Sermons & Divrei Torah

Yom Kippur: Hope, Despair And A Shining Sun

Yom Kippur: Hope, Despair And A Shining Sun

Like many of the quotes and poems that make their way into use, a poem attributed to an anonymous person in a concentration camp, or in hiding, became somewhat of an urban legend, and has often been taken out of context, as well as not accurately translated. That poem begins, “I believe in the sun, even when it isn’t shining.” 

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Kindness

On Rosh Hashanah, we began our prayers in the hopes of moving God, the Holy Blessed One, from kisei din, the throne or seat of judgment, to kisei rachamim, the throne or seat of compassion. Ten days later, here we are at the eve of Yom Kippur, preparing for the next 25 hours of fasting, prayer and introspection, and hoping that we will be inscribed and sealed for another year of life and blessing.

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Shema: Listening, Hearing and the Shofar

Usually, we think of “The Shema” as the verses we chant or sing from the book of Devarim, Deuteronomy, and in that context, it’s a bold theological statement. It is an idea which goes to the heart of what it means to be a Jew. Once called the watchword of our faith, the Shema traditionally is among the first words we utter in the morning upon waking and the last words we say at bedtime, and from ancient times, we are invited to make these six words the final words on our lips as we pass on from this world.

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A Time For fixing, A Time for Finishing

A Time For fixing, A Time for Finishing

As I sit in my home, I hear things calling to me. Often, they’re coated in chocolate, but not always. More often, they’re unfinished projects, clutter, things that need new homes. I walk by, and they taunt me. I think, “It will take me 5 minutes, I should sit down and do this.” But I don’t. And I know why.

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Shoftim: Can Destruction be Just?

Shoftim: Can Destruction be Just?

The spotted lantern fly, what do we do? Sefer HaChinuchfinds an even deeper teaching embedded in the principle of bal taschit. He (I assume it’s a he) wrote that the purpose of the mitzvah of bal tashchit is to teach us to love that which is good and worthwhile and to cling to it, so that good becomes a part of us and we will avoid all that is evil and destructive.

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VaEtchanan: Until His Final Breath

VaEtchanan: Until His Final Breath

While reading this week’s Torah portion, VaEtchanan, I was struck by the “white space” in between verses 40 and 41. It seemed as though the Torah simply dropped one subject and picked up another with no segue. But since I know there’s a reason for every stroke and blank space in the Torah text, I knew there had to be some sort of connection.

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Parshat Pinchas: Looking For the Good

Parshat Pinchas: Looking For the Good

My friend Sylvia (who says I’m her favorite female rabbi) is almost 98–may she live and be well–and is often troubled by the harsher judgments and more problematic passages in the Torah. And rightly so; there are plenty of times when our idea of a compassionate God who forgives sin is challenged.

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Shabbat for the 4th of July

Shabbat for the 4th of July

Two hundred and 46 years ago, the Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence, and in addition to stating a litany of grievances against tyrannical British rule, they declared the 13 Colonies to be an independent union, the beginning of the United States of America.

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Bekhukotai: The God I Believe In

Bekhukotai: The God I Believe In

The yearly Torah-reading cycle is a beautiful thing. Every week, when I look at the parashah for the upcoming Shabbat, I see something I hadn’t noticed before. I also the same words year-after-year, but find different understandings of them, depending on what’s going in the world, the area, my life.

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Achare Mot: “I Can DO It Myself!”

Achare Mot: “I Can DO It Myself!”

Years ago Joan Collins did a commercial for Jack LaLane Fitness Centers. She asked her butler to bring her her shoes and gym bag. When he asked if perhaps he should exercise for her, she replied, “There are some things one must do for one’s self.”

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Vayetze: 50 Years Later

Vayetze: 50 Years Later

This Shabbat marks 50 years since I read the haftarah for Vayetze at my Friday night bat mitzvah at B’nai Torah in Trumbull, CT. Where has the time gone? Who could have imagined that 50 years later I’d be a rabbi, have been married–and be a mother–more than half of my life?

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Latest Sermons

Yom Kippur: Hope, Despair And A Shining Sun
Yom Kippur: Hope, Despair And A Shining Sun

Yom Kippur 5783 Like many of the quotes and poems that make their way into use, a poem attributed to an anonymous person in a concentration camp, or in hiding, became somewhat of an urban legend, and has often been taken out of context, as well as not accurately...

Kindness

Kol Nidre, 5783 On Rosh Hashanah, we began our prayers in the hopes of moving God, the Holy Blessed One, from kisei din, the throne or seat of judgment, to kisei rachamim, the throne or seat of compassion. Ten days later, here we are at the eve of Yom Kippur,...

Shema: Listening, Hearing and the Shofar

Rosh Hashanah 5783, Day 2 The word, “Shema.” What do you think of when you hear it? Usually, we think of “The Shema” as the verses we chant or sing from the book of Devarim, Deuteronomy, and in that context, it’s a bold theological statement. It is an idea which goes...

Latest Midrash HaZak

Naso, The Blessings of Living and Giving: Y’varechecha as a Guide
Naso, The Blessings of Living and Giving: Y’varechecha as a Guide

Naso, The Blessings of Living and Giving: Y’varechecha as a Guide Cantor Deborah Katchko Gray Hearing my father, Cantor Theodore Katchko of blessed memory, sing the Y'varechecha, the Priestly Blessing at the end of every Friday evening service, began my love affair...

The Final Chapter: What Moses can Teach Us about End of Life
The Final Chapter: What Moses can Teach Us about End of Life

Photo: Rabbi Susan Elkodsi, The Peak of Mt. Philo, VT The Final Chapter: What Moses can Teach Us about End of Life Dr. Ellen S. Cohn As a young adult, I reveled in Existentialism, a philosophy that expressed my new-found independence and self-determination. I gave...

Ha’Azinu: Poetry, Prose and Passing Time
Ha’Azinu: Poetry, Prose and Passing Time

Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/mricon/8922711 Ha'Azinu: Poetry, Prose and Passing Time Rabbi Stephen Axinn Governor Mario Cuomo of New York once quipped that “we campaign in poetry but govern in prose.” However, for Moses, that adage worked in reverse. How so? When...

Latest Personal Blogs

Blessing My Bended Knees-A Poem
Blessing My Bended Knees-A Poem

This past week, I participated in a Ritualwell class with Alden Solovy on "Writing From One Word of Torah." I distilled 3 stream-of-consciousness prompts on the word "Baruch/Berekh," the root of which can mean "blessing' and "knee, into this poem. Blessing my bended...

The Eshet Hayil In Our Lives
The Eshet Hayil In Our Lives

Photo: publicdomainpictures.net The Eshet Hayil In Our Lives An email from My Jewish Learning about “A Woman of Valor” prompted me to pivot the next evening’s planned adult learning session to looking at these 22 verses from Mishlei, the Book of Proverbs. These verses...

Live Long and Prosper?
Live Long and Prosper?

By Oklahoma Heritage Association, Gaylord-Pickens Museum - Author, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25656727 Live Long and Prosper? January 5, 2022 began the third year of the seven and a half-year cycle of Daf Yomi, the practice of...

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