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Honorable Mensch-ion

Doubles


This week was marked by doubles. I attended a shiva in between brit milah ceremonies. Each ceremony was filled with tears. The mohel explained we wait until the 8th day for a bris in order for the baby to experience a perfect Shabbat. As the parents explained the name of the child, tears flowed down their cheeks, invoking the additional soul that was brought back into this world. And at the house of mourning, tears of grief and laughter were shared-remembering the physical presence that was lost, but cognizant of the soul that was truly present. I witnessed this family,…

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Who Has Blessed You?


In searching my inbox for a certain file, I came across an article I wrote 10 years ago as a rabbinic intern. Not only did it correspond with Parshat Balak, but it also honored the first yahrtzeit of my grandmother, Anne Sherman, z’l. Bracha, blessing, is an overused word in Judaism, so much so that blessings are taken lightly. Yet, the challenge in our faith is to recognize where our blessings come from- Who is our source of blessing? Who or what makes us into the blessed people we hope to be? As a four-year old child, I would stand…

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From Zion to Zion


As you enter Zion National Park in Springdale, Utah, the recorded narration plays in the shuttle bus. One voice from the Paiute Native American tribe declares, “We believe that everything in this world has a purpose. Human beings, animals, trees, and even rocks.” As you gaze upwards and outwards you truly see God’s creative masterpieces: the Narrows Canyons, hanging gardens of greenery in the desert, and beautiful red rock from iron mineral carved into magnificent structures. Rabbi Guzik and I, along with our three young children, hiked up and down and all around, often outside of our normal comfort zone,…

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Bonds and Bridges


Arthur Brooks, in his book “Love Your Enemies,” speaks of the difference between bonding and bridging. Bonding is surrounding ourselves with only like minded people who have opinions no different than the ones we hold. Bridging is sharing your story in a manner in which the other side needs each other to survive. While bonding may be the safe bet, bridging creates progress. This is an age old lesson found in our parsha of Korach, who may appear to have a valid complaint against leadership, but goes the way of bonding over bridging. On this weekend of July 4th, as…

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Going Camping


I did not grow up going to overnight camp. It just was not for me. I spent my days in day camps, swimming, and taking family trips. Yet, the last ten years, Rabbi Guzik and I have spent one week of each summer as Rabbis in Residence at Camp Ramah in Ojai. We watch as kids and staff have immersive experiences with old and new friends and with teachers and Rabbis, both inside of buildings and outside in nature. In a class with incoming 8th graders, I posed the question, “Why do we perform rituals?” Some answered, “Because we are…

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We Are Torah


The Kotzker Rebbe was famous for saying, “Don’t just learn Torah….Be a Torah.” Each June, I have the luxury of wearing shorts and a t-shirt as we open Sinai Temple Basketball Camp. Over 70 kids of all ages and abilities compete at a high level, learn the rules of the game, sportsmanship, and team work. Yet, this camp is what we call “beyond basketball.” Each day we take a break for a life lesson, inviting a hero into our midst, learning about an organization that helps those in need, and working on a project connected to fixing a broken world….

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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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