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Moses, after his initial hesitation in accepting the mission to redeem the Jews, finally accepts it. He approaches Pharaoh, only to be rebuffed. Indeed, the slavery only intensifies as a result of the confrontation. Anguished and bewildered, Moses cries out to God and questions Him. “Where i…

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A fundamental struggle of the Jewish people, and truthfully, of all ethnically and religiously distinct peoples, is striking a balance between parochialism and universalism --— taking care of our own versus taking care of everybody, regardless of who they are. 

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In a most uplifting and inspiring deathbed scene, grandfather Jacob/Israel peacefully takes leave of this world by blessing, evaluating and prophesying about every one of his sons, delineating the tribe that will emanate from each and establishing the National Republic of tribes that will em…

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Rarely in life are we given a chance to correct the mistakes of our youth. One of the marks of adulthood is learning to live with our past errors and striving to grow from them. Sometimes, though, we are able to try again and see whether or not our efforts have made a difference, whether we …

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In the book of Genesis, the Torah recounts many different instances of dreams, with this week’s portion’s maybe being the most famous — the dreams of Pharaoh. And as we know, Josef was successful in offering an explanation to Pharaoh’s dreams, and Pharaoh thus made him a viceroy over Egypt.

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What makes a hero or a villain? After Tamar is twice-widowed, her father-in-law, Judah, tells her to return to her family until his remaining son is old enough to marry. Eventually, Tamar realizes Judah has no intention to wed Tamar to his last son. Tamar knows what she wants ­— what she is …

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The last year has sadly introduced tragedies into synagogues that North American Jews have not had to suffer before. Like the countless other acts of anti-Semitism that have been perpetrated against our people throughout history, these have left their unsightly scars on the Jewish psyche whi…

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Without cheating: do you know when the first night of Chanukah is this year? Go ahead, take a guess. 

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After stealing his father’s blessing intended for his elder brother Esau, Jacob is forced to flee his home to escape his brother’s wrath. Along the way, he finds a place to sleep and he has a dream in which he sees angels ascending and descending a ladder based on earth that reached to the h…

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“If you had to condense the message of Judaism into one word, what would word would you pick?”

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Alden Whitman is known as the godfather of obituary writers. His style, sensitivity, attention to detail and work ethic set the standard by which all obituary writers are judged and measured. The story is told about the time he met with the larger-than-life Bette Davis. He was writing a news…

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We are taught that Rachmana liba bai, that in the service of G-d, the Merciful One desires the feeling that permeates our heart far more than any physical act we could possibly do. As parents, educators and role models, therefore, it follows that one of the traps that we should be most wary …

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“Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. So that the land could not support them staying together; for their possessions were so great that they could not remain together.” -Genesis 13: 5-6

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The timeless story of Noach and the Ark is so profound that many other cultures have adopted a similar narrative. Whether it’s the Epic of Gilgamesh or an ancient tribal tale of many canoes strung together and separated throughout the world by stormy flood water, the storyline is one that is…

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This week we start reading the Torah from the beginning. The parsha is one of the most fascinating portions in the entire Torah. Indeed, there is so much exciting material in it that it is unfortunate that it is all crammed into one single week. I could see focusing on dozens of episodes tha…

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Sukkot is one of the most intriguing holidays on the Jewish calendar. There is no doubt that the purpose of Passover is to commemorate the story of the Exodus from Egypt. It is unanimously agreed that we celebrate Shavuot because of the revelation that took place before the entire Jewish peo…

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As the temperature wanes down into the low 90s for the fall season, residents across Phoenix prepare for Sukkot. The weeklong holiday starts on Oct. 13, and this year there is no shortage of Sukkot events to attend. 

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Right before the Kol Nidrei services, the Rabbi noticed little Daniel was staring up at the large plaque that hung in the foyer of the synagogue. It was covered with names and small American flags were mounted on either side of it. The seven year old had been staring at the plaque for some t…

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This week’s parsha, Vayelech, describes the end of an era, the termination of Moshe Rabbeinu’s leadership. Transferring power from one leader to the next is always fraught with dangers, especially during a crucial point in the life of the nation.

