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Many years ago, I was surprised and saddened at once when my husband said, “I don’t want to bring a child into this violent world.” A year earlier, the same man expressed the desire for several children. Was this invasion of the body snatchers? What happened? Although I reminded him of his p…

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On Thursday evening (May 30th) this week we begin the second of the Shalosh Regalim for the holiday of Shavuot. For the past seven weeks we have been counting the Omer, each day focusing our attention on another aspect of our emotions, to improve, sharpen and focus them to be ready to celebr…

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This week’s Torah portion, Bamidbar, always precedes our observance of the festival of Shavuot, the time of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. This year we begin our  celebration of Shavuot on Thursday evening and continue our observance through to the Holy Sabbath, creating a seamless …

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Rabbi Chaim Ickovits (1749–1821, popularly known as Reb Chaim Volozhiner), the primary disciple of the Vilna Gaon and founder of the modern-day yeshiva movement, was once asked to adjudicate between two litigants that both claimed ownership of the same parcel of land.

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Emor begins by reminding the priests of their distinction from the rest of Israel, of how careful they must be to avoid ritual impurity. I couldn’t help but recall the peculiar story (b. Shabbat 33b) of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi) purifying a marketplace so the city’s priests could agai…

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Growing up in France, where anti-Semitism sometimes rears its ugly head, I remember being told, “Jews love counting money.”

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Israel, like many countries around the world, is under national lockdown and quarantine orders to contain and mitigate COVID-19. On the sparsely populated, social-distancing streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and the virtually packed sidewalks of Zoom, one of the most commonly heard words is…

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We all experience failure in life. As much as we would like to protect our children from its agonizing grip, we objectively understand that we will not always be able to do so. They will experience it. We are therefore left to properly educate our children in the art of how to fail effectively.

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The Passover seder is famously known for the four questions that introduce the telling of the narrative of Yetzi’at Mitzrayim, the Exodus from Egypt. This year, astute children might be asking the following four questions:

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The coronavirus is on everyone’s mind, all over the media and has disrupted our entire way of daily life. We cannot leave our homes, and if we do, the streets are flowing with sanitizer and soap suds.

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Handwashing instructions posted in a bathroom at the Martin Pear JCC.

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This week’s Parshat, Vayakhel-Pekudei, which close the Book of Exodus,

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One of the great challenges of our time is not the ability to find information, but our ability to interpret and process vast volumes of it productively. Where libraries and archives were once the purview of academics and the powerful alone, technology has now made it easy to find informatio…

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The Torah is a blessing, with each Torah portion providing us with a treasure of riches. Each parshah provides the opportunity to discover and to uncover a chidush, something new — something that resonates with or challenges us, something that speaks to where we are today. What are the riche…

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‘We complete each other’: local man with coronavirus meets match in Cabo

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Our culture is filled with stories about gifts wanted and unwanted, given willingly or unwillingly. This attention speaks to the fact that gift giving (and receiving!) can be anxiety provoking, and it’s no wonder since there doesn’t seem to be agreement about how to do it.

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It happened that the wicked Turnus Rufus (a Roman general) asked Rabbi Akiva, “Whose deeds are more beautiful, Hashem’s or man’s?” He answered, “The deeds of man ... ”

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Every year, when these two verses of the Torah come back around, I wrestle with them. This year, let’s wrestle with the verses together: You shall not bow down to them or serve them — for I the Eternal your God am an impassioned God, visiting the guilt of the parents upon the children, upon …

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Chapters 14 and 15 of the Book of Exodus are among the most significant in the Bible from a theological perspective, defining for us the fundamental difference between monotheism and idolatry. The first opens with God’s instructions that the Israelites: “Turn back and encamp in front of Pi-h…

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In this week’s parsha — Parshat Bo — we first encounter Rosh Chodesh, the holiday celebrating the new month (Exodus 12:2). Most everyone knows that Judaism follows a lunar-based model for timekeeping. While perhaps more complex than that of standard solar calendar, there is a piquant spiritu…

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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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