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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...

Go Outside!

Parashot Matot-Masei - July 10, 2021

On Fourth of July morning, it was cool enough to take the dogs on a light, easy nature walk at the Red River Wildlife Refuge. We chose to take a path we had never taken before, and halfway through, we found ourselves trudging through a lovely, green swamp. As we kept thinking we saw dry land, we trudged deeper and deeper, until we all were covered with algae and accepted that it was time to...Read more...

The Priestly Blessing and the Road to Peace

Parashat Nasso - May 22, 2021

We are by no means an ascetic tradition. We embrace the material, with stacked bookshelves and multi-colored kippot. We revel in spiritual joy, with lavish meals, catchy tunes, and endless holidays and lifecycle events to encourage families to celebrate together.

Our reading today will end with a blessing we recite at the end of each prayer service.

Read more...

Psalm 122: A Psalm for Peace

Parshat Bamidbar
Saturday, May 15, 2021

Our tradition includes a whole lot of prayers for peace - Oseh Shalom, our responsive prayer for peace in the morning, Shalom Rav, Sim Shalom, and so on. At times like these, when rockets are firing back and forth between Gaza and Israel yet again, when over a hundred lives have been lost from this week’s violence and...Read more...

With Kind Regards: Compassionate Workplace Culture in Jewish Organizations

Parashat Behar-Behukotai

Friday, May 7

Just yesterday, a group of Jewish professionals and consultants (led by David Phillips, Harrell Wittenstein, Sara Miller-Paul, and Richard Levin) published “With Kind Regards: The Bivrachah Study,” a survey and data collection regarding workplace culture in Jewish non-profit organizations....Read more...

The Corners of Our Fields: A Societal Structure of Giving

The Corners of Our Fields: A  Societal Structure of Giving 
Parshat Emor, 5781
Saturday, May 1, 2021

פרשת אמור, תשפ״א Parshat Emor, 5781 by Rabbi Sydni Saturday, May 1st, 2021 The Corners of Our Fields: A Societal Structure of Giving

At a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, President Biden proposed a slate of programs to expand governmental support of childcare, healthcare, cost of education,...Read more...

Honoring Parents and Maintaining Our Jewish Practice

Honoring Parents and Maintaining Our Jewish Practice
Parshat Aharei Mot-K'doshim, 5781
Saturday, April 24, 2021

פרשת אחרי מות-קדשים, תשפ״א Parshat Aharei Mot-K'doshim, 5781 by Rabbi Sydni Saturday, April 24th, 2021 Honoring Parents and Maintaining Our Jewish Practice

A few years ago, Rabbi Feivel, our friend Rabbi Natasha Mann from rabbinical school, and I went to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving....Read more...

Honoring, Revering, and Listening to Parents

Honoring, Revering, and Listening to Parents
Parshat Tazria-M'tzora, 5781
Saturday, April 17, 2021

פרשת תזריע-מצורע, תשפ״א Parshat Tazria-M'tzora, 5781 by Rabbi Sydni Saturday, April 17th, 2021 Honor, Revering, and Listening to Parents

How do you respect your parents? For those who are parents in the room, when do you feel respected by your children?

For the past month, on the Shabbatot between...Read more...

Sacred, Romantic Love in Shir HaShirim

Sacred, Romantic Love in Shir HaShirim
Passover 5781
Saturday, April 3, 2021

Passover 5781 by Rabbi Sydni Saturday, April 3rd, 2021 Sacred, Romantic Love in Shir HaShirim

Many of us know all too well the feeling that prompts God’s statement about Adam in the second chapter of Genesis: לא טוב היות האדם לבדו - It is not good for the man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). We have all been lonely before, perhaps more...Read more...

The Holiness of Community

The Holiness of Community
Parshat Tzav, 5781
Saturday, March 27, 2021

פרשת צו, תשפ״א Parshat Tzav, 5781 by Rabbi Sydni Saturday, March 27th, 2021 The Holiness of Community

Throughout this Pesah (Passover) we will explore themes introduced in Shir HaShirim, the Song of Songs. We’ll talk about the interplay of Judaism and romantic relationships, why human love is so integral to Jewish life and practice,...Read more...

