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Dry and Wet

09/21/2023 03:56:38 PM


This week we read as our Torah portion Ha’azinu, Moses’ second to last discourse to the Jewish people. In this poem, Moses returns several times to very distinctive imagery to describe God, calling God a “Tzur,” a rock. The metaphor implies constancy and security. God is eternal, like the very bedrock, and the ultimate source of protection, impregnable as a rock fortress. However rock is also unyielding, and Moses...Read more...

Wet and Dry

09/07/2023 05:26:50 PM


This week we read parashat Nitzavim, in which Moses gathers the entire nation to warn them of the potential consequences of their actions, positive and negative. One of his more colorful turns of his phrase is that people will think in their hearts “I will be safe following my heart’s urges”, but this will lead to something terrible. In Hebrew, the phrase is “Lema’an sfot haravah et hatzmeah” which could be read to mean,...Read more...

Bird Brains?

08/24/2023 04:17:01 PM


Ki Teitzei, our portion this week, includes more mitzvot than any other. One of my favorites is the commandment of “shiluah haken.” When you find a bird’s nest and you take the eggs or fledglings, you must send away the mother bird, and if you do, you will be rewarded with a long life. This is one of the few commandments where a specific reward is offered for its observance. Today we are more likely to get our eggs...Read more...

At the Gates

08/17/2023 03:44:27 PM


This week, we begin the Hebrew month of Elul, and the season of repentance. We also read a Torah portion, Shoftim, which describes in depth the organizational structure that the Jewish people are to set for themselves in the promised land. King, prophets, priests, generals, elders, judges and officers each have their role in ensuring an orderly civil society. 

The portion begins by commanding that judges and officers...

Tisha B'av and Nachamu

07/27/2023 12:39:27 PM


With greetings from Sabbatical: I am grateful for the opportunity to spend six weeks taking a break from communal life. At the midway point, I’ve spent time at Camp Ramah and in travel, and made progress on several study projects. It has been restorative to redirect my focus, which means putting much of the “tzuris” of the world (starting with my email) on mute.  However, the news from Israel this week cannot be...Read more...

Pinchas- Taking a Break from the "Ands."

07/06/2023 02:14:20 AM


This weeks’ Torah portion includes a broken letter- the only time that this is permitted in a Torah scroll. There is an ancient tradition (dating back to the Talmud) that the word Shalom (“peace”) must be written with a gap, a break, in the letter vav. This is surprising because normally, even a single broken letter, out of hundreds of thousands, would invalidate an entire scroll. Indeed, in one of our scrolls, an inexpert scribe...Read more...

A Higher Power

06/22/2023 01:22:12 PM


For many years (with a hiatus for COVID) B’nai Torah has hosted regular meetings of several support groups, including Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon.   Many of us have preconceptions of what these groups are about, and who they serve, and it is worth dispelling stereotypes.  This coming week, you can find out firsthand, as the AA chapter will be hosting an “open meeting” on Tuesday, June 27 at 7:00 PM. The meeting being...Read more...

How Many Fingers am I Holding Up?

06/15/2023 01:30:58 PM


When I was growing up in the New York area, the Salute to Israel Parade was one of the events that brought together almost every element of the  entire Jewish community. On a Sunday in early June, we schlepped in from the suburbs to march up Fifth Avenue, wearing our proudest blue and white. Many years, various Israeli dignitaries and Jewish (or Jewish adjacent) politicians would participate as our songs and chants reverberated across...Read more...

Does the Punishment Fit the Crime?

06/08/2023 03:36:42 PM


What is the most effective form of punishment? What makes a punishment fair? This week in parashat Behaalotecha we read that Miriam and Aaron engaged in gossip against their younger brother Moses, criticizing him for some aspect of his personal/family life, and declaring that they were just as close to God as Moses was. God called the three of them to the Tent of Meeting (the principal’s office had not been invented yet) and...Read more...

What's it Worth to You?

