Pride Shabbat, June 11, 2021

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“It is not up to you to finish the task but neither are you free to desist from it.” (Pirke Avot)

Dear Friends,

In recent days I’ve been thinking about the genius of our nation’s founders. When describing this nation, a nation whose imperfections and inequities were clear from the very beginning, they used the term “more perfect union.” They had high aspirations for their nation but were aware of its many flaws. In this way they were, at one and the same time, both realistic and aspirational.

Almost 250 years later America is still an imperfect union.

Almost 250 years later, there is still a great deal of work to do if we are to overcome systemic racism, gender inequity, bias against the LGBTQIA+ community, islamophobia and of course, anti-Semitism. Recognizing that these social inequities still exist is painful, but it does not lessen my love or appreciation for …

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Shabbat Shalom June 4, 2021

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I was speaking to a dear friend of mine some time ago when she suddenly told me she had to get off the phone and run the .30 odd .30 rifle down to her husband Kevin.

Now I suspect that for many of you that might seem rather strange. It actually wasn’t. You see, my friends Judie and Kevin are ranchers in Texas. They have all kinds of wildlife that appears on the ranch from time to time including the huge rattlesnake that took up residence on their front porch at one point. On this occasion the culprit was a 400 pound feral hog that was posing a threat to both their livestock and themselves. As someone born and raised in suburban New Jersey I’m not an expert on feral hogs but I hear they are pretty nasty.
A short time later, Judie came back, told me that they had …

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Thoughts, Prayers and the Surge in Anti-Semitism

My Shabbat Message for May 28, 2021
Thoughts, Prayers and the Surge in Anti-Semitism

Dear Friends,

The weather has turned warmer. The trees are full and the flowers have blossomed. At this moment, it is a bit chilly but the windows are open. After months inside, the fresh air is more than a welcomed guest, it is a lifeline. And we are increasingly able to be together without (or to be fair, with less) fear for ourselves and one another.

There is so much to celebrate at this moment but, at least for me, much of this positivity has been dulled by the recent surge in anti-semitic incidents. Between May 7 and May 14 the hashtag #Hitlerwasright appeared more than 17,000 times on Twitter, and it has been accompanied by a similarly shocking rise in the number of anti-semitic incidents taking place.

I am sad. I am concerned. But I …

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Shabbat Shalom, May 21, 2021

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Join us for Shabbat in the Lot (masked please) or on Zoom this evening at 6pm. During services tonight we will hear from, and celebrate, our 10th grade Confirmands. Those of you worshipping via Zoom can download the service handout here.


 

Dear Friends,

I want to be a bit more personal in my Shabbat Message this week. Instead of looking at a verse of Torah or a teaching from the Talmud, I want to offer a window into some of my inner conflict, interspersed with the words from a powerful Op Ed by Kenneth Jacobson, ADL’s Deputy National Director. (You can read the piece in its entirety here.)

I love Israel. Since my first trip to Israel at the age of 13, it has held a special place in my heart and in my soul. When I am there, I feel a deeper connection to our …

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Shabbat Shalom, April 30, 2021

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Dear Friends,

Prior to being admitted to rabbinic school, I was required to take a series of psychological tests that included a Rorschach Test. One by one the psychologist administering the test placed an inkblot in front of me and asked what I saw. It is an interesting test to take.  Initially I saw nothing more than paper covered with ink stains. It didn’t take long before I started seeing images in each new inkblot that he placed before me. But here’s the thing: what I saw in those ink blots said a lot about me and absolutely nothing about the inkblot itself. I “read into” the inkblot my experiences and my needs. So while each applicant was presented with the exact same inkblots, we each saw something different in them.

In recent days I’ve been thinking about the parallels between those inkblots and synagogues. Just as each applicant saw …

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Shabbat Shalom, April 23, 2020

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Dear Friends,

Earlier this week I had a thought that has stayed with me. It puts the journey we have been through over the past year, the loss, pain and sometimes trauma we have encountered
in a new light. And it hinges on the concept of liminal moments. A liminal moment is a moment or an encounter that separates life experiences.

We all have such moments in our lives.

Opening the letter accepting me into rabbinic school was a liminal moment. My life was different after opening the letter than it was before.

Standing beneath our chuppah and reciting the words “Harei At… be consecrated to me…” to Raina was a liminal moment. That experience dramatically changed both of our lives.

In fact, if we look at the various rituals that are part of Jewish life, we quickly see that each focuses on a liminal moment in the life of …

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My Israel Story (thus far) in Three Parts: Shabbat Shalom…

My Israel Story (thus far) in Three Parts

As Israel marked 73 years since its founding yesterday, I couldn’t help but think back upon my own “Israel journey.” And I realized it can be divided into three general stages.

Stage 1: Mythic Israel

Stage 1

My first trip to Israel took place in 1978 when I celebrated becoming Bnai Mitzvah on Masada. From the first moment I stepped off the plane I knew this was a different kind of trip. I was overwhelmed to hear Hebrew being spoken in the airport. (Having been a poor Religious School student I didn’t understand a word but it was still powerful.) As corny as it might sound, as we traveled the country I felt as if I had come home.

I was amazed by the archaeology. And I was moved by the realization that, no matter where I stepped, I was walking on ground that …

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Shabbat Shalom

Screenshot 2020-03-28 16.25.21 IMG_2B56523064AA-1Dear Friends,

Our TSTI in Israel group had just entered the incredibly powerful Children’s Memorial at Yad Vashem. I had told the group we would meet them at the exit because one of our participants was on a personal mission. She, one of her daughters, and I headed away from the Children’s Memorial and, after a brisk walk, found ourselves in Yad Vashem’s Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations.

As Wikipedia explains:

The Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations is part of the much larger Yad Vashem complex located on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem. Along with some two dozen different structures within the Yad Vashem memorial – which is the second most-visited destination in the country after the Western Wall – the Garden of the Righteous is meant to honor those non-Jews who during the Holocaust risked their lives to save Jews from extermination by the …

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Shabbat Shalom April 2, 2021

This week’s Shabbat Message is part of Great MetroWest NJ’s Bit of Torah program. A video of it can be seen here on Facebook.

https://fb.watch/4C_PmDe1tn/

My thanks to GMW for the invitation to be part of Bit of Torah.

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Dear Friends,

This week we began our Passover festival by retelling the story of our ancestors’ escape from Egypt. And now, a week later, our festival of freedom is coming to an end.

As I look back over yitziyatt mitzrayim — the story of our ancestors’ exodus from Egypt — there is a small turn of phrase that always captures my imagination. We are told that when our ancestors left Egypt — gam erav rav alah itam — “and a mixed multitude went up with them.“

This phrase is often interpreted to mean that it wasn’t just the Israelites who left Egypt.

For example, the Reform Movement’s Plaut Commentary explains that …

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Shabbat Shalom and a Zissen Pesach

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“The epidemic of gun violence continues to plague individuals and communities across the United States, including our own Jewish communities as well as those of our friends, neighbors, colleagues, and partners. The Reform Movement, led by students and NFTY, is outraged at the current lack of legislative action and political leadership that allows this horrible violence to continue. This epidemic is not natural, nor normal and gun violence can be prevented. Drawing on Jewish traditions and values, we remain committed to taking action by engaging in community and legislative advocacy to end the gun violence epidemic.”
—Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Dear Friends,

True to form, Passover’s arrival tomorrow evening coincides with the first signs of spring. The crocuses made an appearance early last week, and in just the last few days, buds began to appear on branches that have, until now, been dormant. And as the earth …

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