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Tomorrow's Menu

05/19/2022 12:56:50 PM

May19

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

May4

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...Read more...

Once New, Now Old

04/20/2022 01:18:40 PM

Apr20

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

Mar31

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

Mar17

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

Mar2

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...

All Voices Count

02/17/2022 03:02:20 PM

Feb17

If we truly want to reach our full potential as a society, we must make room for all voices to join the conversation. This is the reminder that we set for ourselves every February as we mark Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion month (JDAAIM).  While we know that every person walks a unique path in life, we can sit down with one another and share a snapshot of our experiences and truths with another...Read more...

Imbued Meaning

02/03/2022 02:12:19 PM

Feb3

My parents once gifted me a really nice tool set while I was still in high school. The set had every tool one could ever need, though as a high school student, there wasn’t much I needed them for. Once I graduated college and moved out of the dorms, I asked my parents to bring my really nice tool set to help me set up my new place. However, my parents had forgotten that the really nice tool set was mine and instead brought up the...Read more...

Intended Consequences

01/06/2022 12:49:38 PM

Jan6

To get unpunctual people to show up on time, tell them an earlier start time. Thus, when they show up late, they are actually on time. While a little devious, many well-meaning people use this trick, especially for important events. The only downside is that you make the punctual people extra early for events and cause much thumb twiddling. All of our words and actions have consequences. We would be wise to be more intentional when...Read more...

The Right Perspective

12/23/2021 12:04:54 PM

Dec23

In a rabbinical school class reflecting on the pastoral internships we were working at at the time, a classmate brought up an interaction she had with an elderly man she was working with. It turned out that every time she met with this man, he would tell the same stories over and over again. Frustrated and weary to have to spend time with him again, she brought the case-study to our class where the group explored her options....Read more...

Have you heard?

12/09/2021 12:42:59 PM

Dec9

As social creatures, we are quick and eager to share news about the world and our experiences, even more so if it is news about someone else! We are naturally curious to hear what others have been up to, and especially intrigued when they relate something unexpected. Perhaps this is a means of uncovering any dangers or threats that others have encountered. After all, we know that gossip can spread like wildfire, and that bad news...Read more...

To be continued...

11/23/2021 03:21:46 PM

Nov23

I’m conflicted about cliffhangers. On the one hand, when a television show or movie presents me with the ominous words, “to be continued,” I’m full of disappointment, impatience and frustration. I know that the story will be resolved, but I’m just going to have to wait a little longer for any resolutions. However, there is immense possibility when you know that there is more of the story yet to come. I remember the sadness...Read more...

Manners Matter

11/04/2021 03:25:57 PM

Nov4

One of the most meaningful moments of shabbat and holiday observance is sharing a meal with friends and family. Growing up in a rabbinic family, my parents would invite congregants to our home to get to know them better and to enjoy each other’s company. My parents once invited a family over that had rambunctious children. At one point, one of the children was acting like a vilde chayeh (Yiddish: a wild animal) and the parent...Read more...

Mirroring God

10/20/2021 02:47:08 PM

Oct20

When I was a camper at Ramah Darom, I remember a program about the Birkot Hashachar blessings that are said as part of the morning service. That day, instead of reciting the series of short blessings, one after another, we instead made our way to activity stations that were each focused on specific blessings. One in particular that stands out in my mind was an activity for the blessing about God removing sleep from our eyes and...Read more...

While you wait

10/07/2021 12:27:34 PM

Oct7

“The Flood continued forty days on the earth, and the waters increased and raised the ark so that it rose above the earth” (Genesis 7:17). I used to think that forty days being cooped up with family was a long time. And then I experienced the pandemic lockdowns, and now I certainly know that forty days cooped up with family is indeed a long time!*

“The waters then receded steadily from the earth at the...Read more...

The Eye of the Beholder

09/23/2021 12:35:24 PM

Sep23

For those who ordered a lulav and etrog set this year, or in years past, you surely noticed that our vendor sells sets that are categorized as “children’s”, “standard”, or “supreme” (“rabbi’s”). But as you might have suspected, lulavim and etrogim don’t grow with these labels on their stems. While we say the main difference between them is their size, that’s not the entire picture. Like Plato’s theory of...Read more...

A Year in Review

09/09/2021 10:02:52 AM

Sep9

As I’ve been reflecting on my family’s High Holiday experience, I realized that my pandemic baby has never had an in-person encounter with the Torah. Whereas my oldest was a regular in the beit midrash and sanctuary and would accompany me to minyan, my pandemic baby must assume that synagogue life is two-dimensional and virtual. To be fair, my daughter has experienced a tot service here or there, but her exposure to synagogue...Read more...

I know (that) one!

08/25/2021 03:27:12 PM

Aug25

When I think of a Passover Seder, particularly the Maggid section, I have memories of each participant around the table taking turns to read passages from our tradition - sometimes in Hebrew and sometimes in English. One of those passages that we read is taken from this week’s portion, parshat Ki Tavo, about an ancestor who was a wandering Aramean, whose family went down to Egypt where they were treated harshly, and God took out...Read more...

