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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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Early in the book of Numbers, the Torah records the first census in the history of the Jewish people: “Count the heads of the entire witness community of the children of Israel, by their families, by their parents’ houses” (Numbers 1:2). Certainly a census is a momentous event — not only as …

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In this week’s Torah portion, the Torah states: “Do not give him your money for interest, and do not give your food for increase. I am Hashem, your G-d, Who took you out of the land of Egypt…” (Leviticus 25:37-38). 

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Last week, the film “Tolkien” was released in theaters. I admit, I was excited. I am a big fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy novels “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings.” A movie exploring Tolkien as a young student, imagining what early life experiences contributed to and inspired …

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We often think of scrolls, clergy and the synagogue as physical representations of the realm of holiness in the Jewish conception. But is the work of all Jewish communal leadership holy? Is there anything that we can do — those in leadership and those in the community — to achieve an ultimat…

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This Pesach, I asked the guests seated around the table an open-ended question: How do you strike the balance between changing in different situations that come up in life and when do you stay consistent? The answers reflected each person's view on how to lead life. People suggested four mai…

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This week we begin the quintessentially Jewish holiday of Passover. That is because it is a holiday filled with food, friendship and family. Furthermore, the Passover Seder and the recounting of the story of the Exodus from Egypt reminds us of our humble beginnings, the epic story of our lib…

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This week’s Parsha, Metzora, concludes the subject of tzaraat, which was introduced in last week’s reading. 

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You may have encountered women and men who think that women can’t touch the Torah when they are menstruating. Those women and men are not aware that the torah is not m’kabel tum’ah, it is not susceptible to impurity.  It makes sense, however, that this might be less well-known, because in ti…

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This Shabbos we read the weekly Torah portion of Shemini and Parshas Parah, which discusses the laws of one that becomes impure from contact with a corpse and the method for becoming pure once again. 

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Throughout my childhood, my parents taught me the importance of a well-written thank-you note. I was not allowed to play with a toy or use money received for a birthday or Chanukah gift until the handwritten card was signed and sealed. There was a time, as an adolescent, when I decided to te…

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This week we begin reading the third book, Vayikra (Leviticus) of the five books of Moses. The last few Torah portions of Shemot (Exodus) elaborated on the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). The book of Vayikra focuses on the many animal offerings that were given by the Jewish people in t…

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I would like to share a letter written in 1951 from Lubavitcher Rebbe, which I recently came across.

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Do you remember the famous Pulitzer Prize-winning social experiment when Washington Post writer Gene Weingarten enlisted renowned violinist Joshua Bell? A winner of the Avery Fisher Prize for outstanding achievement in classical music, Bell, who regularly undertakes more than 200 internation…

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On the list of items and materials required to produce the priestly uniforms, there was one thing that was particularly difficult to obtain. To follow the plans for making the choshen (breast plate) and ephod (apron), the craftsman would need a list of several rare gem stones. How would they…

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The meaning I picked, the one that changed my life: Overcome fear, behold wonder. — Richard Bach

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This week, we find the Torah going through the royal clothing of the Kohanim in great detail. They were made of either all white and linen for a regular cohen or a mixture of wool and linen — a combination that is not allowed in normal garments — for the Kohen Gadol, High Priest. This High P…

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One of my students recently asked me, “You always say God is everywhere, but sometimes I find it hard to see. How do you see God in everything?” I have been thinking about this question a lot, especially since we read in this week’s Torah portion, “And let them make for Me a sanctuary that I…

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On this Shabbat in Jewish communities throughout the world we will read the Ten Commandments, which can be found in Parshat Yitro. During the recitation of the Ten Commandments each year, individuals within congregations will stand up. This act reminds us all that we each “stood” along with …

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Dear parents: There is no question that our child-rearing years can often seem to be the ultimate roller coaster ride. Just as we find ourselves reaching a potential breakthrough, in which our children seem to display the maturity/kindness/responsibility/etc. for which we had labored mightil…

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In Parshat Bo, we learn that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. This is perhaps the greatest problem in the Exodus story and still the worst of moral conundrums today. It is the root of the great societal ill that causes a breakdown in social trust and empathy. Sadly, it is becoming even more per…

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In this week’s parsha, the daughter of Pharoah goes down to bathe in the Nile while her maidens walk along the river. She spies a basket among the reeds and sends her slave girl to fetch it. The next verse tells us: “Vatiftach, vitirayhu et hayeled vihiney naar bocheh,” “she opened the baske…

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As the end of his life drew near, Jacob assembled his 12 sons to share his final thoughts with them. Although the Torah refers to these comments as blessings, they are mostly varying degrees of harsh criticism. Two brothers that were recipients of perhaps the most severe comments were Simon …

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As I write this, I am, again, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, at the Fifth Forum for Promoting Global Peace. I am continuing to build bridges with Muslim, Christian and Jewish faith leaders from Phoenix, the United States, and religious leaders and scholars from around the world (but tha…

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Chanukah is unlike all the other holidays we celebrate. Usually, festivities center around a meal, a kiddush, Hamotzi and festive foods fulfilling our physical needs. 

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When I was a young boy, I used to watch a television show called “Branded.” At the beginning of each episode, we would witness a scene in which the main character, a soldier played by Chuck Connor, was drummed out of the Army. His hat was pulled off, his epaulets and buttons were torn from h…

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 “And he took from what he had with him a present to Esav his brother … and Esav ran toward him and embraced him … and kissed him …” (Bereshit 32:14; 33:4)

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Over the last two years, an evangelical pastor, an imam and this rabbi have worked intentionally to create bonds of friendship through shared experiences in our community. This is not a joke. And it is not “interfaith dialogue.” It is “multifaith dialogue.” Multifaith dialogue differs from i…

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