t call himself a hero. He simply told me, “Rabbi, I am a loyal friend.” His name is Mher, an Armenian-Lebanese-Christian young man who was simply out for sushi with his Jewish friends in Los Angeles last week. What was going to be a quiet night of food and friends turned out to be a night we could never imagine–an anti-Semitic attack on Jews. While others looked on, Mher stepped up, both protecting his Jewish friends, and all the patrons at Sushi Fumi.

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Together We Must Stand


In the blessing of the new month, we recite Chaverim Kol Yisrael–May the entire people Israel be united in friendship. We said those words just last week as we brought in the month of Sivan. It is so difficult and must be said that in the last few days, we have witnessed blatant hatred for the State of Israel and for the people of Israel. Social media quickly became the place to hide behind a screen and demonize each other; friends and colleagues “blocked” the “other.”

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Mothers


On Monday night, I will take a red eye to Philadelphia. I have not seen my parents since January of 2020. Yes, we speak on the phone multiple times a day. There are Facetimes and Zooms and What’s App messages at all hours of the day and night, but for almost 15 months, there has been no embrace and no touch.

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Forty Years


Forty is a common number in our tradition. Moses went up the mountain to receive the Torah in forty days. The Jews wandered in the wilderness for forty years. The Talmud teaches, “One does not fully comprehend the knowledge of his teacher before forty years.” We learn in Pirkei Avot that a human being’s full potential of wisdom is reached at age forty. This is portrayed in the affirmative—for when we attain that age, we now obtain wisdom to judge the world accordingly. Forty is both the completion of a level behind and the inauguration of a renewal ahead. Susan Handelman writes, “The moment of emptiness contains the seeds of ascent to a higher level.”

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Small Sparks


Two weeks ago, we re-entered the sanctuary for the first time in over one year. Each time I entered those sacred walls during the pandemic, I often thought, “As much as we miss the Torahs, the Torahs missed us.” As Rabbi Guzik welcomed back our community with an emphatic Shabbat Shalom, it was miraculous to hear the return of Shabbat Shalom back to us; it brought tears to our eyes.

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Small Reminders


My grandfather, Edward Sherman, was from Poland. When he came to the United States, there was confusion as to what his real birthday was in both the year and the date. Some would say April 15th, and others would say April 16th. This discrepancy led us to celebrate Pa’s birthday on BOTH days his entire life until his passing 12 years ago.

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