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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...

Do it Yourself

08/12/2021 01:04:58 PM


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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...

Complex Yet Possible

03/11/2021 12:54:04 PM


During the early months of the pandemic, and probably as a result of our hyper focus on toilet paper supplies, I set out to create a contraption of sorts with the kiddo where a ball would travel through a complex path through connected toilet paper rolls. Armed with duct-tape, I attached these cylindrical pieces to the wall at gentle slopes, with the hopes that gravity would bring the ball from the top to the base...Read more...

Note to Self

02/25/2021 11:43:08 AM


I used to live on a street in New York City that had angled parking. It was obviously a wider street than most New York cross-streets, and these angled parking spots were hot commodities for those with sub-par parallel parking skills. On snowy days, snow plows would come through and clear the street, pushing a mound of snow behind the line of cars parked outside my apartment. This meant that at the end of the...Read more...

Time to Understand Others

02/11/2021 10:52:24 AM


A mother once told her son that he was beginning to lack empathy. The son didn’t understand how she could feel that way about him.

If there is a theme in Parshat Mishpatim, it would be empathy. The portion contains a series of laws that ensures that society is more equitable and just. The code of laws begins with laws on how to treat a slave, and continues with laws for accidental manslayers, physical...Read more...

Arrogance leads to forgetfulness

01/28/2021 02:24:15 PM


There is a Rabbinic teaching about how anger and arrogance make a person forget their learning (Talmud Pesachim 66a). The truth of such an axiom is apparent wherever one observes the irrational behavior of one whose temper gets the better of them. How many verbal sparring matches have seen words thrown around that were immediately regretted once vocalized? Thus, it isn’t so much of a stretch to understand why our...Read more...


01/13/2021 11:53:34 PM


Half-buoyant, with muscles heavy,
eyes blinking to cleanse the sea-spray, 
a stable shore, though it rocks to and fro,
a far hope, a naïve “someday.”

More rowing, my body protests.
The current dictates with great force. 
Why bother? Why try? It is all in vain.
I’ve resigned to this hapless course. 

Like the prophet’s words in Egypt,
unheard by the flocks weary ear.
The...

A Chance To Do Better

12/30/2020 07:40:44 AM


I was once taught that when being critical of others, it is better to associate the problem with their actions and not with their entire being. Rather than label them as annoying, one should instead should name the specific act that they are doing as annoying. Instead of calling them a liar, it is better to point out that they chose to lie. What is the practical difference in having such an approach? By labeling the...Read more...

The Bigger Picture

12/17/2020 12:04:34 PM


One of the features of human intelligence is our ability to imagine the future and build on our own past experiences and the experiences of others. Our culture continues to evolve and each generation hopes to build upon the wisdom of their ancestors. We better understand the world in which we live and see further down the road that we call the future. On our best days, our models and predictions are accurate. But...Read more...

Little by little

12/03/2020 10:50:04 AM


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


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


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


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


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...

Fri, December 1 2023 18 Kislev 5784