05/11/2023 04:39:09 PM


How do we value people? The fact that we are created in the image of God should mean that every person has infinite value and there is no way to compare one human being to another. In reality, we do have to offer evaluations and comparisons. Personal injury attorneys ask juries to put a price on people’s very...Read more...

Blasphemy in the Camp

05/04/2023 05:19:32 PM


My message from this week: Many members of our community were deeply affected by the mulitple shooting that took place in a Midtown Atlanta medical office this week. Some were friends of the woman who was murdered. Others went into lockdown in nearby buildings, or were patients of one of the medical practices in that building, and, but for the grace of God, might have been there that day. I generally do not comment on these events. They...Read more...

Israel- Cause and Effect

04/27/2023 04:20:25 PM


Just over a week ago, I had the privilege of observing Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance day, in Israel. It is remarkable to see the 10AM memorial siren bring huge segments of the country come to a stop. People emerge from their cars and stand at attention, remembering the overwhelming losses of 80 years ago. A week later, the country halted again as Israelis commemorated Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s memorial day for its fallen,...Read more...

The Twice-Read Haftorah

04/11/2023 02:19:04 PM


Each Shabbat and holiday has a unique haftorah, but there are exceptions. The haftorah that we will read on Thursday, from Isaiah chapters 10-12, is read once a year, twice, or not at all, depending on your perspective. Despite being the haftorah for Passover, it barely touches on the Exodus. Instead, it focuses on the coming of the Messiah, a time where violence will cease, to the point where “the lion will lay down with the...Read more...

Blessed is the Generation....

03/23/2023 01:52:34 PM


The first half book of Leviticus strikes fear into the hearts of sermonizers, homileticists, and B’nai Mitzvah. The next few weeks of our Torah reading will focus on the sacrificial order, and it would seem there are only so many ways that you can talk about burnt offerings and the sprinkling of fat upon the altar.  However, even in the midst of presenting a ritual order that seems so alien to us, the Torah reflected values that...Read more...

Fighting Anti-Semitism under the Dome

03/17/2023 02:41:55 PM


HB30 is finally going to be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee, this coming Monday, March 20 at 4pm, in room 307 of the Coverdale Legislative Office Building, across the street from the Capitol.

And, this is where your help comes in!

Act on March 19th and 20th by reaching out directly to  Senate Judiciary Members

In the coming days, you may also need to reach out to  Senate Rules Members and Your State...Read more...

Vayakhel-Pekudei:  When Enough is not Enough

03/16/2023 06:50:02 PM


When is enough not enough?

   This week, in addition to the "HaHodesh" introduction to the month of Passover, we read Parashat Vayakhel-Pekudei, which describes the implementation of the construction of the Tabernacle, carrying out the plans that had been given to Moses previously.  The Israelites and their leaders bring gifts of every type of material imaginable: gold, silver, jewels, precious fabrics, simple yarn,...Read more...

Approaching Purim, Erasing Amalek: Justice and Vengeance

03/05/2023 10:38:21 AM



I had prepared remarks for this past Shabbat, but there was not sufficient time to present them with the completeness and nuance that they required.  I offer a version of what I had hoped to share, updated to include passage of...Read more...

A Topsy-Turvy World

03/02/2023 04:04:45 PM


Purim begins this Monday night. We think of it as a fun holiday, with gragger noisemakers, costumes, and hamantaschen cookies with fillings delectable and deleterious. Megillah readings, shpiels and sing-alongs bring raucous merriment, and there is often just a bit of drinking as well. To see all we have planned, see These festivities mask (pun intended) an existential philosophical message, “Vehanafoch...Read more...

Terumah- Everyone Can Contribute

02/23/2023 12:53:05 AM


This shabbat we read Terumah, the first in a series of portions that comprise the last 2/5 of the book of Exodus and describe the construction of the Mishkan, the portable Tabernacle that accompanied the Israelites through the desert.  God begins  (Exodus 25:2) by describing the gathering of the materials: “Tell the Israelite people to bring me gifts, you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart is so...Read more...

