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Balak Shasha

07/18/2019 03:46:26 PM


Many of us have been taught the proverb to “not judge others until you have walked in their shoes.” The message associated with it is that you should reserve judgement of others because you might not have fully considered their unique life circumstances. If you did understand where they were coming from, then perhaps you would judge them with more compassion. However, it turns out that humans work in the opposite way. In 2015,...Read more...

Why do Jews pray?

06/20/2019 04:32:53 PM


Often, I ask my students, "why do Jews pray?" and often, they answer, "because God told us to." Admittedly, this is an accurate answer, but when I inquire further about the reasoning behind this particular commandment, I am often met with silence. Which means that for many of them, when they come to services, they aren't really sure why they are there other than the sense of duty and obligation that requires it of them. But for those who make...Read more...

Wild(erness) and Free

06/06/2019 04:34:26 PM


Being alone in the wilderness is a profound experience. Over the course of my life, I have been blessed with moments of solitude in nature, surrounded by the majesty of our universe. Whether on an endless beach alone in the early morning, a deserted trail on a forested mountainside, or on an outcrop beneath the blanket of stars in the Southern Negev of Israel, there have been a handful of moments where I have successfully encountered a...Read more...

I've Got the Whole World in my Hands

05/23/2019 04:35:01 PM


I once turned a rock into a bookend. It initially was a hulk of soapstone with a blueish-green hue that was in the form of what a typical person would define as rock-shaped. But after hours with a metal file, and sheets of sandpaper, I carved and polished the stone into a heart-shaped piece of art designed to hold up books in the middle of a shelf. Creating something from scratch is a rewarding experience. It is quite amazing that I can turn...Read more...


06/02/2017 09:53:08 PM


As I was aimlessly driving the streets of Sandy Springs trying to get my son to fall asleep in the back seat, it dawned on me that it’s quite strange to drive around aimlessly without a destination in mind. Usually, from the second I get into the car I have the route planned out; either in my head or on the GPS. Turn left in 500 ft, then turn right. Done and done. But when you are driving just for the sake of driving, where do you go? I...Read more...


05/24/2017 09:53:08 PM


When someone in my family does something spectacular, I feel a sense of pride that I am eager to share with others. There is a sense of connectedness that I feel between me and my family and I feel a part of their success and greatness, even though it doesn’t have anything to do with me. And I’d bet you’ve felt the same way too. The converse is true as well. When someone in my family messes up, I feel like they can drag me down with...Read more...


05/10/2017 09:53:08 PM


When engaging in discourse on Israeli current events, one often hears people talk about a double standard. The idea stipulates that the world holds other countries to a particular standard, and a different one when it comes to Israel; usually a higher moral standard that requires Israel to justify actions that other countries don’t seem to have to justify. Instead, some people would argue that Israel should be held to the same standard as...Read more...


04/26/2017 09:53:08 PM


I was once on a tiyul (a hike) with a family friend in Israel, and along the trail was some sort of small concrete block with a few bolts sticking out of the top. I might not have even noticed it if my family friend didn’t stop, puzzled, trying to figure out what this construction remnant might have been. It just so happens that this hiking companion is an engineer and this was the type of thing he enjoyed thinking about.
We...

Shabbat Pesach

04/10/2017 09:53:08 PM


What is it about Passover that inspires those who don’t observe the dietary laws of Kashrut year-round to eat matzah for a week? And what is it about Passover that makes it more visible and celebrated than Shavuot, another one of the Shalosh Reglaim, the three pilgrimage festivals?
Part of the answer was explained by Marshall Sklare and Joseph Greenblum in the 1960s. Based on their research they concluded that in order for...Read more...


03/30/2017 09:53:08 PM


In America ignorance of the law is no excuse. That is to say that even if you had no idea that such a law existed, if you break the law then you are accountable. According to such logic, the onus is on each citizen to review all of the local and federal laws to ensure that one doesn’t inadvertently break the law. Laws in Judaism work the same way. In Parshat Vayikra, Moses relates specific commands for an Israelite who violates the law without...Read more...

Ki Tissa

03/15/2017 09:53:08 PM


On the heels of the great sin of the Golden Calf, before the new set of commandments is carved, Moses exclaims to God: “Let me behold your presence!” Coming up from the spiritual low of the nation’s disloyalty to God and approaching the holy zenith of receiving the new tablets, Moses yearns to know God. But doesn’t Moses already know God!? Hasn’t he been in conversation with the Divine from his shepherd days at the burning bush? Why...Read more...


02/22/2017 09:53:08 PM


“Did you hear the news about him? Well, actually, I probably shouldn’t tell”
“What a tease! Now you have to tell me!”
Speaking comes so naturally to many of us, that we often forget to think before we speak. If we are lucky, we think as we speak, and occasionally we speak without even thinking at all. Our speech plays such a central role in our social interactions that it quickly becomes second nature....Read more...


02/08/2017 09:53:08 PM


As Parshat B'shalach begins, we are told that God chooses not to take the Israelites on the shorter path to the Promised Land, through the land of the Philistines, but rather the round-about way in the wilderness and the Sea of Reeds. The Torah explains that if the Israelites were to take the shorter path than they would see war and they would want to return to Egypt. So instead they are led on a longer journey. And… it doesn’t seem to...Read more...


01/26/2017 09:53:08 PM


The Torah paints a picture that there is a tradeoff between humility and social power.  The humbler a person is, the greater that person is in the eyes of the community. Moses is the epitome of humility. When given the option of being God’s prophet, a spokesperson of the Divine, he says “no thanks,” and only agrees because God commands him to take on the role. And as readers of the text, we understand this as the perfect person for...Read more...


01/11/2017 09:53:08 PM


Oaths are a fascinating thing. In its simplest form, an oath is an agreement to fulfill certain actions and behave in a certain way. At the time the oath is made, the action has yet to be realized. Yet the power of the oath assures us that the action will in fact be carried out. We trust oaths.  And that is why we shun the practice of breaking oaths. If we can’t trust people to live up to their promises, then how can we trust people to...Read more...

Fri, July 19 2019 16 Tammuz 5779