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Vayishlakh 5782 - Gratitude for Having Enough Right Now

November 20, 2021

We, the Jewish people, practice a tradition laden with prayers for gratitude. We have fixed blessings to say thank you to God every time we see a rainbow, eat a bite of food, or wake up in the morning. Especially on Shabbat, when we traditionally ask for nothing but peace, we have ample time to practice gratitude for what we have and to visualize a mindset in which we lack nothing. While another day focused on...Read more...

Hayei Sarah 5782 - Creative Conversation with God

Saturday, October 30, 2021

18th-19th century Hasidic master Rabbi Nachman of Breslov prescribes a particular regimen of conversation with God:

Hitbodedut is the highest path of all. One must therefore set aside an hour or more each day to talk with God by themselves in a room or in a field.

Hitbodedut consists of conversation with God. One can pour out their...Read more...

Toldot 5782 - May God Sustain Us, the Children of Jacob (An Adaptation of Isaac's Blessing)

Saturday, November 6, 2021

וְיִֽתֶּן־לְךָ֙ הָאֱלֹהִ֔ים מִטַּל֙ הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וּמִשְׁמַנֵּ֖י הָאָ֑רֶץ וְרֹ֥ב דָּגָ֖ן וְתִירֹֽשׁ׃

May God give you from the dew of the heavens and the fats of the earth and new abundance of grain and wine (Genesis 27:28).

May...

Vayeitzei 5782 - A Push Towards Travel to Israel

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Hizkuni, a 13th century commentator from Ashkenaz, sounds like a modern Israeli tour guide when he explains the holiness of the place where Ya’akov rests his head and dreams at the beginning of our parshah:

This is the place where Avraham offered prayers to God on his way to Ai, and Yitzhak later offered prayers on that same altar. The people Israel would fight battles...Read more...

A Prayer for Those Who Serve Our Country

Friday, November 12, 2021

In Shreveport and Bossier, we all know someone who has served our military far from here, who is serving our military abroad right now, or who will serve away from home at some named or unnamed future date. When I think of these loved ones, I think of God’s reminder to Jacob on his journey through Beit El, the future house of the beit ha-mikdash, the Holy Temple.

And...

Vayera 5782 - Bikkur Holim, Visiting the Sick

Friday, October 22, 2021

When you or a loved one has been ill in the past, what has someone else done that has been helpful or meaningful to you?

Tomorrow morning, we will learn the Talmudic statement that hakhnasat orkhim (welcoming guests) is a greater act than welcoming the Shekhinah (the Divine Presence). Just a few sentences later, in the Talmud Bavli, Masekhet Shabbat, Rabbi Yehuda Bar Sheilah says that Rabbi Asi says...Read more...

Vayera 5782 - Welcoming In From Outside Our Tent

October 23, 2021

In the Shreveport Jewish community, we are currently experiencing what I have heard several community members call a “mass Exodus.” People are leaving for all the right reasons - for example, to be close to family or to find a more fitting career. And yet, our dwindling numbers can seem daunting to those of us still here. Will we be able to sustain minyanim at Shabbat services? Will we be able to maintain enough...Read more...

Lekh L'kha 5782 - Two Synagogues, One Family

October 15, 2021

A joke you may have heard before: 

A Jewish man was shipwrecked at sea and marooned on a desert island. When a passing boat picked him up five years later, the crew was impressed to see that he had built three buildings - one simple hut for shelter and two synagogues. 

“But why do you need two synagogues?” the captain asked.

“Well,” he replied, “There’s the one where I...

Noah 5782 - Measure Twice, Cut Once

October 8, 2021

Whenever I’m assisting Rabbi Feivel with building anything, he always reminds me, “Measure twice, cut once.” God reminds Noah of the same principle, as he builds an ark to save a remnant of God’s Creation. In the first detailed materials and measurement list of the Torah, God tells Noah:

Make yourself an ark of gopher wood; make it an ark with compartments, and cover it inside...Read more...

B'reishit 5782 - No Hiding From God

Saturday, October 2, 2021

We’ve all been there. We’ve gossiped about someone behind their back or walked past a lost dog without pausing to find the owner. When we are behind closed doors or when no one else is present, we often don’t feel the weight of our actions, or even our negligence. But intellectually, we know that that gossip is bound to make it back to its subject and to hurt them and their family. We know that a child...Read more...

