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Honorable Mensch-ion

The Kippah Drawer…Again


Two years ago, I wrote in this very column about the “Kippah Drawer,” which each one of us has- a collection of kippot collected from various baby namings, B’nai Mitzvah and weddings. When we open that drawer, memory floods our hearts and minds. We smile at past simchas, and tear up at loved ones no longer in our presence.   This week, Rabbi Guzik and I donated a piece of furniture which contained our kippah drawer. We emptied its contents, schlepped it out of our house, and carefully put it in a truck for pick-up. I remarked to Rabbi Guzik,…

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Thanks to Tradition


As I awoke on Thanksgiving morning, I started a text chain reminiscing of a tradition we partook in as children; a simple trip to the bakery to pick out the cookies and pies for Thanksgiving dinner. Now, as my siblings are spread from London to Los Angeles, that simple text reclaimed tradition, and gave thanks to what was. Thanksgiving- an entire day to express thanks, to acknowledge gratitude, both past and present, to find the good in our ever-changing world. We often say what we are grateful for but not often to whom. This Shabbat, we read Toldot, the genealogies…

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The Magic Coin


When Abraham purchases the Cave of Machpela, in the city of Hebron, to bury Sarah and our ancestors, the Rabbis ask, “What type of coin did he use?” We know it was not a quarter or silver dollar. The answer… It was a coin accepted by each and every merchant. On one side was inscribed, “for our elders.” On the other side was inscribed, “for our children.” Abraham was not solely purchasing a piece of property. Rather, he was honoring the elders, providing for them an eternal resting place, and ensuring it for future generations. Abraham was teaching us the…

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Israel, We Are With You


This past week, rockets once again rained down on Israel, reaching as far as the central part of the country. Schools closed, people were home from work, and one jarring picture of a wedding taking place in a bomb shelter circulated. I received a call during that time from Emergency Volunteers Project (EVP). This is an organization that sends firefighters from the United States who are not Jewish to Israel, to both help build the fire department force, and learn from Israeli techniques how to better serve our country. With the proceeds from the Sinai Temple Men’s Club Burning Bush…

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Go To Yourself


Go to yourself. That is God’s command to Abraham-to leave his father’s house, to leave his country, and go to a strange land that God will show him. It is easy to be told where to go and what to do. It is much more difficult to “go to yourself,” to find a place that is comfortable for you, yet challenging enough to find a deeper meaning. Go to yourself—-a place in your soul. Yesterday morning, I once again had the honor of delivering soup and homemade bread to Church of The Good Shepherd, to feed the homeless that show…

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Be the Ark


Growing up in upstate New York, the story of Noah and the ark made complete sense. Rain was a staple of the season. In fact, a flood would usually accompany the Shabbat of Noah. In Southern California, we pray for rain. In a week of fire and scorched earth, we know that an upcoming rainstorm could in fact bring floods and mudslides. Where do we find shelter? Where is our ark? Rav Cook explains that ark is ourselves. And that ark shelters our souls, permitting us to work on the character traits we wish to improve before we go out…

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#ShowUpForShabbat


Last week, I met with a Catholic middle school student who had an assignment to learn about Judaism. She arrived prepared with a list of questions about belief, ritual, and history. We toured the sanctuary, looked at different Torahs, and watched classes at Sinai Akiba Academy prepare for Shabbat. As we concluded our tour, we passed by the March of The Living display. The father paused and said, “Rabbi, can you explain this to me?” I told him each year, a group of our members visits Poland to learn the history of the Holocaust, the vibrancy of Jewish life in…

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Always Something New


On my way to my office this week, I stopped in to a Sinai Akiba Academy guest lecturer, children’s author and illustrator, Bryan Collier. He explained to the children that each one of them is an artist in his or her own way. He then took out a book, “Snowy Day,” that changed the course of his life. He said, “You never outgrow a picture book.” For 45 years, Collier read that book, but just this past year, he noticed something new. I could not help but think of our upcoming celebration of Simchat Torah, as we conclude the Torah,…

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Fragile Foundations


On Yom Kippur afternoon, we read from the book of Vayikra, the holiness code. As we concluded, the honor of dressing the Torah was given to a young 7 year old boy named Eli. As he placed the crowns on the Torah, accompanied by his parents, I watched his parents beam with a smile. Just days after Yom Kippur, we transition from the holiest day, with a sure foundation under our feet, into the sukkah, the most fragile dwelling we find in our tradition. Each evening, in our Haskiveinu prayer, we pray for a sukkat shlomecha, a blanket of peace…

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Who’s Older Now?


The following piece was included in this week’s Jewish Journal. Here is a rabbinic secret. Each year before Yom Kippur, rabbis send an e-mail, asking a simple question: “Has anyone compiled a list of notable deaths for the past year?” The impressive list for 2019 includes architect I.M. Pei, journalist and author Cokie Roberts, business magnate Barron Hilton, businessman and former presidential candidate Ross Perot and actor Peter Fonda. But two years ago, as this email appeared in my inbox, I had no choice but to respond to my fellow rabbis that I had just suffered the loss of my…

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