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Careful Consideration

06/27/2024 01:23:39 PM


I try to catch up on the news at least once a day, particularly in regards to Israel. But as responsible consumers of media, we recognize that different news agencies have different biases, and might elevate some aspects of a story over a more rounded and nuanced approach. At best, the news agencies themselves are reliable and accurate. At worst, the reporting doesn’t conform to media standards and promotes stories that are later...Read more...

Inner Torah

05/23/2024 01:00:58 PM


I don’t remember Sinai. Even though my soul was there;
So deep inside I search myself but not sure where to stare. 
Inside I find contradictions, distractions and some flaws.
Its hard to find amongst the mess, the remnants of God’s laws.

But what does Sinai mean, how truly do we know God’s ways?
Is it only what Moses transmits, and only what the Torah says?
But also, there’s the prophets, with their...

Suspending Disbelief

04/11/2024 11:48:40 AM


Caution: The following contains nerdy references to Star Trek, but it's all in support of Torah!

I was raised on Star Trek Voyager. It’s a story of a starship crew that gets lost on the other side of the galaxy and are making their long voyage home. In true Science Fiction fashion, there is plenty of technological gibberish, aliens, and shenanigans, but also a commentary on the human experience and condition. In one of my...Read more...

It's Sure Dark in Here!

02/29/2024 02:42:01 PM


On Shabbat, we refrain from using electricity at B’nai Torah, as we understand it to be prohibited by the Torah. However, an observant (pun intended) individual will notice that there are people who work for B’nai Torah and help us manage the Zoom, make the coffee, or even secure our building, all of which require the use of electricity. The way this works is a “legal fiction” that supposes that these...Read more...

Good Question

01/18/2024 01:22:05 PM


A child once asked me, “what makes the wind blow?” My initial reaction was, “I don’t know, ask a meteorologist.” But the truth is, I knew more than I initially thought. Surely there isn’t some giant at the end of the earth that inhales and exhales causing the air currents of the world. Rather, it clearly must be a complicated system of temperature changes at different altitudes in our atmosphere that interact with one...Read more...

More Than Just Alive

12/21/2023 02:35:25 PM


When the going gets tough, the tough get going, and the Jews start saying, “Od Avinu Chai”; our father yet lives. Coupled with the phrase “Am Yisrael Chai,” the nation of Israel lives, these words find their way to the lips of Jewish communities around the world as a testament of pride and determination in response to antisemitism and hate. The prejudice of society might be out to destroy the Jewish people, but the nation lives on;...Read more...

Foundations of Peace

11/09/2023 01:19:14 PM


Would you be surprised to learn that Sandy Springs was named Sandy Springs because there used to be some bubbling springs around Mount Vernon and Roswell Road? Buckhead is called Buckhead because Henry Irby who resided in what was known as the settlement of Irbyville killed a large buck and placed its head in a prominent location. Well, that’s the story that is told. The origin of the name Toco Hills is a little more disputed. The...Read more...

Sukkot Forecast

09/28/2023 11:58:50 AM


Sukkot is SOMETIMES my favorite holiday. I appreciate all the sights and smells of the holiday. I love when family and friends come together and truly live the biblical commandment to “be happy on your holiday… and you should have nothing but joy!” (Deuteronomy 16:14-15). I find the change of pace refreshing, eating meals outside and maximizing my time in the sukkah. But my appreciation of Sukkot really all comes down to one thing: the...Read more...

Bless You!

08/04/2023 02:00:58 PM


Believe it or not, I have Autosomal Dominant Compelling Helio-ophthalmic Outburst Syndrome or ACHOO syndrome for short. It’s a condition where bright lights trigger my sneeze reflex. Whenever I walk outside or into bright light, I’ll sneeze about 3-4 times. Thus, on a sunny day, there are many kind people who will respond to my sneezes with a “bless you,” which is in itself very nice. But what does it really mean to say...Read more...

I Forgot to Tell You!

07/20/2023 03:28:43 PM


“Oh I forgot to tell you….”
“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”
“I just remembered now!”

During my pre-college gap program in Israel, I was on a hike in the northern part of the country. I received the unfortunate news of my grandfather’s passing and had to cut my northern trip short in order to come home for the funeral. Knowing I wouldn’t have time to return to my dorm in Jerusalem to get nicer clothing and...Read more...

