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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 -...

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. 


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...

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...

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...

Mikketz 5782 - Finding and Preserving Light

December 4, 2021 - 30 Kislev, 5782

On Tuesday evening, my yoga teacher came into the room and sighed, “Why in the world do we have this season of celebration when it gets cold and dark so early? It’s so depressing!” Jewish author Anita Diamant has the perfect answer to my teacher: “This is the season,” she writes, “when people of all faiths and cultures are pushing back against the planetary darkness. We string bulbs,...Read more...

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...

Sat, May 28 2022 27 Iyyar 5782