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Rosh Hashanah falls late on the calendar this year, at the end of the back-to-school month and at the beginning of the first signs of fall. No matter; somehow, there are always those last-minute guests and added recipes that cause a flurry of activity in Jewish households right down to the w…

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Whenever we read Parshat Nitzavim (literally “Standing”) we know that Rosh Hashanah is just around the corner. During Moses’ final address to the Israelites, he encourages them to be loyal to the Almighty and to observe His commandments. He recounts Israel’s history and reviews many of the l…

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As the High Holiday sermons approach, congregations prepare for a large influx of attendants of all levels of observance. But sadly, not everyone is physically capable of attending those services. 

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What a bizarre commandment!

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The High Holidays are an especially busy time for a rabbi, and it makes the preparation a high-pressure endeavor. Some rabbis prepares for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur for several months, if not a year, in advance. But for the five new rabbis who made Phoenix their home this summer, there we…

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It’s war. The troops are assembled in their armor, fresh and unsullied. The sun glints in their eyes as the general shouts to his men: 

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Rabbi Ephraim Weiss’ passion as a rabbi is Jewish education. He believes that Jewish learning doesn’t and shouldn’t stop after Sunday school, but is something that continues every day. 

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Basic manners teach us that we should never show up to a special occasion empty-handed. For my mother, of blessed memory, both preparing and presenting gifts was an act of gratitude. Picking out the perfect gift came so naturally to her. I remember even as a young child watching her use her …

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This week, we find ourselves in the book of Deuteronomy, which serves as sort of “recap” of the commandments that Moses shares with the Israelites during the 40 years of wandering in the desert. The Israelites are currently standing on the east side of the land flowing with milk and honey an…

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Even people who have not read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie know that you have a better chance of getting something from someone if you are nice to them. 

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Words! Words! Words! I’m so sick of words! I hear words all day through/ first from him, now from you...— “Show Me” from “My Fair Lady” by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick LoeweOne of the world’s greatest gifts of light is our Torah. A quick peek into the Torah scroll provides aseemingly unendi…

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A fellow was boasting about what a good person he was and what a disciplined lifestyle he led. “I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t gamble, I don’t cheat on my wife, I am early to bed and early to rise, and I work hard all day and attend religious services faithfully.” 

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While we only read each Torah portion once in the normal cycle of Torah readings throughout the year, there is one parshat from which we read more often than all others — Parashat Pinchas, named after High Priest Aaron’s grandson who became famous (or infamous) for impaling a couple engaged …

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Imagine having a conversation with your spouse about a fault in one of your children and exploring ways to help your child. The next day someone tells you how bad your child is because they have the fault you just discussed with your spouse. You then get very offended even though you just sp…

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The sidrah Chukat, this week’s parashah, is multilayered with several disjointed tracks — the purification rituals of the red heifer, the deaths of Miriam and Aaron, Moses striking of the rock to produce water, followed by the battles with neighboring tribes. So much to ponder.

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Is controversy a positive or a negative phenomenon? Since the ideal of peace is so fundamental to the Jewish ideal — to such an extent that we even greet and bid farewell to each other with the Hebrew word shalom, peace — I would expect that controversy would be universally condemned by our …

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Dusty from the road, the tribes of Israel arrive at the Promised Land. They’ve crossed the sea, built the mishkan, fought, hungered and heard God’s own voice. Having now reached the border, their destination is in sight and they suppose their exodus is over. They are mistaken. It is just get…

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This week’s Torah portion begins with the instruction to the Kohain regarding the kindling of the menorah in the Sanctuary.

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Perhaps the most salient aspect of this week’s Torah portion — Parshat Naso— is that we read the priestly blessing (Numbers 6:24-26) in full for the first time. This blessing — known as birkat kohanim — connects the generations through its nature of transferring holiness through physical act…

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