Shortcuts and Shortchange

06/29/2023 02:41:09 PM


I once did an experiment in college on people’s unconscious behaviors when faced with choices. We were looking at a person’s preference to take the path of least resistance, even if it wasn’t the shortest path. The set-up involved a double set of four doors (like what we use for the main entrance at B’nai Torah) and we’d prop open one of the outside set of doors, and one of the inside ones. Essentially, people would always...Read more...

I Was There!

05/24/2023 09:43:24 AM


I used to find myself arguing with my child about him inappropriately expressing big emotions, like throwing or screaming when overwhelmed or frustrated. I’d start at the beginning to mentally walk my child through what happened to help him imagine a different way to deal with his big feelings. I would name what he is feeling, and then what he did as a result of feeling that way. You were frustrated, so you threw the toy. And here...Read more...

Having an Antidote on Hand

03/09/2023 01:40:41 PM


As we read Parshat Ki Tisa this week, we find ourselves in an interesting section of our Torah. For the past couple of parshiyot, we’ve read the instruction God gives Moses for the building of the portable sanctuary and the clothing the priests wear while officiating the tabernacle service. Moses records the dimensions of the furnishings and the colors of the threads of the curtains/walls, and all of the numerous minutiae for each...Read more...

Supporting People of all Abilities

02/02/2023 01:40:49 PM


The story of the Israelites’ freedom from the Egyptians is an emotional rollercoaster. It starts off bleak with slavery, but then a baby boy is whisked off to freedom in the Nile and there is a tinge of hope. But that new hope runs out as this boy (now man) runs away. Yet incidentally, this man (Moses) discovers God in the wilderness and is sent back to free the slaves, ushering a new wave of optimism. He makes his demands of...Read more...

Not My Trash, Not My Problem

01/12/2023 02:46:14 PM


When I was a counselor at Ramah Darom, we always ate at least one or two meals a week on the field outside the dining hall. We’d have a pizza lunch, or a BBQ dinner, and we would sit with our bunks and our campers under the cloudy summer skies. It was a nice experience that had an unfortunate downside of producing a lot of trash that was unclaimed towards the end of the meal. So, the camp would take a moment before finishing up...Read more...

Keeping Track of it All

12/08/2022 01:00:18 PM


There is an exercise I like to do with B’nai Mitzvah students when I have them try to remember a random number. I start off small and ask them to remember four numbers, and after they repeat them back, I then add subsequent sets of three or four numbers for them to remember, until they become overburdened and overwhelmed. Most students get to about 10-12 numbers. Some get a little further. Inevitably though, the students reach a...Read more...

Consistently Inconsistent

11/10/2022 01:51:11 PM


A truth about human nature is that we are consistently inconsistent. Who we are today, is not who we were twenty years ago, nor is it who we will be a couple of decades from now. We’ve grown from mistakes, explored new opportunities, tested different hypotheses, and compiled our findings into new courses of action every moment of every day. Certainly, we have preferences and habits, but it is as equally true that our behavior tomorrow can...Read more...

Do Not Read this Article

10/20/2022 12:13:27 PM


Don’t read this Shabbat Shalom article. I’m sure you already know what it's about. 

Fine, do what you want. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  

As far as plots go, the story of the Garden of Eden is predictable. God places human beings in a garden and tells them that they can eat from any tree they want – EXCEPT ONE. The camera lens zooms in on that Tree of Knowledge, and every...Read more...

Tis but a Scratch

09/08/2022 12:33:09 PM


My brother and I once took on the task of washing my parents’ car. It was a pleasant Sunday morning, we grabbed the sponges and rags, filled up a bucket with soap and got to work. The car wasn’t terribly dirty, but it did have some rust in some places. Wondering if the rust could come off, my brother and I discovered that you could polish the rust a little with some steel wool. Interestingly, the steel wool also worked really...Read more...

Agree to Disagree

08/04/2022 08:19:03 AM


In our interactions with family and friends, it sometimes happens that we touch upon taboo topics. Through past experiences and conversations, we know the other person’s thoughts on different things and have long ago agreed to disagree with them. Perhaps it’s about politics, or a pet-peeve, or even a past disagreement. We’ve already said our piece hundreds of times, and we already know how the other will...Read more...