Mishpatim: Do Not Curse a Judge

02/16/2023 05:07:39 PM


Many of us have been watching the news from Israel, as the new government has proposed laws and policy changes which have prompted weekly protests of over 100,000 Israelis, but few here in the US have a clear understanding what is really at stake.  As always, our Torah tradition offers insights.  It starts, but does not end, with judges.

This week the portion we read is called Mishpatim.  It includes many of the...Read more...

Bo: Going to the Dogs

01/26/2023 05:43:33 PM


In this week’s portion, Bo, dogs play an unexpectedly important role. As God is telling the Israelites what to expect on the night of the Exodus, He says (Exodus 11:7-8) “And there shall be a loud cry in all the land of Egypt, such as has never been or will ever be again. But at the Israelites, no dog will whet his tongue, neither against human or animal, so that you may know that God makes a distinction between Egypt and...Read more...

Rediscovering A Name We Already Know

01/19/2023 05:39:55 PM


I rotate multiple Humashim (Torah commentaries/translations)  through the prime spot on my desk. Two that have a permanent spot in the rotation are the Orthodox "Artscroll Chumash" that we have been using in our sanctuary, and the Conservative Etz Hayim Humash that we give our B’nai Mitzvah students. The Humashim have very different approaches, not only in how they spell the very title of the book (H vs CH), but also with how they...Read more...

What Kind of Job is that for a Nice Jewish Boy?

12/29/2022 04:35:52 PM


This week’s Torah portion includes an emotional reunion, as Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and invites his father and extended family to join him in Egypt. It is notable that Joseph cautions his brothers to be careful in how they describe themselves to Pharaoh. They are to reveal that they are keepers of sheep and cattle. In our modern society, people often define themselves by their professional roles, without a...Read more...

Joseph and the Maccabees

12/22/2022 04:28:45 PM


Parashat Miketz is almost always read on Shabbat of Hannukah. Though these two readings are often aligned in the liturgy, they reflect very different understandings of what it means to be a Jew in the world. While Miketz reflects the desire to blend in, perhaps to an extreme degree, Hanukkah is about the fight for a distinctive identity in the face of pressures of assimilation. Many Jews today feel a tension between those two poles, even in how...Read more...

The Bones Told a Story

12/01/2022 01:56:49 PM


A construction project in a small German town, has shed new light on the Jewish legacy that can be carried, quite literally, in our bones and our blood.  In 1453, the Jewish community of Erfurt was exiled, bringing an end to several hundred years of Jewish presence. A storehouse was built over the centuries-old Jewish cemetery. Recently, that storehouse was renovated to serve as a parking deck, and 47 of the original graves were...Read more...

Have You but One Blessing?

11/23/2022 10:56:44 AM


It is homiletically convenient that weekend of Thanksgiving almost always coincides with one of the Shabbatot when we read the saga of Jacob and Esau. The portions provide great fodder for sermonizing, with the drama of family conflict and its resolution, the power of shared meals to create relationships, and the travail of journeying. However, the story’s core is about the nature of blessings and thanks. What does it really...Read more...

Unhappy Families

11/16/2022 07:41:58 PM


A special guest post from Rabbi Judith Beiner, the Community Chaplain for Jewish Family and Career Services of Atlanta

Tolstoy said:  Happy families are all alike; Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. 

Those ‘unhappy families’ are as old as the bible. As we’ve been reading the cycle of stories in Genesis, we see...Read more...

Walking Together?

11/03/2022 03:23:56 PM


While many are focused on US elections currently underway, the Israeli election that took place this week also deserves careful attention. I am proud that Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Jews and Arabs are allowed to be citizens and vote in truly free elections. I will always support the country and its people. However, it is worth considering why the results of this election may give cause for concern, and,...Read more...

Anti-Semitism- Drip or Flood?

11/03/2022 03:21:56 PM


Nitzavim, Standing Together

09/22/2022 02:01:32 PM


There are certain moments, certain experiences, that define a community. There are moments that are frozen in memory, that serve as mile markers for our history. Nitzvaim describes one such moment, as the Israelites were weeks away from entering the Promised land, and Moses gathered them together for remarkable words. Our community is preparing to experience yet another, with Rosh Hashanah starting Sunday night, and has been...Read more...

