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Shoftim 5782 - God Beyond Gender

Saturday, September 3, 2022

In a Midrash from Pesikta d’Rav Kahana, God appears at Mount Sinai as exactly what and whom each person in the crowd needs to see. That way, when God says, “I am Adonai your God (Exodus 20:2)” - אנכי ה׳ אלהיך, each person knows that God is speaking directly to them.

As Cadence Dodson taught us at her bat mitzvah last year, each of us has the opportunity to hold the image or sound of...Read more...

Eikev 5782 - What Does Your God Ask From You?

Saturday, August 20, 2022

ועתה ישראל מה ה׳ אלהיך שאל מעמך?

And now, Israel, what does Adonai your God ask from you? (Deuteronomy 10:12).

Before I offer a Biblical answer, I’m curious about your ideas. What do you think God asks from you?

The Torah offers the answer to that question, “What does God ask from you?”:...Read more...

Eikev 5782 - You Are What You Eat: Birkat HaMazon

Friday, August 19, 2022

After Shabbat lunch on Saturday mornings, we recite Birkat HaMazon. As slowly as we sing it, it is often too fast to get in all of the words. At the same time, even with the abbreviated version we use at Agudath Achim, I have heard quite a few people groan about how long it takes to get through our prayer after eating. Even with all the length of Birkat HaMazon, the commandment to bless after eating comes...Read more...

Va'ethanan 5782 - Acknowledging Our Privilege

August 12, 2022 - 16 Av, 5782

In the book, Raising A+ Human Beings, Dr. Bruce Powell explains the idea of “privilege” using the wise words of Rabbi Edward Feinstein: 

During a Shabbat exposition of the week’s Torah portion, Rabbi Edward Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, California, made the following comment: “Some people who were born on third base believe that they had hit a...Read more...

Va'ethanan 5782 - Transparency in Knowledge is Power

August 13, 2022 - 16 Av, 5782

Did you know - in a kosher kitchen, you may use glass dishes for either meat or dairy and simply wash them in between uses? Also, if you happen to eat cold dairy on a meat dish or cold meat on a dairy dish, the dish and food are still considered kosher. If a piece of cold meat accidentally touches a piece of cold cheese in your fridge, you can just cut a bit off of the meat and cheese for both to be...Read more...

Devarim 5782 - The Span of Our Life is Seventy Years

August 6, 2022 - 9 Av, 5782

In the year 5783 - both in the time that has passed and the time we have left - six members of our congregation have celebrated their 70th birthdays. As two of these celebrations were in the past week, and one is soon to come, now is a fitting time for us to explore the significance of the age and number of 70 in Jewish tradition. 

Right off the bat, we address one jarring Biblical reference to...Read more...

Mattot-Masei 5782 - Moshe's Double Standard

July 30, 2022 - 2 Av, 5782

A previous rabbinic mentor of mine had a habit of starting meetings late or needing to reschedule at the last minute. Every time this rabbi lagged behind or changed plans, I would become so angry; how dare he disrespect my time?! After a while, I questioned why a few minutes here or there frustrated me so much and realized that a whole lot of that frustration was directed at myself. I could not imagine how...Read more...

Pinhas 5782 - 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

Saturday, July 23, 2022 - 23 Tamuz, 5782

Beginning this past Sunday, July 17, the quick-dial phone number 988 has been designated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration as our national Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. While the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has existed since 2005, the new number of 988 allows for easier recall than the previous number, and expanded funding from Congress allows for updated...Read more...

Pinhas 5782 - Forward-Thinking Leadership

Friday, July 22, 2022 - 23 Tamuz, 5782

We will not be here forever. While we’ve had this conversation before regarding end-of-life planning, one of the most difficult parts about grasping the reality of our impermanence is envisioning and preparing for the world we want to see when we’re gone. While that envisioning and preparation may seem like lofty, inaccessible ideas, we can also see them at a smaller scale. Even if we’d...Read more...

Nasso 5782 - In Celebration of B'nei Mitzvah

June 10, 2022 - 11 Sivan, 5782

Between Lex’s b’nei mitzvah last week, Bella’s bat mitzvah this Shabbat, and all b’nei mitzvah in our past and future, this Jewish community has seen huge variation in what defines a b’nei mitzvah ceremony. Some of our students lead the entire service, some read Torah and a few prayers, and some complete an act of tzedakah, a creative mitzvah project. While each student teaches about something...Read more...