B'reishit 5782 - Scientific Inquiry and Knowing God

Friday, October 1, 2021

According to its website, the Creation Museum in Peterson, Kentucky, “shows why God’s infallible Word, rather than man’s faulty assumptions, is the place to begin if we want to make sense of our world.” In 75,000 square feet, including a movie theater, planetarium, nature trails, and 150 well-funded exhi bits, this Evangelical Christian museum strives to disprove evolution through a show of staunch...Read more...

Sukkot 5782 - A time to embrace, a time to refrain from embracing

September 20, 5782

At the beginning of the pandemic, we thought a lot about touch. We watched viral YouTube videos about how to best disinfect our groceries, in case they had been touched by a store employee or another customer. As places began to open up, hotels and restaurants boasted advertisements by various bleach companies. Gradually, as viral spread on surfaces was seen as less of a threat, we began to focus on interpersonal...Read more...

Yom Kippur 5782 - A time for planting, a time for uprooting the planted

September 16, 2021

This year, in this congregation, many of us are moving, retiring, or starting a new career path. For some of us, we know it is time to plant our roots, to build up what we have right here. And for some of us, we know it is time to go, to uproot what we have planted and to disassemble what we have built in this place. 

Ecclesiastes (Kohelet) teaches: Eit la’ta’at v’eit la’akor natua. There is a...Read more...

Shabbat Shuvah 5782: A time to cry, a time to laugh

September 11, 2021

An English Jew, a prominent novelist and intellectual, is informed that he will be knighted. The queen’s protocol officials prepare him and other knights-to-be for the ceremony. He is informed that, when he stands before the queen, he is to recite certain Latin words just before being knighted. On the day of the ceremony, the man is very nervous and, sure enough, when he approaches the...Read more...

Rosh HaShanah II 5782: A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

September 9, 2021

Every year, twice a year, my heart breaks with the reading of Akeidat Yitzhak, the binding of Isaac. It hits me at different verses each time - sometimes, I am heartbroken and confused by God’s initial request of Abraham - now that Abraham has exiled his elder son Ishmael, it seems that God is asking Abraham to sacrifice his remaining son - as God says, את בנך את יחידך אשר אהבת את יצחק -...Read more...

Rosh HaShanah I 5782: A time for speech, a time for silence

September 8, 2021

Lately, words have become a challenge. Halfway through expressing a thought, I change my mind, forget the point of what I was trying to say, or lose track of the appropriate word to describe my opinion or emotion. Often, I will start speaking and then realize that in this particular moment, the absence of my voice would have been much more expressive, much more powerful than its unmindful presence. As someone...Read more...

Erev Rosh HaShanah 5782: A time to be born, a time to die

September 7, 2021

In the 1960s, Pete Seeger looked to the Hebrew Bible for his newest protest song and found, in his words, “verses by a bearded fellow with sandals, a tough-minded fellow called Ecclesiastes.” In December of 1965, when The Byrds brought Turn, Turn, Turn to the top of the charts, US troops had just landed in Vietnam, and the news displayed pictures of violent response to the burgeoning civil rights movement. Today,...Read more...

God's People Israel: Confidence in Chosenness - Ki Tavo 5781

August 28, 2021

Earlier in our service this morning, we blessed God, habocher b’amo Yisrael b’ahava, the one who chooses God’s people Israel with love. In just a few minutes, we’ll bless God again, asher bachar banu mikol ha’amim v’natan lanu et Torato, the one who chose us from all of the nations and gave us God’s Torah. As we learn in Parshat Ki Tavo, if we act according to this Torah that God has given us, blessings...Read more...

Caring for Our Dead, Known and Unknown - Ki Teitze 5781

Friday, August 20, 2021

Last Shabbat morning, we spoke about the importance of providing medical prevention and care to all in our midst, whether we approve of our neighbors’ choices or not. In that conversation, we referred to a passage of our parashah in which an unidentified body is discovered in the field. In such a case, the Torah teaches, the elders of the town closest to the body ritually claim responsibility for the...Read more...

Saving a Life, Vaccinated or Unvaccinated - Shoftim 5781

August 14, 2021

Recently, I have heard variations of the following statement on social media and in passing conversation: “Hospitals should just refuse medical treatment to those who aren’t vaccinated. That’ll teach them a lesson.” It sends chills down my spine every time I hear it. Yes, the Delta variant is tragic and terrifying. Yes, it is frustrating that we have to mask up and watch our distance again, that scheduled...Read more...

