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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...

Partway Through the Plagues

12/30/2021 04:55:38 PM


How do we handle setbacks on our journey to freedom and success?

The Israelites suffered generations of slavery.  In last week’s portion, Moses told them that their centuries of bondage would soon be at an end.  And yet, Moses’s pronouncement was followed by even more intense enslavement, as Pharaoh commanded that the Israelites must provide their own straw for the bricks.  Of course, God had already warned Moses...Read more...

Looking Backward, Looking Forward

12/16/2021 06:35:08 PM


My remarks from this past shabbat, about how the things we say might be heard, about how our congregation welcomes LGBTQ+ Jews, and my own family’s journey, have provoked significant comment and discussion.  If you haven’t heard them you can watch them on  You may also be interested in my comments from earlier this fall at  This week...Read more...

Which Comes First?

12/02/2021 04:17:57 PM


One of the more advanced cognitive tasks that human beings must perform, starting when we are young children, is called “sequencing”- determining which steps in a process or a story must come first, second, third, last. In order to engage in sequencing, one must be able to understand the consequences and relative importance of different actions. Sequencing isn’t so easy for adults...Read more...

Wrestling and Blessing

11/18/2021 06:32:45 PM


Why does God send an angel to wrestle with Jacob the night before he meets Esau? Of all days to not get a good night's sleep, and indeed, to start the morning limping, the date of the reunion with his hostile brother is certainly less than ideal!  Our sages suggest many reasons, including that idea the angel is meant to warn Esau- "If an angel can't defeat Jacob, you certainly...Read more...

Switched Before Birth?

11/11/2021 01:53:15 AM


One of my favorite “extracurriculars” is participating in the deliberations of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative movement. This week, the CJLS met to re-assess the status of children born through gestational surrogacy. With advances in technology, a child could easily be born with as many as five people who might be considered to have a share of parenthood. One provides the sperm, another...Read more...

A Grave Matter

10/27/2021 06:11:29 PM


This week’s portion is the first in the Torah to focus on death and mourning, and, in particular, on the concerns and priorities around choosing a grave site, where we might be buried, and whom we might be buried with  Those stories still have relevance for us today, in plans that our congregation has made over the past few years, and in particular in plans that we are considering, to create a new cemetery section to serve the needs of...Read more...

Now I Know!

10/14/2021 04:39:38 PM


Abram and Sarai (as Abraham and Sarah were known, before they were famous), had to leave Canaan and flee to Egypt because of famine. Abram was concerned that the Egyptian Pharaoh and his followers would see Sarai and kill him so that she would be taken into Pharoah’s harem. Abram expressed his fear in a remarkable way: “Now I know that you are a beautiful woman.”  Sarai was already over 65 years old...Read more...

Male and Female God Created Them

09/30/2021 04:04:46 PM


When I work with conversion students, we often spend an entire hour studying just one verse, Genesis 1:27: “And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Even translating properly it is a challenge. Was the first human single or dual, male or female? What pronouns to use for God is a whole other story. This passage is particularly illuminating as we wrestle...Read more...

Yom Kippur Sermons

09/17/2021 04:43:42 PM


Yom Kippur sermons are now available for your viewing and reading pleasure: Read more...

Do It Yourself

09/09/2021 05:26:57 PM



Delivered At Congregation B'nai Torah, 2nd Day Rosh Hashanah 5782 September 8, 2021 Watch Video

When my oldest son was around 2 years old, we had a tough time getting him to put on his shoes and his coat. He wasn’t complaining about being shod. In fact, he was really leaning into the task....Read more...

Retaking Life's Tests

09/09/2021 04:02:56 PM



Delivered at Congregation B’nai Torah, First Day Rosh Hashanah 5782  Watch Video

It’s one of the most common images posted on social media. A 16-year old, smiling in front of the DMV, holding their license. Earlier this summer, with my daughter, we posted a different picture, of a young woman standing in...Read more...

Standing Together, Apart

09/02/2021 05:23:43 PM


Parashat Nitzavim provides a unique vision of a unified Jewish life. Moses describes a moment of unprecedented common experience, which brings together every segment of society, from leaders, elders and officials to the menial laborers, citizens and foreigners, men and women, young and old, to enter into a shared covenant. Today, those experiences where an entire community joins for common focus are increasingly rare. In our own...Read more...

