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Honorable Mensch-ion

Salt


This week, I sat on a panel of Rabbis from all denominations. Our audience was unique, consisting of mayors and heads of regional councils from various areas in Israel. Some of the distinguished guests were religious and others were secular. This is the most fascinating question we were asked, “How do you have the ability to sit and talk with Rabbis who have different theological beliefs with you?” One Rabbi responded, “Gathering together with our colleagues of different beliefs allows my own beliefs to be expressed in a more thorough manner.” Our Torah teaches that each offering brought to the…

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Building Dreams


Theodor Herzl wrote, “Dreams are not so different from deeds as some may think. All the deeds of men are only dreams at first.” The book of Exodus concludes with the construction of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. We began the book as slaves in Egypt, and could only dream of freedom. They were used to building monuments to Pharaoh, not sanctuaries for God. Today, the State of Israel, celebrating 70 years of existence, continues to dream. Yet, today, the dream is different, as Israel looks outward to help the world. Each year, at the AIPAC Policy Conference, we learn of…

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Hands Up


Try to hold your hands above your head, with your arms straight into the air. It is a difficult stretch to do for more than a minute. Yet, this is exactly what Moses did to lead the Jewish people into battle against Amalek. The midrash teaches that Moses’ hands were spread toward the heavens with faithful and well-intended prayer. This Sunday morning, over 200 members of Sinai Temple will gather in Washington, D.C. for the AIPAC Policy Conference, in support of the US-Israel relationship. As Jews, we know we never do anything alone. We study Torah with a hevruta, a…

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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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