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Little by little

12/03/2020 10:50:04 AM

Dec3

At my childhood synagogue, the Torah was read following the triennial cycle. This would mean that we’d read a third of each parsha every week, rotating which third of the parsha was read each year. Since this meant that the amount to read for each Aliyah is shorter, and with skilled older siblings, I didn’t even need to learn all of my Bar Mitzvah readings myself. As a novice Torah reader, I was content to only...Read more...

Stop, Think, and Choose

11/19/2020 09:44:33 AM

Nov19

There is a short joke about a man whose only plan is to pick up a pair of eyeglasses. After that, he’ll see what happens.

It is tempting to approach life with a “spur of the moment” attitude. Why plan ahead when there are so many contingencies? It is hard work to contemplate what is in our best interests, especially when we might never know for sure if indeed we chose the best path forward. Thus, we...Read more...

Patience, You Must Have

11/05/2020 10:50:59 AM

Nov5

There is a story in Parshat Vayera that many a religious school teacher will gloss over in their review of the book of Genesis, and that is the story of Abraham’s nephew, Lot, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Aside from our tradition’s imagining of what was particularly so evil about these two cities, the story is also rife with problematic choices and behaviors, including Lot’s offering up his...Read more...

Successfully Joining Hands

10/21/2020 02:46:23 PM

Oct21

I once participated in the full contact sport of riding a bus in Israel, and along with my friends, jostled onto the bus only to notice that there were only two seats left for our party of three. We were riding from Jerusalem to Eilat, a three-and-a-half-hour trip, and didn’t want to waste the day of our vacation waiting for the next bus. So, we devised a plan for each of us to take the seat for a little bit, and then stand for...Read more...

Circling Chairs

10/08/2020 02:23:12 PM

Oct8

I'm going to admit that some of the things we are doing differently this Sukkot as a result of the virus have been amazingly enjoyable to me. Joining virtual services and Zoom meetings from my sukkah? It’s been great! Getting those picnic vibes by eating every meal with your family outside? You betcha! Not getting poked by the lulav of the person behind you during hoshanot? First time unscathed! But not everything...Read more...

Of Pencils and Ropes

09/24/2020 11:51:05 AM

Sep24

I have a bad habit of doing crossword puzzles with pens. This obvious error in judgment means that I invariably am squeezing letters next to scribbles, which themselves are next to scribbles, because of mistakes and new guesses. Third time’s the charm? I think the reason I don’t use a pencil is because pencils are sparse in my house. I know I can buy some, but then you have to sharpen them, and they always...Read more...

Torat Futon

09/09/2020 10:33:02 PM

Sep9

There is a futon in my basement that I’ve had since college. It previously belonged to my parents when they spent a year in New York and when they were leaving, I claimed it for myself. If schlepping it from my parent’s apartment to my dorm was move number one, then after multiple moves within New York City, shipping it to Atlanta would have been move number six. We’ve since relocated within our neighborhood...Read more...

First Flight

08/27/2020 11:25:39 AM

Aug27

At first, I thought it was a chance encounter to see a male and female cardinal outside my kitchen window a few months ago. But as the hours went by and the cardinals lingered, it piqued my interest and I went to investigate their continued presence. It was then that I noticed a baby fledgling in our back-patio. It seemed that the baby bird had fallen from the nest, and was only just stretching out its wings for the...Read more...

Incremental Steps

08/13/2020 11:49:08 AM

Aug13

As we hunkered down for Zoom Passover seders in April, I don’t think many of us really thought that this pandemic could be the reality for High Holidays half a year away. Since then, I think people have more sobering expectations for how prolonged this virus could last. If you would have told me in April that some schools might still be virtual at the end of summer, I don’t think I would have been ready to hear...Read more...

A cellphone mezuzah?

07/28/2020 05:04:50 PM

Jul28

My cellphone kicked the bucket this week, and it’s now that I realized how much mental space my phone takes up in my life. Right now, my mind is focused on worrying about being on the “grid” and being available to answer calls and messages. Instead of falling asleep or doing my part in keeping the household in order, I am spending more time figuring out how I can check my voicemail and whatsapp messages without a physical phone that...Read more...

