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ונהפוך הוא "The opposite happened" (Esther 9:1)

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 9:05am -- Rabbi

What if the opposite happened, not just in the Purim story, but also in our lives?  What if the state of the world brought us not to despair but to resolve?  What if horrific gun violence did not dissolve us in a sea of tears and "thoughts and prayers" but strengthened our courage to stand up and end it?  What if awareness of our vulnerability prompted us not to withdraw from the world but to engage more deeply?  What if

"When Adar comes, joy increases" (Ta'anit 29a)

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 9:55am -- Rabbi

On Wednesday night we will enter the month of Adar, the month of the holiday of Purim.  On Purim we will read the crazy, upside-down story of Queen Esther, where despite evil counselors and foolish kings, all turns out well, and we are commanded to shout and sing and drink and eat in celebration.  But what if we don't feel like celebrating?  What if we're not feeling the joy?  In the world around us, injustice and threats to liberty and well-being abound;

MLK Day and justice

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 2:46pm -- Rabbi

On Monday we will celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his fight for racial and economic justice in the U.S., and it is amazing and wonderful that we have such a day built into the calendar of this country.  However, it would be a mistake to surround Dr. King's story with a golden glow, seeing a universally-acclaimed hero who succeeded in ridding the U.S. of its racist heritage.  In remembering Dr.

Finding comfort

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 1:55pm -- Rabbi

In this week's Torah reading, when Abraham despairs, God directs him to look to two places to find comfort:  to the dust of the earth and to the stars in the heavens.  Why?  When Abraham looks to the dust of the earth, he is reminded of the human community that surrounds him and provides his life on earth with meaning and connection.  When he looks up to the stars, Abraham is reminded that he is also connected to something far beyond t

Climate Change: An individual responsibility

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 3:58pm -- Rabbi

When the Holy Blessed One created the first human beings, God took them and showed them all the trees of the Garden of Eden and said to them, "See My works, how beautiful and praiseworthy they are! And everything that I created, I created it for you. Be careful not to spoil or destroy My world, for if you do, there will be nobody after you to repair it." (Midrash Kohelet Raba 7:19) 

A firm foundation of connection

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 4:55pm -- Rabbi

In the mystical Kabbalistic way of counting the Omer (the days between Pesach & Shavuot), we are in week 6, the week marked by the quality of y'sod.  The word y'sod literally means "foundation," but to the mystics, it also suggests the idea of "connection" and is associated with the Biblical figure of Joseph.

Humility in Leadership

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 10:37am -- Rabbi

This week's Torah portion, Emor, begins by addressing the Israelite priests, the sons of Aaron, and giving them a long list of restrictions they must follow in their service of God and the people.  This emphasizes a theme in the Torah: leadership is about service, sacrifice, and humility, not power, privilege, or pride.

Religion and politics

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 9:12am -- Rabbi

In 1954, Congress drew a careful line for religious institutions, legislating that religious leaders and organizations could speak out on social and political issues but could not endorse or oppose candidates for office. Although a small number of religious leaders have recently been advocating against this rule, as has the White House, the rule is overwhelmingly supported by both liberal and conservative clergy.  Why?

Speaking up for the earth

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 3:24pm -- Rabbi

We read in the Torah this week about tzara'at, an affliction that can affect not only people but also objects that come from the natural world.  The idea that both humans and nature are tied together, susceptible to the same afflictions and benefiting together from the same blessings that God showers on the world, is a constant theme in the Torah.

Yom HaShoah v'ha-G'vurah: A day of destruction and strength

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 2:01pm -- Rabbi

The obligation to remember the Holocaust calls on us to grapple with the horror and tragedy of the destruction of European Jewry and the individual stories of the six million Jews who lost their lives to a murderous ideology of hate directed at Jews for being Jews.  In Israel, this day is known as Yom HaShoah v'ha-G'vurah - a day of destruction and strength or heroism.

Friday night: Taking the first step

Fri, 04/14/2017 - 9:21am -- Rabbi

Tonight, our Friday night service will be abbreviated in honor of the Pesah holiday, as we omit the Kabbalat Shabbat portion of the service and begin with Ma'ariv.  As it is told in the Midrash, when the the Israelites were fleeing Egypt, Nachshon was the first to dip his toes into the Sea of Reeds, and only then did the waters part.

Enlivening The Seder

Fri, 03/31/2017 - 12:29pm -- Rabbi

People often ask for advice on which Hagadah they should use for their Pesach seder, and there are indeed a wide variety of hagadot coming from every conceivable angle and expanding the story of the Exodus in a myriad of directions.  But even more important than choosing a hagadah is deciding how it will be used.

Nurturing Freedom

Fri, 03/24/2017 - 9:40am -- Rabbi

On Tuesday we will celebrate Rosh Hodesh Nisan, entering the month of Pesach, which tells us that our seders and celebrations are only a few weeks away.  One of the key teachings of the holiday is that the move from slavery to freedom is not just an historical story, and it is not just a story that's relevant to Jews.

The Importance of Remembering

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 1:41pm -- Rabbi

Jewish teachings deal directly with a central fact of human existence:  human life is short. The reality that our time on this earth is limited prompts two key imperatives.  First, we must use our precious time wisely, doing our best to use our talents to help others, to act with kindness, and to move the world just a little bit forward toward a more perfect future.

Finding Joy in Difficult Times

Wed, 03/15/2017 - 10:10am -- Rabbi

In this month of Adar, and especially on the holiday of Purim, we are taught that we should be at least twice as happy as we normally are.  How can this be?  As I have often noted, it is not because we expect that on Purim the world and our lives in it will suddenly be transformed and perfected.

A prayer for voting

Fri, 11/04/2016 - 4:28pm -- Rabbi

As we reach the end of this long and tumultuous election season, I wanted to share with you this prayer from the Rabbinical Assembly that reminds us of the awesome power of voting and asks God for guidance and insight as we make the weighty decisions before us.

Sukkot and the harvest

Fri, 10/14/2016 - 10:23am -- Rabbi

Sukkot is a beautiful time of year both here and in Israel, when we see the fruits of the summer being harvested and when we feel the fruit of our work in Elul, on Rosh Hashanah, and on Yom Kippur ripening into joy.

The mitzvah of equal treatment

Fri, 09/16/2016 - 8:56am -- Rabbi

This week's Torah portion, Ki Tetse, contains a large number of diverse mitzvot, but many of them circle around a common theme:  treating those we encounter equally.  From the laws of returning lost objects to the requirement to use honest weights and measures, these mitzvot ask us to hold ourselves to a fixed standard of behavior whether we are interacting with a relative, a neighbor, a stranger, or even an enemy.

"Descent for the sake of ascent"

Fri, 08/12/2016 - 7:51am -- Rabbi

If we look at the stories of the matriarchs and patriarchs of the Torah, we see again and again that they face enormous challenges as they seek to follow a path toward God.  The ancient rabbis taught that this is no accident.  Facing difficult challenges is an important part of the journey of the Jewish people, shaping our character and destiny.  Without them, we would never be able to reach the highest parts of ourselves.

Remembering Ferguson

Fri, 08/05/2016 - 12:41pm -- Rabbi

In the coming week, on August 9th, we will mark the second anniversary of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, an event that unleashed a firestorm of protest over the unequal treatment of black people by police in particular and racial inequality in the U.S. in general.  We are still hearing the echoes of Ferguson in the continuing discourse about racial justice taking place in our country today.


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