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We are all living in a time of great uncertainty. While we sift through the experiences of our past and search for wisdom, for guidance, we balance the knowledge that the degree of change today in every aspect of our lives is without precedent. Groping in the dark, treading uncertainly down …

As the Chabad Rabbi at ASU, my family and I are delighted to host hundreds of Jewish students weekly at our welcoming and vibrant Levenbaum Chabad House at ASU.

This week we begin the second book of the Torah, Shemot, named for the names of our ancestors who arrived in Egypt to flee the famine in Canaan. They find themselves subject to a new Pharaoh, one who has forgotten all the good that Joseph did for the Egyptian people. How easy it is to overlo…

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; Sara, Rivkah, Rochel and Leah.

The story is told of two people who were bemoaning the state of the world to one another.  “We think we are so advanced!” they said one to the other. “That we are so moral, so cultured, so ethical — and yet there is still war and strife!” They complained about the terrible international conf…

We all know the feeling. The brief glimmer of potential recognition. The lingering gaze. The furtive glances across the room as we scramble in our minds to place the individual. Where have I seen them before? Do they recognize me? Do they see that I am trying to place them? Are they trying t…

At the beginning of this week’s parshah, Jacob gives his favorite son, Joseph, the “coat of many colors,” evoking jealousy from his 11 other sons. Then Joseph, in what’s maybe not an example of his best judgment, tells his brothers of prophetic dreams he’s had that indicate that he’s the gre…

This week’s Torah portion of Vayishlach begins with the meeting of our righteous forefather Jacob and his not so righteous brother Esau. The drama of their contentious relationship is related in previous Torah portions and in this portion, we learn of their final anticlimactic in person and …

Torah is a keen observer of human behavior — our biblical authors as cartographers — charting a course to “the better angels of our nature” as stated by Abraham Lincoln in his first inaugural address. In this week’s Torah portion, Vayetzei, we accompany our patriarch Jacob in a place of grea…

Thanksgiving is family time. Families come together, connect over a meal, enjoy and bicker and tease as family members do — but we come together. We recall how a group of Pilgrims came over to escape religious persecution. How they made a perilous journey and came to these shores to be subje…

Eliezer has a tough job in this week’s Torah portion. How would you like to be responsible for choosing a partner for your boss’s child? Talk about pressure! Yet, he comes up with a unique way to assess who would make the best wife for Isaac.

At the age of 99, Abraham our forefather had a Bris, loosely translated as circumcision. Abraham and his wife our matriarch Sarah excelled in extending kindness to everyone, especially in the form of hospitality and welcoming guests — Hachnasat Orchim. 

The rabbis teach us that there is no chronology in the Torah. Events may appear in any order; distances do not matter; time sequences do not exist. In physics we learn about Einstein’s theory of relativity, that if humans could travel the speed of light, we would find that there are no physi…

Apocryphal imaginations of world destruction, domination and conquest gnaw at our consciousness. Doom and apocalypse strum the emotions into a kind of shocking awe that mesmerizes with fascination of what may occur next.

We’ve finally done it. We’ve made it through the fall holidays of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah. And, though Jewish year 5783 began weeks ago, we’re now given yet another chance to begin again, with the start of the new cycle of Torah readings, with Parshah Bereishit, w…

Why do we take the lulav for seven days if the Torah only says to take it for one day? "And you shall take for yourself on the first day (Vayikra 23, 40)."

As we come out of the High Holidays of 5783, I hope we can all make one last reflection on our “Why,” on the most important questions of who we are and what our lives are about. I hope we’re also considering: When we face difficulties on the journey of actualizing our unique purposes, where …

These days, the days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, are known as the Aseret Yimei Teshuva, the 10 Days of Repentance. They are days most auspicious for examining one’s actions and doing teshuva. What exactly is teshuva? Is it a commandment? What does it involve? What does it accomplish?

I encounter the Torah portion Nitzavim twice at this season: once this week in the Torah reading cycle and then again on Yom Kippur day when we chant an alternative group of verses from Deuteronomy 29:9 –14 and 30:11-20. When I chant the haunting High Holy day trop melody for Atem nitzavim h…

It always resonates with me when this week’s Torah portion, Ki Teitzei, falls in close proximity to the anniversary of 9/11, the most nefarious attack ever perpetrated against the United States. That is because Ki Teitzei both begins and ends with mention of our enemies. The beginning speaks…

A friend recently posted a picture on Instagram with a caption saying, “The grass is greener where you water it.”  The aphorism “the grass is always greener on the other side” is so common that we may not even register it, but it is actually insightful; we are prone to making comparisons, an…

In my yeshiva high school, Elul was the time of year when someone who I perhaps had not spoken to for the previous year would grab my arm and say, “Mochel me,” meaning, “forgive me.” And I would say, “Of course. Mochel me as well?” And we would have forgiven each other for the slights, the s…

Have you ever tried to make big changes in your life? You might have met someone special whose story inspired you to live life differently. A major event could have affected you or you might have been changed by something you experienced or learned.