Do it Yourself

08/12/2021 01:04:58 PM

Aug12

I first encountered the concept of “logical consequences” as a camp counselor at Ramah Darom. As part of our training, we were taught that when a camper’s behavior needs some course correction, it is always better to find a consequence that logically would follow from the intentions of the original wrong instead of some disconnected punishment. For example, if a camper was insulting someone, then you would explain how that...Read more...

Not in the plans

07/29/2021 12:39:59 PM

Jul29

It’s that time of year again, where the summer is winding down and we begin thinking about the routines that we will start in the fall to carry us through the year. From a synagogue perspective, it’s the time of year where we are finalizing the main programs for our program calendar and thinking through all the opportunities to get involved with our community. In and of itself, this is a complicated balancing...Read more...

Part of the world

07/21/2021 11:04:35 AM

Jul21

There is a tendency for humans to place themselves at the center of the universe; to feel that all of the cosmos and all of creation is at our disposal. We believe that all of these natural resources are there for us to use however and whenever we want, and rarely do we slow down as a society and question if our wants and needs ought to supersede the needs of animals, or even of other inanimate objects. It is almost...Read more...

One and Done

07/14/2021 11:28:32 PM

Jul14

In my home growing up, if ever we were to complain about a boring class we were taking, my father would quickly remind us that there is something worse than taking a bad class: having to retake it again. The implication was that even though we might not have found the class engaging, it was still wise to do our best lest we have to repeat the class and end up back where we started. Of course, this wisdom doesn’t only apply to...Read more...

Even though I've been there

07/08/2021 10:10:51 AM

Jul8

A few years ago, I remember reading an article about how the proverb “don’t judge others until you’ve walked in their shoes” doesn’t work as intended. The saying asserts that you shouldn’t be quick to judge others because you don’t understand the other person’s perspective as you haven’t had the same experiences as them. Instead, you should give them the benefit of the doubt. Only if you understood where they are...Read more...

Play to your strengths

07/01/2021 10:50:59 AM

Jul1

This week, the YouTube algorithm introduced me to Karen Kavett. Known for her YouTube channel Karen Puzzles, Karen regularly posts videos of her doing, you guess it, puzzles. Objectively, it didn’t seem like something I would enjoy watching, but the video was entitled “I BOUGHT MY DREAM PUZZLE (24,000 Piece Puzzle – Part 1 of 6)” and I was intrigued. How long does it take someone to do such a colossal puzzle? How would one...Read more...

Getting other voices amplified

06/03/2021 04:00:29 PM

Jun3

A few times a month, especially when something in the world has gone sideways, I receive emails and questions looking to start a conversation to make sense of the new developments covered in our news cycles. I’m asked where the leaders on both sides of the aisle are, and why aren’t they speaking out about anti-Semitism or about our Jewish community’s response to racism or other issues. And through the handful of years I have...Read more...

A Pre-Shabbat Blessing

05/20/2021 02:53:18 PM

May20

My parents were once on a canoe tour with a guide one Friday. As they were paddling along the rivers, their cell-phone rang and my parents answered the call. Amidst the wildlife and plants of nature, floating on the serene waters that redirected the lazy breeze, I imagine my parents chatting on the phone opposite a grumpy tour guide who resented this couple who could not leave their cellphones at home. But what the...Read more...

Says who?

05/06/2021 12:18:49 PM

May6

I have a problem with authority. Nobody does what I tell them! (Cue drum and cymbal). 

We take our American rights and liberties very seriously. Living under a government by the people, for the people, we have a deep sense that the ultimate power and authority in our community comes from individual citizens. As long as our actions don’t harm ourselves nor the people around us, we adopt an attitude of live...Read more...

You, Y'all, All Y'all

04/22/2021 10:31:49 AM

Apr22

One of the more frustrating experiences in elementary school was when the entire class was punished for the rambunctiousness of a handful of individuals. “We’re all going to sit here quietly for five minutes, and if anyone makes a sound the time starts over…” As a well-behaved student who generally followed the rules, I found it a waste of time to sit there quietly while more impulsive kids got their wise-cracks in to test...Read more...

Did you hear about the pork?

04/08/2021 12:33:55 PM

Apr8

There was a rhyme that my Jewish day school peers and I used to chant when we caught wind of some juicy gossip that we wanted to hear, but the owner of the gossip didn’t want to share it because it was Lashon Harah (Literally: “bad tongue/language,” Evil Speech.) We’d chant, “Lashon Harah, Lamed Hay, tell it to me anyway.” (“Lamed” and “Hay” being the first two Hebrew letters of each of these lines.) Of...Read more...

Of Blood and Wine

03/25/2021 07:01:19 PM

Mar25

There are many interactive parts to the seder, but the part that is most hands on is undeniably the dipping of our fingers into our wine during the ten plagues (see what I did there?). As explained by our Sages, we diminish our joy of being free by remembering the cost of such freedom – the suffering and death of the Egyptians. Afterall, what is more sobering than literally decreasing the volume of wine in our...Read more...

Sun, May 22 2022 21 Iyyar 5782