Devarim (Deuteronomy 1:1- 3:22)

01 Sep
September 1, 2013

I was sitting in my study this week with a couple who have been members of my synagogue for over 35 years. They were recounting a recent experience they had when celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and it made me think about this week’s Torah portion. Read more →

Balak 2005 (Numbers 22:2-25:9)

28 Aug
August 28, 2013

Sometimes one of the hardest things in life is not to care about what other people think of me. When I was growing up throughout elementary school, I was the smallest kid in my class. We used to take class pictures by height, and I always stood at the end of the line. As a result my vertically challenged place in life was so deeply ingrained in my childhood, that when I actually sprouted up in high school to a pretty average male height of 5’ 10”, I still always saw myself as shorter than everyone else. In fact, to this day I am continually surprised every time I notice that I am taller than someone else is. Read more →

Balak (Numbers 22:2-25:9)

21 Aug
August 21, 2013

It was watching that lovely sixteen-year-old with both legs in bandages, struggling to take a few painful steps down the hallway of the hospital in Tel Aviv with her walker that got to me first. There I was last Monday afternoon, the first of four intense days in Israel on a “Fact Finding Solidarity Mission” with a handful of lay leaders from the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles, watching her courage and trying to hold back the tears. We were visiting at the time with nine remarkably brave teenagers who had survived the horrific terrorist suicide bombing just one month ago at the popular teen disco on the beach in Tel Aviv called The Dolphenarium. Read more →

Masei (Numbers 30:1-36:13)

14 Aug
August 14, 2013

I had the opportunity this morning to participate at the Jewish Federation building in a live video-conference with Israel and listen to the perspective of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin. He is the founder and Chief Rabbi of Efrat, a community of about 10,000 Jews located some 6 miles south of Jerusalem. Read more →

Matot

07 Aug
August 7, 2013

Pinkhas (Numbers 25:10-30:1)

01 Aug
August 1, 2013

I keep thinking about my trip last week to Israel. It reminded me of those t-shirts that I see from time to time (usually on African Americans who seem to have the largest families), which proudly announce: “Johnson Family Gathering – Hattie, Mississippi, July 20-24, 1998.” My whirlwind, four-day visit to Israel felt the same – like I needed a t-shirt that said, “Jewish Family Gathering – Tel Aviv/Jerusalem, Israel – July 2-6, 2001.” Of course it was like a Jewish family reunion where only a few of us came to join the 5 million family members who already live there. Read more →

Shelakh 2 (Numbers 13:1-15:41)

28 Jul
July 28, 2013

The signs of a spiritual renaissance are all around us.  Candidates are increasingly running for public office while openly touting their religious pedigrees as “believers” and even “born again” men and women.  The shelves in bookstores throughout the country are filled with the latest books on finding your spiritual path, discovering the meaning of life, embracing the light of spirituality and often understanding the most esoteric ancient mystical teachings in three easy lessons. Read more →

Shelakh (Numbers 13:1-15:41)

21 Jul
July 21, 2013

I can’t help it. I’d like to write about something else, but I can’t. I wish I could just share your basic, run of the mill inspirational Torah commentary this week, but my heart isn’t in it. I don’t really want to burden you with my own personal sorrow, but I have to talk about Erika, because ever since she died last Thursday, I have hardly thought of anything else. Read more →

Hukat (Numbers 19:1-22:1)

14 Jul
July 14, 2013

This week we read of the death of both of Moses’s siblings, Miriam and Aaron. According to Jewish tradition, throughout the forty years of wandering in the desert the Children of Israel were blessed with a miraculous well of water that followed them wherever they went. It was called “Miriam’s Well,” for it existed due to the merit of Miriam who was the greatest prophetess in Jewish history. Read more →

Korakh (Numbers 16:1-18:32)

07 Jul
July 7, 2013

Some people just can’t take yes for an answer. They are so committed to complaining about life, searching for things to be upset about, reveling in their role as victims of others that they simply can’t accept that things are going well for them no matter what. Read more →

Korah (Numbers 16:1-18:32)

01 Jul
July 1, 2013

Moses faces the most serious challenge to his leadership in his entire career this week. It comes from a man named Korah who was himself part of the leadership elite of the Israelites and a member of Moses’s own tribe. Korah accuses Moses of the sin of acting as if he is holier than (read – “more important than”) everyone else, while at the same time claiming that all of Israel is “a kingdom of priests.” Read more →

Behaalotkha 2006 (Numbers 8:1-12:16)

28 Jun
June 28, 2013

I was witness to a miracle last week. Really. It was one of the most powerful and profound moments I have ever been privileged to experience and it touched me so deeply that it brought tears to my eyes. I was reminded of what the great Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides once said about the nature of miracles. Maimonides, or Rambam as Jewish tradition always calls him was the ultimate Aristotelian Jewish rationalist of the 12th century and he had a remarkable ability to balance the theological expectations of a thousand years of Jewish tradition and his personal rigorous intellectual demands for integrity at the same time. When writing about the phenomenon of miracles in the world Maimonides wrote, “Miracles do not come to demonstrate what is impossible, but rather to show what is possible.” That was exactly what happened to me last week – I experienced the miracle of the possible. Read more →

Behaalotkha-2 (Numbers 8:1-12:16)

14 Jun
June 14, 2013

I was witness to a miracle last week. Really. It was one of the most powerful and profound moments I have ever been privileged to experience and it touched me so deeply that it brought tears to my eyes. I was reminded of what the great Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides once said about the nature of miracles. Maimonides, or Rambam as Jewish tradition always calls him was the ultimate Aristotelian Jewish rationalist of the 12th century and he had a remarkable ability to balance the theological expectations of a thousand years of Jewish tradition and his personal rigorous intellectual demands for integrity at the same time. When writing about the phenomenon of miracles in the world Maimonides wrote, “Miracles do not come to demonstrate what is impossible, but rather to show what is possible.” That was exactly what happened to me last week – I experienced the miracle of the possible. Read more →

Behaalotkha (Numbers 8:1-12:16)

07 Jun
June 7, 2013

I know many people who talk as if their lives are dictated by divine forces beyond their control. Sometimes it comes out in the form of “You know rabbi, I believe that everything happens for a reason.” Sometimes it is as direct as believing that no matter what happens, “It’s God’s will.” Read more →

Naso 2005 (Numbers 4:21-7:89)

01 Jun
June 1, 2013

One of my favorite passages in the Talmud, is the phrase, “More important than reciting blessings, is to be a blessing.” In many ways it sums up for me the Jewish attitude about the role of human beings in the world. Our job is to be a blessing to others, not only to our family and friends, but to strangers we don’t even know and even to the very earth itself. Read more →