After the Holocaust, a survivor tracked down the fellow survivor who had gifted him new boots in the ghetto, allowing him to survive. He brought with him the worn pair of boots. Upon seeing the boots, the savior beckoned his guest to come see the centerpiece of his china cabinet, a worn pair…

While I was leading a congregational trip to Israel this past June, Israeli author A.B. Yehoshua passed. He was a dynamic person and novelist. And he liked to create dialogue and debate. For example, I recall him once saying, “Judaism outside Israel has no future. If you do not live in Israe…

Yitzhak Ben-Zvi (1884 – 1963) was called to the presidency of Israel after Chaim Weitzman died in 1952. On the day he became president, he returned home at night and found a sentry marching up and down in front of his house and asked the soldier what he was doing there. The young officer rep…

I visit eleven hospitals each week in my work as a Hospital Chaplain for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Nearly each time there is a patient who requests a prayer for healing – usually, Mi Sheberach. And each time I offer the prayer both in Hebrew and English so the patient and the f…

The year was 1242. Nicolas Donin, an apostate Jew, put the Talmud on trial.

During Rabbinical School, I traveled to El Salvador with American Jewish World Service and was introduced to a woman named Maria. Maria shared about her time fighting in the jungle and what she had to do to stay alive, even showing the scars from where she had been shot. She was introduced t…

I visited Israel recently. Seeing this week's Torah portion, I wondered about discussing some of my experiences in the Holy Land. This week's parshah tells us that because of the way 10 spies spoke negatively about the land of Israel, the Jews had to stay in the desert for 40 years until all…

This week’s parsha, Bha’alotcha begins with a command for Aaron: (Num 8:2)

In this week’s Torah portion, the Torah talks about the sotah, the wayward wife, who is suspected of infidelity. Her husband, after having warned her not to be secluded with a specific individual that he suspects may have been intimate with his wife, brings her to Jerusalem and to the Holy T…

This week’s Torah portion Bamidbar is usually read on the Shabbat before Shavuot. So our Sages connected the two. Shavuot is the time we remember the giving of the Torah. Bamidbar means, “In the wilderness.” Judaism emphasizes the memory we received revelation bamidbar, “in the wilderness.” …

One of the most famous questions ever asked by the ancient rabbis concerns the first lines of our parshah.

As we go through life, we can struggle to keep our connection to G-d, through prayer and Torah study, as fresh, exciting, invigorating and inspirational as it is meant to be.

In the summer of 2014, I and another rabbinic student traveled more than halfway around the world as part of a Joint Distribution Committee Initiative to officiate at the b’nai mitzvah of over sixty Jewish teens in Novosibirsk, Siberia, who had previously not been given the chance to become …

It is an anathema in sagacious Talmudic circles to attribute any of the vicissitudes of life to happenstance. This is demonstrated by the following Talmudic dictums.

Certainly prayers hold significance in the Jewish tradition, but in Midrash Raba for the Book of Exodus, Parshah 21, God pre-empted Moses’ prayer, asking, “Why do you cry out to me?” because the prayers of B’nai Yisrael had already been answered. In time, B’nai Yisrael would transform into B…

As we gather around our seder tables, for many it is a highly anticipated family event, often it is a reunion of friends and family who have conducted seders together in the years past. 

How do you celebrate your birthday? If you’re like the average American, you probably celebrate with cake, a party and presents.

I say several prayers just before walking into hospital rooms or before knocking on a door to visit a sick person who is able to be in their home. I pray for their wellness (either a full recovery or a feeling of wholeness on their journey) and I pray that their family may find strength on t…

This week we will read from two Torah scrolls. The first is the portion of the week, Shemini, which describes the eighth day of the ceremony to ordain the Kohanim (the priests) and to consecrate the Mishkan (the Tabernacle).

This week we celebrate the joyous holiday of Purim. I won’t give you the “gantze Megillah” the complete story, but in short: Haman plots to kill the Jews, and Queen Esther and Mordechai save the day. Haman is hanged and we are still here!

This Shabbat, we not only begin a new book of Torah – Vayikra, Leviticus – but also observe Shabbat Zachor – the Shabbat of Remembering, when we read the commandments regarding Amalek and their crimes against the Israelites.  

As we enter Shabbat this week, my thoughts are with the people of Ukraine. My heart is heavy and worried while I follow the news from Europe. In particular I am thinking of our Jewish sisters and brothers there! In the roughly 30 years since the Iron Curtain lifted Ukrainian Jews have built …

There is a vivid memory that I have as a young boy growing up in Johannesburg, South Africa, walking into a large department store in the suburbs and being faced with a peculiar “nativity.” A large calf surrounded by robed people looking up with great reverence.

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