Worried Optimism - Psalm 27

August 14, 2021

A group of elderly, retired men gathers each morning at a cafe in Tel Aviv. They drink their coffee and sit for hours discussing the world situation. Given the state of the world, their talks usually are depressing. One day, one of the men startles the others by announcing, “You know what? I am an optimist.” 

The others are shocked, but then one of them notices something fishy. “Wait a minute! If...Read more...

Wake Up! Hit'or'ri, Hit'or'ri! - Shoftim 5779

September 7, 2019

Throughout the month of Elul, our current month of the Hebrew calendar, if you were to visit Jerusalem, you would quite literally wake up each morning with a multitude of shofar blasts. There is no possible way to sleep through the High Holy Days in this city, no possible way to ignore the self-reflection demanded by Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. The screens on all of the public buses alternate between displaying the...Read more...

Why Keep Kosher? - Re'eh 5781

August 7, 2021

Chicken fried steak, donuts, cheese pizza, Doritos - all kosher! Keeping kosher does not automatically make for a healthier lifestyle. However, with real intention, keeping kosher can make for greater compassion, mindfulness, gratitude and ultimately, mental and physical health.

Parashat Re’eh covers all of our basic laws of kashrut, although this is not the first time in the Torah that we hear them. We only...Read more...

Tell Your Story - Ekev 5781

Yesterday morning, at Annemarie Ain’s funeral service, Rabbi Jana spoke of the stories Mrs. Ain began to tell later in life, imparting wisdom upon each individual she trusted with her words. Through her praise of Mrs. Ain, Rabbi Jana exhorted us all to tell our stories, to preserve our own legacies for generations to come. I carried Rabbi Jana’s words with me throughout the service, throughout the burial, and finally, throughout the...Read more...

You Can't Always Get What You Want - Vaetchanan 5781

Va'ethanan 5781 - July 24, 2021

If you know this tune by the Rolling Stones, please sing along:

You can’t always get what you want (x3)

But if you try sometimes, you just might find

You get what you need

You are not the only one who doesn’t always get what you want. In the verses that precede our Torah reading today,...Read more...

Wise, Discerning, and Respected - Devarim 5781

Parshat D'varim - July 17, 2021

Some of us here have photographic memories; we read an article and can recall every word the following week. Some of us love doing our research; we hear about some interesting bit of Torah or science and go down a rabbit hole of books and articles. Others of us learn best through our connections with others; we ask questions, listen to stories, and gather a treasure trove of knowledge through our...Read more...

The Daughters of Tzelophechad and Equal Obligation

Parashat Pinchas - July 2, 2021

Parshat Pinchas is often seen as a huge win for women! The daughters of Tzelophechad, named Machla, Noah, Chaglah, Milkah, and Tirtzah, achieve the new Israelite reality that if a man has no sons, his daughters can inherit his property too! (Side note: Midrash declares that because the four daughters’ names show up in different orders throughout our story, we can surmise that all four daughters are...Read more...

Our Modern Sacrificial Offerings

Parashat Pinhas - July 3, 2021

Judaism is expensive. A few of us here order our meat online or buy in bulk when we visit Dallas, so that we can keep kosher. The tallitot we wear in our services do not come for free, and the Jewish summer camps that many of us once attended, or at least, sent kids to, certainly did not come for free either. In just a couple of months, we will purchase lulav sets for Sukkot, and I know quite a few...Read more...

Open Your Eyes (More Than Once)

Parashat Balak - June 26, 2021

The respected Rabbi Yochanan would give his lectures perched upon seven cushions, so that he could be easily seen by all of his students. One day, Rav Kahana was visiting the yeshiva, and he offered a series of challenges to Rabbi Yochanan that the great Rabbi could not answer. With every unanswered challenge, Rabbi Yochanan took one cushion out from under him, until he sat on the floor. Rabbi Yochanan...Read more...

Bach's Two-Part Inventions and Embracing Imperfection

Parashat Sh'lah - June 5, 2021

When I was a younger pianist, I tried to avoid playing anything by J.S. Bach at all costs. Bach’s music requires precision and clarity; it is very obvious when a musician makes a mistake while playing Bach. I always preferred Romantic pieces, with their giant, crunchy chords, tones that purposefully blur together, and sheer emotional weight that can distract from a missed note. As I became a...Read more...

Sat, December 4 2021 30 Kislev 5782