Destined to Fall?

08/19/2021 04:10:48 PM


This week's parasha includes the commandment (Deuteronomy 22:8) to place a parapet around one's roof, lest someone fall off. In ancient dwelling, the roof functioned as an important useable space, much like a deck or a backyard today. Hence, when King David spied Bathsheva in the bath, he was on the roof of his palace, and she may have been on her own roof as well!

Nowadays, we take it for granted that there will be railings...Read more...

The Choices We Make

08/05/2021 02:13:00 PM


  I’m delighted to have returned from a busy and refreshing mini-Sabbatical.  I feel a bit like Moses coming down the mountain after his 40 days.  He was ready to present tablets of inspiration, but was greeted with a Golden Calf.  No idols were installed in the sanctuary in my absence,...Read more...

Foreboding and Forward Motion

06/24/2021 06:21:50 PM


On Sunday we observe the 17th of Tammuz, which marks the beginning of a particularly mournful time in our Jewish calendar, a time of foreboding.  One of the mournful events which it marks is the collapse of the city walls of Jerusalem.  

As I write, many of us are distressed to hear of the collapse of a large residential building in the Surfside neighborhood of Miami.  The death toll may near over 100 people, and since...Read more...

Successful Succession

06/17/2021 04:44:28 PM


Transitions in life, and transitions in leadership can be challenges or blessings, depending on how we prepare. Do we leave clear instructions, designate successors and ensure a legacy.  Our Torah portion describes two losses suffered by the Israelites in the desert, one of which leads to appropriate grief, followed by healing and continuity, the other to disaster.  As I prepare for a (temporary) transition in congregational...Read more...

Counting to 10, the hard way

06/10/2021 01:19:04 AM


This coming week, our daily minyan will be meeting in person every evening, and Sunday, Monday and Thursday mornings, enabling us to test and finalize our procedures. The following week, we will be “open for business” with live services twice a day every day, with zoom still as an option.  Based on the guidance of our task force, our daily services will be mask-optional, but in-person attendance will be open only to those who are...Read more...

When the Cloud Lifted

05/27/2021 04:02:20 PM


This weekend, we are delighted to be sharing a simcha with extended family, friends and community, as we celebrate Ezra’s Bar Mitzvah.  Family have already started to arrive from out of town.   We are full of gratitude, not just for the simcha, but for the uniqueness of the timing. We had originally requested a date in April, closer to his birthday, but when dates were assigned several years ago we did not get our first...Read more...

Bamidbar, The New Desert

05/13/2021 07:47:12 PM


The book of Numbers begins with parashat Bamidbar, (literally, "in the desert") where everything in perfect order.  There is a camp in which every tribe and every levite family has its established place and marching order.  The Levites are enumerated and each one is fully accounted for. As we read further into the book in the coming weeks, that perfect order breaks down into conflict and dissent, even as the Israelites are...Read more...

Lag B'omer

04/29/2021 04:47:19 PM


We are a more than halfway to Shavuot!  Four weeks ago, we were dining on Matzah, and three weeks from now we’ll be up late studying to celebrate receiving the Torah. Our Torah portion, Emor, describes these seven weeks as a time of watchful counting, building excitement and bringing offerings of gratitude as the harvest got underway. However, in later times, the Omer became known as a mournful period- people avoided shaving, musical...Read more...

Modern Miracles

04/12/2021 10:52:45 PM


Yesterday we observed Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s memorial day, and today we celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s independence day.  In addition to watching various commemorations and celebrations online, I had the privilege of serving as the master of ceremonies for the consulate-sponsored Yom Hazikaron observance, and today, I had the chance to lead our preschoolers in their own “Israel Day Parade.”  We are also partnering...Read more...

The Song of Songs

04/01/2021 05:10:06 PM


We expect the Bible to give us “thou shalts,”  “begats,” and the occasional “Hallelujah.”  And then there is the Song of Songs: 

“Give me of the kisses of your mouth, For your love is more delightful than wine.”