Don't Stand Idly By—A Response to Violence Against Asian-Americans

Don't Stand Idly By—A Response to Violence Against Asian-Americans
Parshat Vayikra, 5781
Saturday, March 20, 2021

פרשת ויקרא, תשפ״א Parshat Vayikra, 5781 by Rabbi Sydni Saturday, March 20th, 2021 Don't Stand Idly By - A Response to Violence Against Asian-Americans

I’d like to share with you the Rabbinical Assembly’s statement on the shootings that happened in Atlanta this past...Read more...

Building the Mishkan—Lessons in Non-Profit Management 

Building the Mishkan—Lessons in Non-Profil Management
Parhsat Vayak'heil-P'kudei, 5781
Saturday, March 13, 2021

פרשת ויקהל-פקודי, תשפ״א Parshat Vayak'heil-P'kudei, 5781 by Rabbi Sydni Saturday, March 13th, 2021 Building the Mishkan - Lessons in Non-Profit Management

Imagine an Agudath Achim in which we had enough volunteers and funds to never worry about our limits. How would our synagogue space,...Read more...

Personal and Communal Growth in a Year of Pandemic

Personal and Communal Growth in a Year of Pandemic
Parshat Ki Tisa, 5781
Saturday, March 6, 2021

פרשת כי תשא, תשפ״א Parshat Ki Tisa, 5781 by Rabbi Sydni Saturday, March 6th, 2021 Personal and Communal Growth in a Year of Pandemic

Exactly a year ago in the Hebrew calendar, we had our last Shabbat with a Kiddush lunch, with no social distancing restrictions. I’d like to share one of my kavannot or...Read more...

Please, Look Jewish!

Please, Look Jewish!
Parshat T'tzaveh, 5781
Saturday, February 27, 2021

פרשת תצוה, תשפ״א Parshat T'tzaveh, 5781 by Rabbi Sydni Saturday, February 27th, 2021 Please, Look Jewish!

We keep them in the back of the closet - those t-shirts, sweatshirts, and tote bags from Jewish camps and conferences. Some of us keep them stowed in our jewelry boxes - Star of David earrings and necklaces engraved with the...Read more...

When Our Hearts Draw Us to Give

When Our Hearts Draw us to Give
Parshat T'rumah, 5781
Saturday, February 20, 2021

פרשת תרומה, תשפ״א Parshat T'rumah, 5781 by Rabbi Sydni Saturday, February 20th, 2021 When Our Hearts Draw us to Give

When someone asks me where to donate as a gift for my birthday, the first place that comes to mind is the Jerusalem SPCA - צער בעלי חיים ירושלים. When I lived in Israel the two years after...Read more...

Yitro and the Merits of Delegation

Yitro and the Merits of Delegation
Parshat Yitro, 5781
Saturday, January 23, 2021

פרשת יתרו, תשפ״א Parshat Yitro, 5781 by Rabbi Sydni Saturday, February 6th, 2021 Yitro and the Merits of Delegation

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had conversations with a few members of our synagogue leadership about the merits of delegation. Although we have quite a few community members who are ready and willing to...Read more...

Love of God—The Personal and the Practical

Love of God—The Personal and the Practical
Parshat Yitro, 5781
Saturday, February 6, 2021

פרשת יתרו, תשפ״א Parshat Yitro, 5781 by Rabbi Sydni Saturday, February 6th, 2021 Love of God - The Personal and the Practical

The medieval poet Rumi writes, “The human intellect is a place where hesitation and uncertainty take root/ There is no way to overcome this hesitation...except by falling in...Read more...

Judaism and Wellness

Judaism and Wellness
Parshat B'shalah, 5781
Saturday, January 30, 2021

פרשת בשלח, תשפ״א Parshat B'shalah, 5781 by Rabbi Sydni Saturday, January 30th, 2021 Judaism and Wellness

A few weeks ago, a woman walked into Agudath Achim, asking for a kosher cookbook. When I asked why, she explained that in the new year, she wanted to eat healthier! While I helped her find some books, I couldn’t help but think about a...Read more...

Mon, September 20 2021 14 Tishrei 5782