The Personal Pilgrimage

09/15/2022 04:49:13 PM


This weeks’ Torah portion, Ki Tavo, includes descriptions of two important Jewish rituals. One was an imposing, even awe-inspiring spectacle which engaged all of the tribes together, atop two mountains. The other, the offering of the first fruits, was performed in community, but each person came and made their own declaration, an individual expression of personal spirituality. These two rituals...Read more...

Coming Back

08/25/2022 04:47:05 PM


Judaism has always sought a balance between worship at home and in a central location- a balance that was disrupted two years ago, and is shifting back again for our community as we enter 5783. This week’s portion, Re’eh, conveys one of the first recalibrations of that balance. Whereas in the desert, any animal that was to be eaten had to be brought as a sacrifice within the camp, when they entered the land, the Israelites...Read more...

Commitment after 40 Years

08/18/2022 02:02:28 PM


As Moses prepares the Jewish people for their entry to the Land of Israel, at the end of 40 years in the desert, he tries to balance complementary, even contradictory messages, which he presents in parashat Ekev. On the one hand he reminds them (Deut 10:22)  how they have grown, from 70 souls who descended to Egypt to becoming as numerous as the stars of the heavens). And yet, he warns them (Deut 9:17-18) that they must not...Read more...

Morning and Evening

08/11/2022 04:13:54 PM


“Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad”- those six words of the Shema are perhaps the essence of our faith. They were the last prayers upon the lips of generations of martyrs, and are among the very first prayers we recite with our children. For an observant Jew, they form parentheses around the entirety of one’s day, said morning and evening as we fulfill the verse “when you lie down and...Read more...

A 39 Year Delay?

07/28/2022 01:19:11 PM


This has been the summer of travel woes. After two years of no-one going anywhere, everyone tried to go everywhere all at once. It did not go well. Some contended with flight delays and cancellations. Others are still looking for their luggage, or gas at less than $4 a gallon. Summer camps that had managed with almost no COVID cases last summer were suddenly sending kids home left and right. How do we look back on the journeys (and detours)...Read more...

Ask, But You Shall Not Receive

07/14/2022 02:52:57 PM


What happens when one demands something from another that they cannot provide? At different times in our lives, we might be on the giving, or the receiving end of that disappointment. We might be disappointed by another person not playing the role that we expected them to play, despite expressing our expectations, or we might let someone else down by not living up to what they asked from us. Our portion this week, Balak, gives us...Read more...

Revolutionary Ideas

06/30/2022 01:16:42 AM


Over three thousand years ago, in words recorded in our portion this week, a bald rebel Levite named Korach, surrounded by 250 of his minions, began a revolution against Moses. Though it was framed in the language of faith, it was also a rebellion against the Torah itself.

Two hundred and forty-six years ago, on July 4th, a group of bewigged rebel colonists created their...Read more...

Can I Vouch for That?

06/23/2022 05:43:58 PM


I’ll always remember the first d’var Torah I ever wrote that stirred controversy. Though there have been many since, this one was in 2002.  It was the early days of Torah on the Internet, and I was the summer substitute for the JTS Chancellor’s Torah commentary.    At the time, many in the Jewish community were opposed to school vouchers, and in particular, those that could be used at religiously oriented...Read more...

Trial by Ordeal

06/09/2022 05:37:03 PM


On principle, I did not watch any coverage of the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard Trial that ended last week. Though I enjoy a media circus, perhaps even more than the next rabbi, I could not bear this one. Two movie stars had a brief marriage that ended with accusations of abuse and a restraining order, and the strife continued with public comments that led to mutual accusations of defamation. After a six-week trial, a...Read more...

Devouring the Flesh of our Children

05/26/2022 05:46:45 PM


Many of us were horrified to hear of the slaughter of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde Texas. How does our Jewish tradition help us understand this atrocity? What does it call upon us to do? This week we are reading Parashat Behukotai, Leviticus 26 and 27, which includes some of the most horrific curses and punishments, including the threat that the Israelites will eat...Read more...