A Hard Right

07/20/2022 10:50:52 AM


Back in the early days of the internet, I found myself in a predicament. I was taking a United States History class with an upcoming test. To prepare for the test I would look over my notes and any past tests and quizzes to make sure I didn’t repeat the same mistakes. However, I misplaced one of my past quizzes. I wondered if I could find a replacement quiz online – and after some searching, I was rewarded with a cache of all the quizzes...Read more...

Trusting the System

07/07/2022 10:50:31 AM


I’m not a fan of telling my children to do something simply because “I said so.” While I surely am one of the authority figures in my children’s life and they ought to listen to me, I feel like my children have the right to understand the rationality and reasons behind the things I ask of them. So when I am putting sunscreen on them in the morning and my oldest asks why he needs to put it on, I explain about the power of the sun,...Read more...

The Bigger Picture

06/16/2022 02:18:12 PM


Leave only footprints, take only pictures. This was the reminder that my father gave me this week as I spent time away with my family in the Great Smoky Mountains in the North Carolina area. As we ventured out to see the Deep Creek waterfalls with our kiddos in tow, we quelled all statements of “I’m hungry” with the plethora of snacks we lugged around with us. Subsequently, when the little ones devoured the snacks, they would...Read more...

Make Yourself at Home

06/02/2022 01:47:26 PM


There is no place like home. This is especially true when you are on vacation. While it is nice to be in a
new location with new routines and opportunities, I find that when I am away, I miss my bed and the
comforts of home. Moreover, when you throw children into the mix, it is much easier to entertain and
parent children surrounded by all their toys and belongings. Our homes ground us and center us. They
are our base of...

Tomorrow's Menu

05/19/2022 12:56:50 PM


During the early stages of the pandemic, I remember seeing images of grocery store shelves in other countries that were picked bare. The image prompted me to head to my grocery store and stock up on some of the shelf-stable staples so that my food supply wouldn’t be disrupted. And while it is true that over the course of the months to follow there were weeks that I found it hard to find flour, yeast,...Read more...

Parashat Kedoshim: Be Holy, Or Else! 

05/04/2022 12:29:19 PM


Rabbi Pamela Gottfried

"And you shall observe all my laws and all my judgments and do them, and the land to which I am bringing you to live in it will not vomit you out.” (Leviticus 20:22)

I am struck by the colorful language of this verse, which suggests the holy land itself will reject unholy inhabitants. Apparently, I hadn't noticed it or read it carefully in previous years of studying Torah.

Most of the Book of Leviticus contains instructions...

Once New, Now Old

04/20/2022 01:18:40 PM


Imagine you just bought something new and shiny. Congratulations! You’re full of excitement and eager to show it off to all your friends. You’re careful to keep it clean and unblemished. It’s a highlight of your day, your week, perhaps even your month. But as time keeps marching on, what was once new becomes old and familiar. You still value your item, but it’s now one of the many things you own. You’re happy you bought it, but...Read more...

Fist Bumps for Me

03/31/2022 02:30:20 PM


Here is the real reason I prefer fist bumps to handshakes. As a newly-minted rabbi, I was blessed to serve this wonderful congregation in Atlanta. I had started in the summer, and by fall I found myself fully engaged in executing high holiday services at B’nai Torah. I was overwhelmed with putting names to faces, so it truly is an anonymous memory when I recall shaking someone’s hand during a Torah procession. As he firmly...Read more...

Moving on from mistakes

03/17/2022 03:12:34 PM


I’m a dweller. When I mess up, I find myself replaying my mistake in my mind and wondering how I could have done things differently. And after wondering about it for some time and arriving at some sort of insight, I dwell on it and repeat the process. There is a certain dissatisfaction I have with myself when I make a mistake and a compelling need to make things better. But not every mistake is so easily fixed. So, I...Read more...

God is in the Details

03/02/2022 10:56:52 PM


My current morning routine starts by checking my phone seeking news related to Kyiv and Ukraine as a whole. There is a rollercoaster of emotion as I process the events in Europe; experiencing relief and awe at the courage and strength of the Ukrainian defendants, fear and impotence beneath the threat of nuclear escalation, and then shame as I reflect on my apathy towards other conflicts and warzones around the...Read more...

Sun, July 14 2024 8 Tammuz 5784