Redeemable Villains

07/13/2020 12:15:29 AM

Jul13

There’s an old folktale about a village’s grumpy old wealthy man who passes away. Since he would always complain about everything, judge everyone he encountered, and never had a nice thing to say about anything, he didn’t acquire many friends. In fact, the opposite was true. He was miserable to be around, and at his funeral, there was nobody who truly mourned his loss. Yet, as the weeks went on, the village soon...Read more...

The Good Old Days

07/01/2020 04:45:07 PM

Jul1

 

These past few months, my family has been using online grocery shopping. Choosing the comfort and safety of our own living room, we have been placing our orders online, and letting someone else go through the aisles finding everything we need. Except it’s not a perfect situation. If the item we need is not in stock, we can either trust the shopper to choose a good alternative, or we can opt out of...Read more...

It's too late to apologize?

06/17/2020 06:40:34 PM

Jun17

When I get mad, I like to talk about how I am feeling. I like validation, but when my anger is justified, I really appreciate an apology. Yet, if I ask for an apology, then doubt enters my mind whether or not the apology is given because I asked for it, or because it was sincere. Of course, the flip side is true as well. When I am in the wrong, and an apology is asked of me, its important for me to not just apologize, but to show someone that...Read more...

Listening to our neighbors

06/04/2020 09:48:48 AM

Jun4

This week, our attention has turned to the voices of our Black brothers and sisters who are calling for change in our society. And it is a good thing that their voices are in the spotlight because American society often ignores, downplays and dismisses the voices of minorities. More often than not, it’s not a conscious choice. The Implicit Association Test created by psychologists Greenwald, McGhee and Schwartz...Read more...

May the odds be ever in your favor

05/14/2020 10:20:16 AM

May14

Everyone one knows that when you lose a game of rock-paper-scissors, you demand “best out of three,” so that you still have a chance to beat your opponent. You still have to win the next two games, but at least you have a fighting chance. And of course, if you lose any of the subsequent games, there is always “best out of five!” Or seven, or nine… However, with every last ditch effort to keep your hope of winning alive, the chances...Read more...

I Did My Best

04/30/2020 01:10:27 PM

Apr30

While teaching this week, I recalled a memory of a sub-par grade I got on a high school test. I studied the night before in preparation for the test and went into the test feeling confident that I’d do well. However, when I got my grades back, I clearly missed the mark. I complained to my dad that I was upset because I did the best I could do and still got a grade I wasn’t proud of. To which he inquired of me whether or not I truly...Read more...

Listen and Support

04/14/2020 02:04:24 PM

Apr14

“What does one say to mourners?” I often get this question when someone is planning to go to a shiva minyan. Recognizing the inadequacy of words, and the pressure to fill every silent moment with noise, people seek the right words to express their condolences. What I have found is that the best words one can share are those that express a commitment to listen and be a support. “What do you need?” “Tell me about your loved one?”...Read more...

More than Enough

03/18/2020 05:52:15 PM

Mar18

There is a joke that is often told about Parshat Vayahel-Pekudei that it records the only time in history where the Jewish people were told to stop giving money. After conveying God’s instructions for the building of the Tabernacle, the Israelites eagerly provide all the material and gold for the project. The donations were so great that the workers had to inform Moses that the Israelites had donated more than enough. Moreover, when...Read more...

When you put it that way…

03/05/2020 11:13:42 AM

Mar5

When I became first aware of Covid-19, I heard that it was called Coronavirus. However, I quickly learned that corona means “crown” Latin, and that there are many types of human coronaviruses. This novel coronavirus was a strand that wasn’t seen before, and thus was called Novel Coronavirus. However, diseases don’t respect borders, cultures, or nationalities, and thus instead of naming the virus something relating to geography (as was...Read more...

The Rationale

02/20/2020 11:44:10 AM

Feb20

What would you do? You are in your car in the middle of a completely empty and abandoned parking lot during the day. You can see a mile in every direction clearly, and there is nobody else around (evidently, it’s a very large parking lot!). You arrive at a stop sign. Should you stop? When I ask this question in my classes, there are two approaches to this question. One approach argues that you don’t really need to stop because there...Read more...

The Days of Yore

02/05/2020 03:07:49 PM

Feb5

Besides, the traffic, one of the major setbacks of Atlanta is that it is landlocked. Granted one can enjoy the scenic views along the Chattahoochee, or relax along engineered Lake Lanier, but they don’t compare to my memories of the Florida beaches where I grew up. Living a quick fifteen-minute drive from the beach meant that a spontaneous stroll along the boardwalk was a reality. Enjoying an ice-cream by the waves, or backgammon by the...Read more...