“His mouth is delicious, all of him is delightful, such is my beloved” 

“Ah, you are beautiful, my darling, Ah, you are fair. Your eyes are like doves behind your...Read more...

Entering the Tabernacle with a Small Aleph

03/18/2021 05:30:15 PM


If you look for this week’s Torah portion, Vayikra, in a scroll, you will see that it is easy to find . There is a big break between the end of Exodus and the beginning of the new book of Leviticus, even though chronologically one follows the other almost immediately. There is also an unusual letter- the very first word “Vayikra” has its last letter, an aleph, written very small.  Our sages ascribe a very...Read more...

Shekalim and the Poll Tax

03/04/2021 04:49:39 PM


This week’s Torah portion begins with the commandment of the half shekel.  Each Israelite is to donate precisely that amount of silver to the construction of the Tabernacle, no more, no less.  The commandment serves two purposes.  The first is to provide the funding for this holy project, the second is to ensure an accurate count of the people.  This mitzvah offers important insights for some...Read more...

Taking a Shot

02/18/2021 05:41:20 PM


The Talmud (Bava Metzia 62a) proposes a theoretical situation, “Two people were traveling and one of them had a flask of water in his hand. If both of them drink, they would die; and if one of them drinks, he would reach settlement…" Rabbi Akiva came and taught: "The life of your brother is with you" (Vayikra 25:36) "[this means] your life takes precedence over the life of your fellow.” For the next few months, that text has a...Read more...

Ramping Up Together

02/04/2021 05:41:48 PM


February is Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month, and our congregation is hosting a range of activities to participate. This Saturday night at 6:15 PM, our study will focus on Jewish text surrounding abilities and inclusion, and at 7:00 PM, Virtual and Drive-In Special Friends Havdalah will bring together different segments of our community. On February 16, we will be...Read more...

A Month When Everything Changed

01/21/2021 04:56:01 PM


God’s instructions to Moses regarding Israel’s departure from Egypt start in a most unusual way- not with the packing list, not with the commandments of Passover and the practices of seder, but rather with some instructions on the calendar. We read in the Torah this week, “’This month shall be the first month from now on.” Shouldn’t there be more important things to discuss than calendar reform?  The Israelites had to realize...Read more...

Learning from Pharaoh

01/07/2021 05:19:51 PM


This week, we begin a new chapter in the life of our state and our country. Many have commented eloquently on the crisis we have weathered and the challenges still ahead. The Joint statement of the Conservative movement reflects some important thoughts on the state of our country. This Friday night as part of our...Read more...

Don't Get Lost Along the Way

12/23/2020 03:28:27 PM


This week’s Torah portion describes the dramatic resolution of the Joseph story. Judah offers an impassioned appeal to save little brother, Benjamin, and Joseph is so moved that he drops his Egyptian disguise and reveals his true identity. By the end of the portion, the entire family has been reunited in Egypt; a happy ending, at least for now.

When Joseph sends his...

A Message About Hanukkah

12/10/2020 01:08:56 PM


Hanukkah, the festival of lights, begins tonight. Each night of the holiday, we are offering outdoor and virtual opportunities to make B’nai Torah part of the celebration. You will see the details below, but as we enter this unusual Hanukkah, I want to offer a thought about the miracle of the Hanukkah oil and our own personal refueling.

One of the first times Rabbi K was a passenger in my minivan, he was traumatized that...Read more...

Thanks in Advance

11/24/2020 04:19:28 PM


A word about Thanksgiving: It would seem easy to be grateful when we have everything we could want. Over the course of his life, our ancestor, Jacob, sees the fulfillment of his father’s blessings and is reconciled with the brother he stole them from. He is father to at least 13 children, all of whom continue in his faith. Even his lost son is restored to him, and he is fortunate to bless...Read more...

Chayee Sarah: the Path to Reconciliation

11/12/2020 12:50:37 PM


Two weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of maintaining connections under strain. Once a relationship has broken, how is it mended? This week’s portion, Chayee Sarah, is the first of three examples in Genesis of reconciliation of estranged brothers. In some cases, the animosity has a clear backstory in which both sides have agency. In the case of Jacob and Esau, it is the negotiation over...Read more...