Behukotai 5782 - A Jewish Call for Gun Control and Safety

May 28, 2022 - Iyar 27, 5782

When I moved to Shreveport three years ago and learned about local culture, I promised myself that I would not speak about guns on the bimah. Today, I’m breaking my promise. In the wake of this week’s shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvale, TX, and last week’s shooting in Buffalo, NY, I do not believe that talking about anything else today would be appropriate. If you are triggered by the topics of gun...Read more...

Behar 5782 - Expecting the Unexpected

May 21, 2022 - Iyar 20, 5782

My Pop-pop, my maternal grandfather, always used to say, “Bring a swimsuit wherever you go. You never know when you might need it.” Throughout my childhood and up until today, my parents’ home has always been stocked with a whole lot of snacks, extra towels and sheets, and of course, extra dog leashes and treats, just in case a visitor may knock on the door. Through the actions of those who raised...Read more...

Emor 5782 - Jews and Tattoos

Saturday, May 14, 2022 - Iyar 13, 5782

I’m not quite sure where this myth originated, but I know I heard it in my childhood - Jews with tattoos may not be buried in Jewish cemeteries. This myth is entirely false. Just as any Jewish person who orders chicken parmesan at a restaurant may be buried at any cemetery they and their family pleases, a Jew with a tattoo may be buried anywhere, as well. Just as you will be allowed to attend...Read more...

Emor 5782 - Seven Weeks and Seven Days to Revelation

Friday, May 13, 2022 - Iyar 13, 5782

Every night, from the second evening of Pesah until Shavuot, we count the omer. On that second night of Pesah, we say a blessing and state, “Tonight is the first night of the omer.” We continue counting, with reference to the number of days and weeks we have experienced so far. During this time, with the exception of a few days, we refrain from shaving, haircuts, and celebratory activities like...Read more...

Kedoshim 5782 - How I Spend a Shabbat Afternoon

Saturday, May 7, 2022 - Iyar 6, 5782

As the sun begins to set later and later, the amount of time we have between our morning Shabbat service and Havdalah lengthens. Tonight, Havdalah time is 8:40. For those of us who actively keep Shabbat, that means we don’t spend money, cook, bake, sew, knit, write, draw, build, garden, or a whole lot more until after many kids in this congregation are already asleep. Alas, no Dvorak’s New...Read more...

Pesah (Yizkor) 5782 - Where do we go when we die?

April 23, 2022 - 22 Nisan, 5782

I have been asked quite a bit recently about what Judaism has to say about life after death, and I have no single concrete answer. Certain streams of Judaism support an idea of reincarnation, while others support a notion of Gehennah (a sort of “bad or neutral place”) and Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden, or a sort of “good place”). Some believe that the body splits into different souls, which end...Read more...

Tazria 5782 - Lashon HaRa: Speak No Evil

April 2, 2022 - 1 Nisan, 5782

We are a synagogue with a long history of intense interpersonal dynamics. Like any healthy community, we have pairs of community members who know and love each other like family, and we have pairs of community members who might choose to sit on opposite sides of the room at Kiddush lunch. The people in this room have helped each other through simhas and tragedies. As is true in so many close...Read more...

Tzav 5782 - The Humanity of Embodied Judaism

March 19, 2022 - 16 Adar II, 5782

Way back in Parashat Vaera, when the Israelites are still in Egypt, God commands Moshe: “Go to Pharaoh in the morning, behold (hinei) - he is coming out to the water, and station yourself before him at the edge of the Nile…” (Ex. 7:15). Midrash Tanhumah implicitly asks two questions, “Why is Pharaoh coming out to the water, and why does the Torah emphasize that action with the word hinei, or...Read more...

Vayikra 5782 - Pausing for Understanding

March 11, 2022 - 9 Adar II 5782

Have you ever had a heated conversation with a loved one in which, thirty minutes in, you both realize you’re speaking about completely different things? Then, you have to go back to the beginning and start all over again, hoping you’ll understand each other this time around.

Throughout the book of Leviticus -...Read more...

Vayakhel 5782 - You Have Something to Contribute

February 26, 2022 - 25 Adar I, 5782

 When tables and chairs need to be moved, I tend to run the other way. Whenever I try to help with rearranging furniture, I will inevitably drop something on someone’s toes, get in other people’s way, or put my object down in an even less convenient place than it was before. With my small size, I am useless when it comes to carrying remotely heavy boxes. 

Read more...

