Shabbat Message for April 24, 2020

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One of the most compelling aspects of Torah study is that each year, as part of the annual cycle of reading the Torah from start to finish, there is always something new to see. For while the text of the Torah is canonized or fixed, the eyes with which we read and interpret our sacred text are continually changing. For example, the Torah portion about Noah may look very different to us in a year when there have been terrible floods than it would in the midst of a draught. Similarly, we may see something new when studying the story about Joseph’s interactions with his jealous brothers if we ourselves are in the midst of a fight with our siblings. The text of the Torah remains the same form year to year. But the eyes and the experiences through …

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My Shabbat Message for April 17, 2020

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There is a tradition that, each Shabbat between the Festivals of Passover and Shavuot, a chapter from the small section of the Talmud known as Pirke Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers, is studied. One of the most famous teaches:

Hillel used to say:
If I am not for me, who will be for me?
And when I am for myself alone, what am I?

That one statement reminds us how important it is to strike a balance between self-interest and selflessness.

If I do not take care of myself, my family or my community I cannot expect anyone else to.

But if I am only concerned with myself, my family or my community and I do not concern myself with my obligations to do good in the world I have only done half the job.

I have always loved this quote as I believe it captures one of the …

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My Shabbat Message for April 10, 2020

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Dear Friends,

During rabbinic school I was at the beach in Southern California. I was standing on a pier and saw a young person get caught in the undertow. Each time he tried to get up either a wave knocked him down or the pull of the current and the slipper ocean rocks led to him losing his step. Things look desperate until a woman standing on the shore yelled instructions to him. He followed them and, a few minutes later he was safely on the beach.
This instructions led me to write this piece which, as I sit on my computer at the beginning of Passover, seems more relevant than ever.

I wrote:

Fleeing the Egyptian soldiers, the Israelites came to the Sea of Reeds. They looked across the waters and were terrified that they would soon drown

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My Shabbat Message for April 3, 2020

Dear Friends,

As we approach Passover I, and everyone I know, cannot help but see the ten plagues sent against Egypt in a new way this year.

On ten occasions God sent a plague against the Egyptian people and, time and time again, just as Pharaoh appeared to soften and behave with a bit more compassion the text of the Torah tells us that God hardened his heart.

One of the ten plagues was the plague that began when, as the text of the Torah teaches,

…there was a thick darkness (Exod. 10:22).

The rabbis of old taught:

“The darkness was twice and twice again thicker [than the darkness of any other night, so that] “no one was able to move from his place for three days” (Exod. 10:23)… During the three days of darkness, the cover of thick cloud made it dark for the Egyptians but gave light to

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