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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...

May Our Words Be Acceptable to You

May Our Words Be Acceptable to You
Parshat Bo, 5781
Saturday, January 23, 2021

פרשת בא, תשפ״א Parshat Bo, 5781 by Rabbi Sydni Saturday, January 23rd, 2021 May Our Words Be Acceptable to You

At Wednesday morning’s Presidential inauguration, when Andrea Hall, a veteran Fire Captain, recited the Pledge of Allegiance in English and American Sign Language, she began the ceremony with a tone of welcoming for all,...Read more...

Pray for Peace, Pray for Government

Pray for Peace, Pray for Our Government
Parshat Sh'mot, 5781
Saturday, January 9, 2021

פרשת שמות, תשפ״א Parshat Sh'mot, 5781 by Rabbi Sydni Saturday, January 9th, 2021 Pray for Peace, Pray for Our Government

רבי חנניה סגן הכהנים אומר: הוי מתפלל בשלומה של מלכות שאלמלא מוראה איש את רעהו חיים בלעו.

Rabbi Hananiah,...Read more...

Friday Night's Blessing of the Children

Friday Night's Blessing of the Children
Parshat Vay'hi, 5781
Saturday, January 2, 2021

פרשת ויחי, תשפ״א Parshat Vay'hi, 5781 by Rabbi Sydni Saturday, January 2nd, 2021 Friday Night's Blessing of the Children

Each Friday evening, as Shabbat begins, it is customary for parents to bless their children. For boys and men, we say ישימך אלהים כאפרים וכמנשה - May God make you like Efraim and...Read more...

Danger on the Road—Acknowledging Impulses in Times of Darkness

Danger on the Road—Acknowledging Impulses in Times of Darkness
Parhsat Vayigash, 5781
Saturday, December 26, 2020

פרשת ויגש, תשפ״א Parshat Vayigash, 5781 by Rabbi Sydni Saturday, December 26th, 2020 Danger on the Road - Acknowledging Impulses in Times of Darkness

The New York Times published an article yesterday morning entitled, “Vodka in Your Coffee Cup: When Pandemic Drinking Goes Too Far.” The...Read more...

A Tunnel With Lights on Either End

A Tunnel With Lights on Either End
Parshat Vayeisheiv, 5781
Saturday, December 12, 2020

פרשת וישב, תשפ״א Parshat Vayeisheiv, 5781 by Rabbi Sydni Saturday, December 12th, 2020 A Tunnel With Lights on Either End

This past Wednesday, in a meeting with rabbis across the state, Governor John Bel Edwards described Louisiana’s relationship with COVID through a brilliant metaphor: We are currently in a tunnel with...Read more...

To Seek and To Offer—Worth the Trouble

To Seek and To Offer—Worth the Trouble
Parshat Vayishlah, 5781
Saturday, December 5, 2020

פרשת וישלח, תשפ״א Parshat Vayishlah, 5781 by Rabbi Sydni Saturday, December 5th, 2020 To Seek and To Offer - Worth the Trouble

In pastoral counseling classes, especially those classes about offering care in periods of sickness and mourning, we were taught to offer specific help before it is asked - a glass of water, a...Read more...

Shabbat Thanksgiving

Shabbat Thanksgiving
Parhsat Vayeitzei, 5781
Saturday, November 28, 2020

פרשת ויצא, תשפ״א Parshat Vayeitzei, 5781 by Rabbi Sydni Saturday, November 28th, 2020 Shabbat Thanksgiving 5781

We are Jewish, spiritual descendants of Judah (Yehudah), the fourth son of Leah and Jacob. Leah, who struggles to win her husband’s affections throughout Parashat Vayeitzei, is overjoyed by the birth of her fourth...Read more...

Honoring Parents—An Imperfect but Life-Affirming Endeavor

Honoring Parents—An Imperfect but Life-Affirming Endeavor
Parshat Toldot, 5781
Saturday, November 21, 2020

פרשת תולדות, תשפ״א Parshat Toldot, 5781 by Rabbi Sydni Saturday, November 21st, 2020 Honoring Parents - An Imperfect but Life-Affirming Endeavor

None of our parents are or were perfect. As far as I know, all of our parents are or were human. Some, we might argue, made a few more significant mistakes...Read more...

Shabbat of Service to Our Country

Shabbat of Service to Our Country
Parshat Hayei Sarah, 5781
Saturday, Novemebr 14, 2020

פרשת חיי שרה, תשפ״א Parshat Hayei Sarah, 5781 by Rabbi Sydni Saturday, November 14th, 2020 Shabbat of Service to Our Country

So far in our liturgy today, we have asked God for peace in Sim Shalom, one of the last prayers of our Amidah, in our Kaddish Shalem with the final words of Oseh Shalom, in our prayers following...Read more...

Every Vote (Every Person) Counts

Every Vote (Every Person) Counts
Parshat Veyeira, 5781
Saturday, November 7, 2020

פרשת וירא, תשפ״א Parshat Vayeira, 5781 by Rabbi Sydni Saturday, November 7th, 2020 Every Vote (Every Person) Counts

If we were to only learn one thing from this election, our lesson should be that every single person counts. The difference between votes for Biden and Trump in Georgia is currently under 2000, in a state with...Read more...

Mon, January 17 2022 15 Shevat 5782