Ki Tisa 5782 - For Your Generations

February 19, 2022

Last week, we focused on the words l’dorotam - for their generations, in the context of this synagogue space. We read God’s commandments to the children of Israel to keep a ner tamid (an everlasting flame), to sacrifice a lamb every Pesah, and to bring a yearly offering on Yom Kippur. In a different sense in each generation, we have kept those commandments for thousands of years; so too, our ways of practicing...Read more...

Tetzaveh 5782 - To Set Down a Burden

February 11, 2022 - 1 Adar 11, 5782

We all carry burdens, laid upon us by our friends, our family, our jobs, and ourselves. We carry guilt, pressure, and responsibilities, the ones only we can handle. Sometimes, all of that weight feels like too much to bear; every now and again, even if just for a moment, we have to make that great effort of setting our burdens down.

Aharon, Moshe’s brother, also carries quite a literal and...Read more...

Tetzaveh 5782 - For Our Generations

February 12, 2022 - 1 Adar 11, 5782

On October 30, 1902, 58 men signed a charter to officially found Agudath Achim Congregation. 120 years later, we are still here, and we are still thriving. I can’t know what those 58 men and their families thought we would look like in 2022, but I would like to think that they founded this congregation with the promise of our existence in mind. In 2022, we cannot even begin to fathom what...Read more...

T'rumah 5782 - The Menorah, The Cherubim and Long-Term Intention

Friday, February 4, 2022

Imagine if you showed up to your job on the first day with zero education and zero experience and were handed a list of things to do. For many of us, we had weeks, years, or even decades of training, study, and apprenticeship before this position became available to us. Some of us are in school now, aiming for a particular career a few years down the road. 

Why do we take so much time and energy...Read more...

T'rumah 5782 - Speech and Intention in Mishnah T'rumah

Saturday, February 5, 2022

The one who intends to say “terumah” but says, “ma’aser”; “ma’aser” but says, “terumah”; “olah” but says “shlamim”; “shlamim” but says “olah”; [the one who says] “I will not enter into this house,” but says “that house”; “I will not benefit from this person” but says “that person” - has not said anything until her mouth and her...Read more...

Yitro 5782 - Patience, Compassion, and Long Lines 

January 21, 2022 - 20 Sh'vat, 5782

Lines at the store and wait times at the doctor’s office are much longer than usual right now. A whole lot of people are doing five other people’s jobs, on account of so many co-workers who are out sick or quarantined.

Usually, when I read Parshat Yitro, I am reminded of the merits of delegation. Last year, I gave the d’var Torah on Parshat Yitro on that very topic, and I’d like to...Read more...

Yitro 5782 - Shabbat Rest: A Sacred Inconvenience

January 22, 2022 - 20 Sh'vat, 5782

What would happen if right now, we committed to not checking email or social media, to not typing or writing until nightfall? What would happen if we committed to not spending money, to not cooking or baking until three stars appear in the sky tonight? I am almost positive that the world, even your world would not come crashing down. Sure, there would be inconveniences, and sure, it would be a lot...Read more...

Beshallah 5782 - God's Saving Power

January 15, 2022 - 13 Sh'vat, 5782

Rabbi Feivel often tells a personal story of God’s saving power: When Rabbi Feivel was six years old, he woke up in the middle of the night, walked into his brother’s room, and climbed into bed. His brother, thankfully, was sleeping over at a friend’s house. Normally, Rabbi Feivel was the kid who slept through everything, but tonight felt different. Rabbi Feivel later woke up to his parents...Read more...

Vayigash 5782 - Teach Us to Number Our Days

December 11, 2021 - 7 Tevet, 5782

All week, I have been reflecting on Dorothy Rosenfeld’s 94 years of life, a life jam-packed with rich experiences and generous mitzvot. At her funeral on Tuesday, I mentioned a couple of lines from Psalm 90 that come to mind when I think about her energy and curiosity: Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12). From Dorothy’s life, from Psalms, and also, from...Read more...

Vayeshev 5782 - God is Everywhere, and God is One

November 27, 2021 - 23 Kislev, 5782 

In Jewish preschools across the nation, we often hear this universalistic version of the Sh’ma - God is everywhere, and God is one… It is both easy to comprehend and complex, if we think about how that statement affects our daily decisions. God is everywhere - we are able to access God through prayer and study in every place, in every situation. If we look close enough, we can find...Read more...

Sun, October 2 2022 7 Tishrei 5783