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Listening to our neighbors

06/04/2020 09:48:48 AM


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


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


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


“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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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...

Oh Brother! Why Bother?

11/07/2019 11:58:22 AM


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


“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


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


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...

Don't Stop Believing

09/12/2019 09:40:42 AM


I was in between classes when it became clear that there was an attack on the World Trade Center buildings in New York. I remember passing by the Senior Lounge, a room in our school that had a television with cable that was packed with students and teachers taking in the news. Later in the day we heard news of a crash in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon. I remember my friends being picked up from school early. I remember the shock, the fear,...Read more...

Because It Makes Us Better

08/29/2019 01:50:06 PM


As I have grown older, my love for a good board game has not changed. However, what has changed is the complexity level of the games I’m now playing. Perhaps the games themselves have become more complicated, perhaps I myself am a little more sophisticated, or perhaps both. But it is clear that learning these games, and playing these games, requires a lot more of my attention. Occasionally, I am learning a new game that has too many rules...Read more...

Paying More Attention to God

08/15/2019 01:40:12 PM


Sleep & Wellbeing: 32%. Work Meetings: 15%. Email: 10%. Eating: 8%. Miscellaneous Work: 8%. Downtime and Housework: 8%. Prayer: 5%. Learning: 5%. Writing Shabbat Shalom Article: 2%. Relaxing with Family: 2%. Gardening: 2%. Commuting: 2%. Math for this Article: 1%.

This is approximately how my time was allocated this past Wednesday. From the moment I woke up, my mind began to populate thoughts of things I needed to start doing;...Read more...

My Meaning and Theirs

07/31/2019 04:05:34 PM


Shabbat Mattot-Masei

Over the last few decades, the way we take pictures has changed. I often find myself tricking the people who are the subjects of my photos by taking multiple pictures AS I count to three, and not just one single click at the culmination of...Read more...

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...

A Particular Take on Things

07/11/2019 09:40:58 AM


I am a Rabbinic Jew. Not because I went to seminary to acquire rabbinic ordination, but because the Judaism I practice is based on the interpretations of scripture through the lens of centuries of rabbinic discourse. This is to say that the religious laws that we encounter in our Bible are not always taken literally, but rather are understood via a particular legal system that guided early Jewish sages. Traditionally, this legal system is...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...

Thou Shalt Share

05/09/2019 09:41:54 AM


I used to have an expensive watch that I kept in a box under my bed. It was a gift from a family friend for my Bar Mitzvah and was something I thought was pretty special. It was made with real gold, and had a nice leather band. It definitely added sophistication to any of my fancy outfits. I didn’t wear it often, as I was worried I would scratch it inadvertently or maybe even lose it. So I only wore it for special occasions. Yet in the long...Read more...

What Was I Just Doing?

04/25/2019 09:42:37 AM


I remember reading a few years ago about a study from the University of Notre Dame on the phenomenon of forgetting something when you walk into a room. Has that ever happened to you? You get off the couch to do something, and as you stand in the middle of the room scratching your head, you wonder, “what was it I was going to do?” Professor Gabriel Radvansky explained that when you pass through a doorway, it acts as an “event boundary”...Read more...

Maybe You Shouldn't

04/11/2019 09:43:15 AM


More than thirteen years ago, I used to make the argument about why eating meat made a lot of sense. Not only are our teeth sharp enough to chew meat and that our stomachs have enzymes to break down that meat, but meat smells and tastes really good. I can recall the aromatic smells of barbequing meat at state fairs, and how pleasing I found that smell. The meat wasn’t kosher, mind you, but the smell was quite satisfying. Since our bodies...Read more...

Serving Wholeheartedly

03/28/2019 09:43:51 AM


In Parshat Shmini, Aaron and his family receive the commandment that the priests are not to serve God while intoxicated. Rabbi Simcha Bonem explains that one should serve God out of one’s own joy and not from the joy which stems from being under the influence of alcohol. As such, the commandment ensures that the priests are owners of their emotional and psychological state, and are wholehearted in their service to God without external...Read more...

Sun, January 29 2023 7 Shevat 5783