Are We There Yet?

05/12/2022 05:14:21 PM


When (if ever) does life go back to normal? What does normal even mean? For the last two years, waves of COVID-19 have swept over us, and we have now arrived at a place where different institutions, regions, and individuals make their own choices as to what is safe or worthwhile.  Jewish ethics demands that we consider the protection of life to be a highest priority, but also expects society to function in certain...Read more...

The Spring Busy Season

04/28/2022 04:21:35 PM


Since Biblical days, Judaism has had a “busy season”- the month of Tishrei is known to incorporate a major observance each of four weeks in a row: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah. In contrast, all of the other months had at most one holiday or observance. Passover, six months later, certainly holds its own as a holiday, but it sits alone in its own month, like  all of the other...Read more...

Plagues and their Reward

04/07/2022 05:49:38 PM


This shabbat we read parashat Metzorah, which deals with various plagues and afflictions, upon the bodies, and even the homes of the Israelites.  Sermonizers everywhere are relieved that it is also Shabbat Hagadol,  the “Great Sabbath” which precedes Passover, and which reminds us how the Israelites prepared to weather the Death of the Firstborn. As we prepare to for seder, it is worth contemplating the role and value of...Read more...

Ukraine, Bewailing the Loss

03/24/2022 04:15:06 PM



We continue to watch with horror the destruction unfolding in Ukraine. While the murder or suffering of any human being deserves our attention, we have particular care and concern for the Jewish communities that have been affected. Many have asked what we can do.  Our Torah portion this week, Shemini, provides some insight by reflecting how the Israelites reacted to destruction that they experienced, the death of...Read more...

Purim's Words and Swords

03/10/2022 03:15:59 PM


The Purim story that we will read next week is a swirling tale of palace intrigue and plotting, and God working in mysterious ways.  A recurring theme is conversations shared and not shared, and the harm that comes from hurtful speech. In the Megillah, Haman almost murders the entire Jewish people with gossip and derogatory speech.  His appeal to the king begins “There is a people scattered among your kingdom, and their laws are...Read more...

The Ukraine, my 1/2 Shekel

02/24/2022 03:31:42 PM


Many of us are concerned about events in the Ukraine, as we watch footage of Russian troops pouring in and hear responses (or non-responses) from around the world.  Each has our own perspective.  Some are afraid for the wellbeing of those under attack. Others are fearful of global destabilization and an escalation of conflict around the world.   Still others are concerned about the effect on our own country’s world...Read more...

Head and Hand, Ear and Foot

02/10/2022 04:12:50 PM


Parashat Tetzaveh speaks of the process of appointing and anointing the first permanent ritual leaders of the Jewish people. Aaron and his sons will serve as the Cohanim, the priests. They will receive special training to be able to perform the rituals, even distinctive clothing to wear! 


God is in the Details

01/27/2022 02:30:23 PM


I’m excited for Rabbi Zaslow’s visit to our congregation. Our lay-led Search Committee has done its homework in interviewing and checking references, and we now have the opportunity to meet a candidate whom they recommend very highly. As a community, we will make our decision after meeting her firsthand. There...Read more...

Texas Goosebumps

01/20/2022 07:10:00 PM


Our local community, the larger Jewish community, and the larger world, are still reacting to the attack on Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, as a British Muslim Extremist, took the rabbi and three congregants hostage at gunpoint, demanding the release of a terrorist held in a nearby prison. While we are relieved that the hostages were able to escape unharmed, the events still weigh heavily on us. I suspect that each of us...Read more...

Miriam and Deborah

01/13/2022 12:11:17 AM


Both our Torah portion and Haftorah this week have a special focus on female religious and spiritual leadership. In Beshallah, after the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, Miriam the prophetess, leads the women in celebratory dance and song. In the Haftorah (taken from the Book of Judges) Deborah the...Read more...

Sat, September 30 2023 15 Tishrei 5784