Honorable Mensch-ion

A Prayer for Our Country

Prayers are simply words. On Wednesday evening, I stayed up to the wee hours of the morning glued to the television. After sitting next to my daughter with her jaw dropped early in the afternoon, a nine-year-old asking what was happening in our country’s capital, I felt the urge to witness how we would continue as a nation.

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Adventure Quest

As a family, we have searched for COVID-friendly activities to engage in during school vacation. Besides virtual entertainment, we happened upon Urban Adventure Quests, an online platform which sends you on scavenger hunts through different neighborhoods. In exploring the streets of Los Angeles just a few miles from our home, we recognized landmarks and sculptures that we never noticed, even while driving by hundreds of times in prior years. The clues given to you are extremely specific, inquiring on how many steps lead up to certain buildings, details of the architecture of City Hall facades, and questions on gorgeous murals. 

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The Spark

Our youngest child is fascinated by the Shabbat candles. He loves to watch them glow in the dark. It is a different type of light that comes from the normal ceiling light he sees everyday of the week. He was even more enamored to see the candle lit last night on the first night of Hanukkah. This candle is often the most difficult to light. When there is already a spark, the fire can spread easily. Yet, to go from complete darkness to that tiny flame takes courage. This symbolism is as true in our own lives. It is easier…

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The Voice

There are individuals that when they cross our paths we know we have been touched by an angel. When I arrived in Los Angeles in 2009, I served the community of Shomrei Torah Synagogue, where my partner in crime was Cantor Ron Snow. Ron, born in Detroit, was the true definition of a shaliach tzibbur, a messenger of prayer, who used his simple deep angelic voice to lead us in Shabbat and holiday tefilot. He brought the melodies he learned as a child to the synagogue in West Hills. As Rav Kook taught: hayashan yitchadesh vhechadash yitkadesh, we should renew…

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Thanksgiving Is Jewish

Jewish law dictates the moments when we may interrupt our recitation of the shema. Besides times of danger or greeting a king, we must respond amen to prayers of kedusha, holiness. Yet, there is one prayer outside the holiness canon that we also must break from the shema, and that is the Modim prayer, a prayer of Thanksgiving. The idea of giving thanks is so ingrained in our tradition that we must recognize this fact even if it takes us away for a second from the declaration of our faith, the shema. A religious person is not defined by fluency…

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Communal Famine

We learn this week “There was a famine in the land.” The Torah asks us why this needs to be mentioned? There were famines before. Nachmanides explains, “Aside from the previous famine that had occurred in the days of Abraham: Perhaps there had not been a famine in the whole world until the days of Abraham (Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer 26) and therefore the Torah counts from then. For what is the need to mention this? And the correct answer in my eyes is that they remembered that first famine and they told each other about it.” There have been…

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As we honored Veterans Day, our son taught us the custom of how veterans wear the American Flag. In order to create the image of the flag flying through the breeze, the flag is worn on the right shoulder, backwards, giving the same effect as the wearer moves forward. In times of a pandemic, a divided country, and so many other challenges we face as individuals and as a global community, this image is powerful, reminding us that we must find the sparks to do exactly that: move forward. This week, we also lost a giant in the Jewish world,…

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Just Challah

Choosing a challah is not an easy choice these days: Belgian chocolate chunk, cinnamon sugar, kalamata olive, and pretzel are only a sampling of the challot you can have on your Shabbat table. When I grew up in, it was simply challah….or challah. Last night, Sinai Akiba Academy participated in the worldwide challah bake. Over 100 families participated, with the same ingredients in their homes as we learned the history and halachot around challah. We know that the Shabbat table mirrors the mizbeach, the Temple’s altar in Jerusalem. Our Torah teaches that when Abraham invites the angels into his tent,…

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