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Honorable Mensch-ion

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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Change?


A woman proudly hung on her mantelpiece a plaque that read, “Prayer Changes Things.” A few days later, the plaque was missing from its place. The woman asked her husband if he had seen it. “I took it down, I didn’t like it,” he replied. “But why?” the woman asked. “Don’t you believe that prayer changes things?” Yes, I honestly do,” her husband answered. “But it just so happens that I don’t like change, so I threw it away.” Over the next several days together, we will ask God for change; change in our lives, change in our communities, and…

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New Friends


Last night, I had the opportunity to meet new members of Sinai Temple. I asked a simple question, “What is your most formative Jewish experience?” Each answer given was more powerful than the next. For one, it was the death of a loved one years ago, and now she wants to show her children the love of Judaism and synagogue that her father showed her. For another, a grandmother who moved to Los Angeles to help raise her grandchild, and another who followed his children to Los Angeles and wishes to seek community. Each individual, with a full and vibrant…

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18 Years


18 is Chai. It means life, a time to celebrate. But 18 years ago, the world changed. I am amazed at how quickly the years fly by, feeling as if I just wrote this same message yesterday, and the day before that. 9/11/2001, as a sophomore at Columbia University and a pre-med student, I saw a different future than the present I live in. That day changed my life as I asked myself, “Who do I want to be?” That semester was the end of my pre-med career and the beginning of my Rabbinic and musical journey, intertwining at each…

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Zero Debris


Our family spent Labor Day at the Santa Monica beach, teaching our children to boogie board and build sand castles. A man sat in the car next to us as we arrived, filming a documentary. Out of curiosity, I asked him what he was filming. He handed me his card, and announced he was the proud founder of Zero Debris, an organization that cleans the Santa Monica Beach and other bodies of water around the world. He then continued, “I soon realized after I started to clean the debris on the beach that I also have debris in my soul….

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