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Honorable Mensch-ion

Where Were You When?


I was not alive when a man landed on the moon, but I can now tell you where I was when Israel arrived in space. Yesterday afternoon, as twenty of us gathered to study Torah in a Century City conference room, we were initially all glued to our phones, waiting for word that Beresheet, the rocket from Israel, made a safe landing. And yet, after weeks in orbit, the moment did not go as planned. There was a crash, and the experiment was done. Where was I when Israel arrived in space? I was studying aspects of the Haggadah with…

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Memories of Camp


It has been shown that immersive Jewish experiences such as summer camp greatly influence one’s connection to Judaism later in life. It is with that excitement that I watched our children this morning as they prepare to spend Shabbat together at Camp Ramah with our Sinai Temple family. We will pray, play, eat, schmooze, and learn together. We will learn our stories in a much deeper way. We will see old friends and make new ones. It is the hope that Sunday morning’s closing circle will be a beginning and not an end to our connection to our synagogue and…

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Beyond Understanding


I spent the beginning of the week at the AIPAC Policy Conference, surrounded by 18,000 pro-Israel supporters from each side of the aisle, Jewish and non-Jewish, advocating and listening to reason after reason why the United States-Israel relationship must be a given.   At the conclusion of the conference, I visited the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia. There, you learn about the journey of the Jews in this great country (beginning in 1654), and the challenges and anti-Semitism we faced throughout generations, so many years without a Jewish homeland, only but a dream.   I concluded my…

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It’s All In Your Mind


I took a Lyft to a Purim party on Wednesday evening, fully dressed in an Incredibles costume. Standing on the busy corner of Wilshire Blvd. during rush hour traffic, I was self conscious with regard to my appearance.   As I opened the car door, I apologized to the driver for causing a public scene. The driver, who came to this country over 20 years ago, looked at me seriously and said, “Are you kidding me? You made my day! And wherever you are going…You’re going to make their day too!!!!”   He continued, “It’s all in your mind!”  …

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Remember


Tonight we will sing L’cha Dodi to welcome in the Shabbat bride. We say Shamor Vzachor, we should guard and remember the Sabbath day. It is a positive approach of remembrance. Yet, the same word, zachor, remember, is used to remember the acts of the evil Amalek, acts of destruction for the sole purpose of sinat chinam, senseless hatred.    While these two ways of thinking appear vastly different, in fact, the principle behind remembering, both good and evil, is the same. Rabbi Yitzchak Sladowsky teaches that remembering Shabbat prevents spiritual disease. We preserve the holy and the sacred, engaging…

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Show & Tell


There is no better way to learn than to show and tell. It works in preschool, but it also works as adults.    Sinai Temple has been blessed to be part of the Israeli Shin-Shin (shenat sherut) program this year. Four Israeli teenagers who graduated high school last spring work at Sinai Temple and Sinai Akiba Academy, bringing their love of Israel to our community. As they enter the Israeli Defense Force this coming fall, they will bring the joy and passion of Sinai Temple with them.    The Torah tells us that Moshe took and put the testimony into…

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The Books Are Free!


Our family visited our local public library this week and our children received their first library cards. When we arrived at the librarian’s desk for checkout with a pile of books ranging from science experiments to Shel Silverstein poetry, they asked, “How much do the books cost?” They were in shock when the librarian responded, “The books are free…You just need to read them.”    Is this not true of our sacred book, the Torah? We are told that those who are chacham lev, wise hearted, should come and take part in building the sanctuary. The Baal Binah explains the…

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Does Ordinary Become Extraordinary?


The Rabbis’ gift was to infuse sanctity into each and every act of our day. We often believe that our Judaism can be checked in and out at the door of the synagogue. When we are in the sacred sanctuary versus when we are in our offices and our homes, do we need to lose the label of our Judaism?   Parshat Ki Tissa tells the Kohanim that they must wash their hands before they enter the Holy Temple in order to perform Avodah, the sacred service.   The Rabbis extend this ritual to every individual, creating the mitzvah of netilat…

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When Everyone Plays, We All Win


The world was wowed by Microsoft’s commercial advertising the adaptive device for special needs individuals to play video games with their friends and families. One child shouts, “Now everyone can play!” We are told at the conclusion of the commercial, “You never want your child to be viewed as an outsider. When everybody plays, we all win.”   My mind immediately raced back 30 years ago. For most of my life, I have identified myself as a sibling of a special needs person. My brother, Eyal, was diagnosed with a brain tumor and suffered a stroke as a 4 year…

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When You Believe


Over a decade ago, I was introduced to SHALVA, a center for special needs in Jerusalem, which leads the way that the world understands and embraces disability. I have had the privilege to visit SHALVA on multiple occasions and witness the miracle of the impossible become possible. I have witnessed mothers and fathers turn tears into smiles, as they discovered a place where they could feel safe and find opportunities, employment, and resources that greatly improve their quality of life. When I define a Jewish hero, I often point to SHALVA founder, Rabbi Kalman Samuels, who started SHALVA after his…

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