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Honorable Mensch-ion

Eternal Light


I remember the first time I saw that the ner tamid, the eternal light, was not lit. It was a harrowing experience. As I grew older, I saw the lamp not only as an object, but as a motivating factor of God’s presence. The Torah teaches that this light should be tamid, eternal. The Rabbis ask, “What is eternal?” Should it be continually or should it be constant? Sefer Hachinuch, the book detailing the 613 mitzvot, instructs us that the underlying purpose of kindling the flame is to increase the grandeur of the Temple and thus glorify our own hearts with this…

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Pray for Parkland


This week’s Torah is a prayer by Rabbi Nicole Guzik. Ribono shel olam, Master of the Universe, it is with anger, rage, confusion and sorrow that we turn our hearts to you. Today, parents prepare funerals for their babies. Today, parents grieve the hopes and visions of children graduating high school, falling in love, achieving professional goals, and manifesting their dreams. Dear God, help us to reach those that mourn and are afraid. Let the families of Parkland, Florida hear our voices and feel bolstered by our words. This world cannot be defined by destruction and fear. Give us the…

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Prisoners of Hope


As a recently bereaved brother, I learned quickly that even a rabbi needs a rabbi in times of need. Over the past four months of reciting the Kaddish daily, I discovered that my rabbis are my congregants in the daily minyan. People who sit shivah, are in shloshim, are in a year of mourning, or are observing a yahrzeit… We each recite the same words but we each have different stories to tell. While Torah explicitly prohibits causing distress to an orphan and widow, Rashi includes in this prohibition all downtrodden individuals. Sefer Hachinuch teaches that the widow and the…

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Good Mistakes


The Maggid of Yerushalayim would tell a story of a father who complained bitterly that his son had joined a yeshiva. “How could he do this to me?” he lamented. “My parents were religious and I was smart enough to move away from all of that. I brought my son up in a totally irreligious manner and now, of all places, he decides to go to a yeshiva?! Why can’t he be like me?” he complained to the Rabbi. The Rabbi turned to the father and said, “But he has! He’s grown up just like you. You disregarded what your…

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Bring The Torah With You


As Rabbi Akiva Eiger’s children were preparing his scholarly works for publication, the famous Rabbi said to them, “Among the responses, you will undoubtedly find many letters to those who studied in my yeshiva. Please do not refer to them as my students, for I have never called anyone my student. How can I know who has learned more from whom?” As Joshua goes out to recruit an army to defeat the tribe of Amalek, Moses tells him, “Choose for us.” Rashi says this refers to both Moses the teacher, and Joshua the student. Our tradition teaches that our students…

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What’s Your Story?


Reading bedtime stories to our children is a favorite ritual of any parent. We are cognizant that show and tell is the greatest way of teaching. The sole purpose of our Passover Seder is to entertain the children through the Exodus narrative. The rituals are the props of the theater presented before us. Our tradition commands us to tell our own story, but before we can narrate, we must be able to listen to the stories that came before us. Every Jewish child grows up understanding the Exodus because we continue to tell it. By Kindergarten, most children can recite…

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A Good Joke


A Rabbi and a Pastor walk into a restaurant is usually the start of a good joke, but I have been fortunate to live this reality. Over the past two years, I have established a beautiful friendship with Pastor John Paul Foster of Faithful Central Bible Church, a young professional who is passionate about faith, community, and Israel. Pastor Foster and I break bread together regularly, discovering news ways in which we can assist the other’s community in our sacred work. Rabbi Joseph Hertz emphasizes that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart ten times and nine times God caused his intransigence. Over…

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Roses and Thorns


My friend has a tradition at his dinner table. He asks each member of his family to share a “rose” and a “thorn,” something positive and something negative that occurred that day. This activity is a way for the children and parents to connect and puts the day in perspective. Theologian Paul Tillich writes that a symbol opens up levels of reality which otherwise are closed for us. Roses and thorns are purely symbols, but they represent the reality of the world in which we participate. We each have difficult and beautiful moments, often occurring simultaneously. As Moses shepherds his…

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Acts of Lovingkindness


As Rabbi Guzik leads the Nazarian Teen Fellowship Israel trip, I have had the honor of schlepping our children to winter camps, preparing the meals of their choices, renting movies that will entertain them, and thinking of creative activities that will distract each of us equally. When the silence of bedtime arrives, I gather several moments for myself to process not only the day that was but the day that will be. As Jacob lives out his remaining days, he asks his son Joseph to place his hand under his thigh and “to deal with me kindly and truly.” Rashi teaches…

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Questions and Answers


Rebbe Nachman of Bratzlav taught, “As your answers become my questions, perhaps my questions may become your answers.” In just over a week we will both conclude the secular year and finish reading the first book of the Torah. During these transitional times, we take an introspective look inside ourselves, prioritizing our values, and deciding which paths we wish to follow in the year ahead. Rabbi A.L Scheibaum teaches that the beginning of any endeavor is critical; the success depends on the quality of its inception. Our forefather Jacob, when he sees his son Joseph, does not reciprocate the hug…

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