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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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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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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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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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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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What a bizarre commandment!

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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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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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