One Wasn't Enough?

01/22/2020 03:05:02 PM

Jan22

The US women’s national soccer team (USWNT) helped me understand this week’s parsha in a new light. If you like riddles, then stop reading and see if you can figure out where I might be going with this. For the rest of us, you might remember last summer, during the women’s World Cup, the USWNT shutout Thailand 13-0. The game marked the most goals scored in any World Cup game, and was a true testament to the skill and ability of these...Read more...

More than a Label

01/08/2020 11:33:34 AM

Jan8

Through my training as a camp counselor at Ramah Darom, I was taught to never label a camper negatively, but rather their actions. It’s not that the camper is a liar, but rather a person who told lies. Or it’s a camper who misbehaved or acted meanly towards others. The critical difference between the two is that when we call out a person’s actions, we are suggesting that they can behave differently. You told a lie, but you could also...Read more...

All or Something

12/25/2019 02:30:56 PM

Dec25

The story of Mattathias (Matityahu) and his five sons lies at the center of our celebration of Hanukkah. As conveyed in the apocryphal book of Maccabees, we learn of his zeal to repel the Syrian-Greeks, who sacked the temple after their successful campaign against Ptolemy in Egypt. We learn that the villain is the Hellenistic King Antiochus, and on this Festival of Lights, we recall how the small band of Maccabees repelled the stronger and...Read more...

Was that the best choice?

12/18/2019 04:51:29 PM

Dec18

You know how it feels when you miss a bargain because you are dragging your feet on a decision? Personally, I know I have missed a cheap flight or two because I was waiting to figure out what my final plans for a trip would be. As the proverbial saying goes, “the early bird catches the worm.” Yet, whenever I hear that phrase, I also hear the echo of my childhood friend who would add, “Yes, but the second mouse gets the cheese!”...Read more...

Jacob Rocks

12/05/2019 01:34:02 PM

Dec5

There aren’t many rocks in my life. Actually, there are a lot of rocks in my life, but I don’t really pay close attention to them; unless they are stuck in my shoe, or spit on my windshield from the dump truck ahead of me on the highway. Yet, in our walls, and in the asphalt that makes up the concrete jungle of our urban lives, there are rocks and minerals. And these rocks grant us protection and stability.

One of the plot...Read more...

Oh Brother! Why Bother?

11/07/2019 11:58:22 AM

Nov7

When it comes to families in the Bible, and brothers in particular, one can expect tension and drama. Just consider Cain and Able, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, or Joseph and his eleven brothers. Cain kills his brother Abel, Ishmael is banished, Jacob steals his brothers blessing, and Joseph is thrown into a pit. It seems that the Torah knows a thing or two about sibling rivalry, and while it makes for good drama in the biblical...Read more...

Guilty by Dissociation

10/30/2019 12:39:50 PM

Oct30

“A man is known by the company he keeps.” Which is to say, we tend to associate with people who are like us, and we reinforce each other’s positive and negatives behaviors. And perhaps it is this axiom that has always led me to believe that the Noah of the Bible was a recluse. Afterall, if the whole society is corrupt, then it must be that Noah is righteous because he has disassociated himself from the rest of society. He can transcend...Read more...

When You're not in a Foxhole

10/10/2019 12:48:46 PM

Oct10

They say there are no atheists in foxholes, and having never been in one, I can only presume it is true. But I have been chased by an angry swarm of bees, and I can confirm that some prayers for divine protection did escape my lips. I can also confirm that those prayers gave me and those around me some real courage to circumnavigate the venomous swarm. The idea that a prayer couldn’t hurt when you are in danger and afraid seems well...Read more...

Owning Your Judaism

09/25/2019 03:53:35 PM

Sep25

I’ve come to be called Rabbi K out of necessity. If it was up to me, I’d just be called Hillel; but I must acknowledge the situations and religious functions where the title is appropriate. So naturally I’d concede to Rabbi Hillel. But at B’nai Torah, a rabbi’s first name (Hillel) is easily misread and misheard as a rabbi’s last name (Heller), thus I became Rabbi LastName. And since my last name is only spelled correctly 75% of...Read more...

Fri, December 4 2020 18 Kislev 5781