Honorable Mensch-ion

Out of Our Control

Yesterday morning, I received hundreds of emails and texts within a few minutes. It was difficult to comprehend what was happening. In these moments, you assume something wonderful or something terrible is happening. I quickly realized that my e-mail had been hacked and a message was sent to my contacts that I did not compose and had no control over.

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Tents of Torah

On my three trips to Poland, I had the privilege of visiting Yeshivat Chacmei Lublin, the Taludic center of learning, just steps from the Majdanek death camp. This is also the house of study where Daf Yomi, the custom of studying a daily page of Talmud, originated before the Holocaust.

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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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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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