Bereshit: The Most Important Verse

10/15/2020 05:13:28 PM


This week, we begin reading the Torah anew. Many people have tried to condense the many teachings of the Torah into a single verse. The Jerusalem Talmud, tractate Nedarim page 30b, offers several answers. Rabbi Akiva says the key verse is “You should love your neighbor as yourself” ( Leviticus 19:18).

Another sage, Ben Azzai, however says that the most important verse is to be found in our portion. One might think...Read more...

Sukkot - Outside In

10/01/2020 03:13:46 PM


Sometimes you have to go outside to re-enter. Sukkot, and the next few weeks of our synagogue’s activities, are both signs of that. The High Holidays are meant to be an emotionally intense time. The focus is very much on introspection, and our physical selves are subordinated to the spiritual task at hand. How can we think about eating when our very souls are at stake? It...Read more...

Bringing Your Best At Home Together

09/03/2020 04:25:41 PM


This week, parashat Ki Tavo describes the first two communal prayer experiences that the Israelites will experience as they enter the holy land. This week, I’d like to explore them briefly, and translate them to some important lessons and technical tips for us to make meaning on these High Holidays that will be like no others. Read on for some ideas about how to prepare your home environment, computer and, most...Read more...

The Judges of Today

08/20/2020 02:45:09 PM


Today we begin Rosh Hodesh Elul. It’s a time of introspection and confession. I have a confession to make: I’m kind of over COVID-19. I’d really like to be done worrying about epidemiology and IT infrastructure. I want to get back to singing together in the sanctuary and eating bagels in the social hall, as...Read more...

Zionism in a Pickle?

08/06/2020 05:07:59 PM


It’s not the first time that Seth Rogen has gotten in trouble for “The Interview.” Whereas his film by that name created an international incident with North Korea, this time, the actor/writer/director famous for movies like “Superbad,” “Knocked Up” and the upcoming “American Pickle” has created a different sort of pickle among his own people. An interviewer asked Seth Rogen if Israel should exist, and Seth gave an...Read more...

Hazon - A Shabbat of Vision

07/23/2020 04:36:42 PM


This Shabbat is known as Shabbat Hazon - the Sabbath of visions of doom. Over 2600 years ago, and then again 1950 years ago, the threat of exile and destruction hung over the Jewish people. That threat came to pass on the 9th of Av (Tisha B’av)  which is observed next Wednesday night and Thursday. Indeed, the cycles of despair often returned to their low point at this season of the year, with inquisitions, crusades and...Read more...

17 Tammuz: Around Your World in 80 Days

07/09/2020 04:37:26 PM


These days bring a sense of foreboding. Today is the 17th of Tammuz, one of the minor fast days on the Jewish calendar that commemorate stages in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple that stood in its midst. It begins three weeks of mournful practices, culminating in the fast of Tisha B’av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, which we will observe the night of July 29 and into the 30th. This day has lessons for us as we look to...Read more...

The Lessons of a Flowery Branch

06/25/2020 04:49:55 PM


This weeks’ Torah portion is full of rebellion and revolt, and offers some lessons for us on the power of great and bad leadership. Korach and his followers challenged Moses’s political leadership and the religious leadership of his brother Aaron. There were three stages of God’s response, and each phase had an immediate effect and left a permanent sign. The first two stages established that the rebels were...Read more...

Second Chances

06/11/2020 06:12:42 PM


Beha’alotecha tells a story of second chances. God commanded the Israelites to observe Passover, the first anniversary of the Exodus. Life, then as now, was imperfect - there were those Israelites who were not able to participate because they were ritually impure or on a journey. Moses asked God what is to be done, and God replies that there is a solution for those individuals. They may observe Passover a month...Read more...

Shavuot, Lost in Time

05/27/2020 02:58:05 PM


What day is it? Blursday? About fleven o' clock? A lot of people tell me that they have had trouble keeping track of time in the past few months. The hours, the days, the months run together. Shavuot is unique among Jewish holidays that it, too, is slightly lost in time.

The Torah tells us that the Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai on the first day of the month of Sivan and went through three days of...Read more...

Fri, December 1 2023 18 Kislev 5784