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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...

All Voices Count

02/17/2022 03:02:20 PM


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


“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


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


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


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...

Sat, March 25 2023 3 Nisan 5783