Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89)

28 May
May 28, 2013

I remember the day of my rabbinic ordination, some 26 years ago, as if it were yesterday. I had spent five years studying at the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, first in Jerusalem, then in Los Angeles and finally in New York. There I was after all those years of study standing on the ornate marble bima of Temple Emanuel in New York City about to be ordained as a rabbi in Israel. Read more →

Bamidbar (Numbers 1:1-4:20)

21 May
May 21, 2013

A young woman called asking if I would be willing to visit with her 95-year-old grandmother. She seemed to be slipping away from life more and more each day, and had been asking to speak with a rabbi. I didn’t know the woman or her family, but I figured anyone who lives to be 95 years old deserves to have a visit from just about anyone she wants (besides, I’ll go anywhere to meet with anyone who actually asks to see a rabbi). So I went. Read more →

Bekhukotai (Leviticus 26:3 – 27:34)

14 May
May 14, 2013

I have had the pleasure and privilege (as you know by now) of serving as the president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California for the past two years representing over 260 Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative and Orthodox rabbis in our community. This afternoon I earned the new title of “immediate past president” as Rabbi Robert Gan was installed in my place. It’s hard to convey the mixture of emotions I felt as I handed over the reigns of responsibility to Bob, but it was mostly a profound sense of gratitude to my colleagues for the honor they have afforded me these past two years. Read more →

Behar-Behukotai (Leviticus 25:1-27:34)

07 May
May 7, 2013

Waiting for freedom to come takes many forms. Although it is understandable that when I write about freedom most people may immediately think of traumatic political situations around the globe – the tragedy of Darfur or the long-running struggle for independence from the Chinese that the Dalai Lama and his Tibetan followers have experienced for decades. Read more →

Behar (Leviticus 25:1-27:34)

01 May
May 1, 2013

I have had the pleasure and privilege (as you know by now) of serving as the president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California for the past two years representing over 260 Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative and Orthodox rabbis in our community. This afternoon I earned the new title of “immediate past president” as Rabbi Robert Gan was installed in my place. It’s hard to convey the mixture of emotions I felt as I handed over the reigns of responsibility to Bob, but it was mostly a profound sense of gratitude to my colleagues for the honor they have afforded me these past two years. Read more →

Vayakhel-pekuday (Exodus 35:1-40:38)

28 Apr
April 28, 2013

Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan once taught that religious identity is based on the “three Bs” of believing, belonging, and behaving. Most religious traditions begin with a foundation of believing. Christianity, for example, is based in large measure on a belief in Jesus as the son of God, and the savior of human souls, on beliefs having to do with the nature of sin and salvation, and heaven and hell. Based on those beliefs, to be a good Christian requires certain behaviors that are the natural expressions of those beliefs. As one continues to express those behaviors in a given church or community, one then develops a feeling of belonging to that specific church or community. Thus is ones identity as a Christian generally formed. Read more →

Vayakhel

21 Apr
April 21, 2013

Ki Tissa (Exodus 30:11-34:35)

14 Apr
April 14, 2013

Last week at Kehillat Israel, I witnessed over six hundred men, women and children spending the day giving of themselves to others as part of our “Mega Mitzvah Day.” It was in many ways for me the quintessential KI experience and a perfect way to celebrate the synagogue’s 50th Anniversary. I am always proud of the fact that one of the primary ways that we are known in the community is through the long list of Tikun Olam task forces that we have created and nurtured over the years. Feeling a sense of personal responsibility for the quality of life in our community (not to mention on our planet) is one of the most important values we can teach our children, and the best way to teach that lesson is to demonstrate it through our own behavior. Read more →

Tetzaveh 2006 (Exodus 27:20-30:10)

07 Apr
April 7, 2013

The first thing everyone notices is the light. You can’t walk into the sanctuary at Kehillat Israel, without being confronted immediately by a large, oversized glass sculpture in the shape of a large flame that is prominently mounted almost directly in front of you on the wall. Read more →

Tetzaveh (Exodus 27:20-30:10)

01 Apr
April 1, 2013

The most ancient sacred Jewish writings are most likely contained in the story of creation. There in the opening passages of Genesis, we find among the most powerful and poetic of all Jewish writings, the description of how God created the universe and all that is in it. Read more →

Vayikra (Leviticus 1:1-5:26)

28 Mar
March 28, 2013

Sometimes I think that our Biblical ancestors were a lot wiser than we give them credit for. Every year when we get to this particular biblical book filled with graphic descriptions of animal sacrifices and offerings outlining in detail such rituals as the sprinkling of blood on the altar by the priests, along with a virtual “how to” manual for slaughtering a bull or a goat or a sheep and offering it up to God in a highly ritualized drama, most readers (myself included) begin to cringe. But this week in particular I realized that perhaps those ancient priests and healers of the spirit really knew what they were doing after all. An incident this very morning brought this issue painfully home. Read more →

Bo2 (Exodus 10:1-13:16)

21 Mar
March 21, 2013

Imagine how scary it must have been for our ancestors in Egypt that night. Imagine what they must have been thinking as they watched one plague after another strike the land – from blood flowing in the rivers to frogs and lice overrunning the countryside, to animals dying all around them, from a sudden outbreak of boils to out-of-season thunder and hail in the midst of spring to a plague of locusts swarming in, and over, and under everything. Read more →

Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1-24:18)

14 Mar
March 14, 2013

Last week in the Torah we experienced what appeared to be the single most powerful moment of revelation in all of Jewish history – the giving of the Torah itself on Mt. Sinai. For the past 3,000 years we have turned to that moment and those remarkable “Ten Utterances” (aseret Hadibrot in Hebrew) for the very foundation of Jewish ethics and morality. In fact, we have talked about, written about and focussed on those ten commandments so much over the thousands of years since that transforming event, that most people have been lulled into believing that the really important part of Jewish ethics itself consists primarily in the keeping of those famous ten. Read more →

Vaera2 (Exodus 6:2-9:35)

07 Mar
March 7, 2013

I have been thinking a lot about elephants this week. I was recalling how two years ago while on my sabbatical Didi and I spent a couple of days on safari in Kenya. I remember how incredible it was the day we found ourselves sitting in this little jeep in the middle of Amboseli surrounded by families of enormous elephants, and how small and vulnerable I felt at the time. Read more →

Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19)

01 Mar
March 1, 2013

In a famous Hasidic saying, the Kotzker Rebbe was once asked: “Where does God dwell?” to which he replied, “Wherever you let Him in.” Read more →