Weekly Torah Portion

 

5.13.2022 Weekly Torah Portion

Our annual gala is happening this Sunday at the Beverly Hilton (click here for more info).  After last year’s virtual edition, it will be wonderful to gather together with so many members of Beit T’Shuvah’s extended community.  The make-up of our community is so diverse and eclectic, and I’ve often found that our gala represents... Read more »

4.22.2022 Weekly Torah Portion

The celebration of Passover offers each of us enduring wisdom, insight into the process of emerging from constraint - in all the forms that it takes - into greater freedom and its responsibility. As they left Egypt, the Israelites must have known that their lives were changing forever.  But after lifetimes of enslavement, how were... Read more »

4.1.2022 Weekly Torah Portion

The name for this week’s parasha, Tazria (“in childbirth”), re-introduces the reader to the challenging concept of ritual impurity/uncleanliness. In our modern life, this designation and any sense of its relevancy can seem like quite a stretch. As the Torah describes, a state of “uncleanness” results from close encounters with reproductive fluids, reproduction, caring for... Read more »

3.11.2022 Weekly Torah Portion

While I’m normally someone who is easily distracted, lately it’s particularly difficult to stay focused.  Whether it’s beginning to grasp the brutalities of war in Europe or the lingering uncertainties of the pandemic, my attention seems to be continually drawn away from what’s in front of me - towards anxieties, towards indulgencies, and towards…Google News... Read more »

3.4.2022 Weekly Torah Portion

I vividly remember the moment my first sponsor spoke with me about “taking direction from Higher Power”.  New to recovery and desperate for serenity, I was listening carefully.  And while I understood the words that she was saying literally, I had no concept of what she was actually trying to communicate.  I could wrap my... Read more »

2.18.2022 Weekly Torah Portion

Transitions can be so difficult.  Moving from a place of familiarity to something that is new and different often brings out the worst in us.  We frequently see this with residents at Beit T’Shuvah, as they progress through their recovery.  Sometimes it’s the transitions into Beit T’Shuvah that can shock someone’s systems and at other... Read more »

2.11.2022 Weekly Torah Portion

One of the greatest gifts of the Beit T’Shuvah community is our ability to be a space for people to struggle out loud. We all know that life isn’t easy - but in the world of normies, it seems like life is supposed to be easy. The glamorous aura of success is supposed to follow... Read more »

1.28.2022 Weekly Torah Portion

There is a special Jewish law for goodbyes: “a person should take leave of another from involvement in a matter of Jewish law” (Berakhot 31b).  In other words, part ways from one another with words of torah so that remembering the person reminds you of that torah, and remembering that torah reminds you of the... Read more »

1.21.2022 Weekly Torah Portion

This week’s parasha offers us two distinct perspectives about encountering G!D. The more well-known involves the revelation of G!D and G!D’s word (the Ten Commandments) to the Israelites.  The Torah describes this moment in other-worldly terms and relays the fear and awe involved with such an overwhelming encounter. All the people witnessed the thunder and... Read more »

1.14.2022 Weekly Torah Portion

This week’s Torah portion, Beshalach, contains one of the most iconic passages in Jewish tradition: Shirat ha-Yam, the Song at the Sea. After Moses holds out his arm over the sea, and God parts the sea and turns it into dry ground, the Jewish people cross through on dry land; although the Egyptians pursue them,... Read more »

1.7.2022 Weekly Torah Portion

Every morning as my wife and I prepare to get out of the house with our two young kids, our house is a bit of a frenzy - we rush to make breakfast, pack lunches, get the kids dressed, do our morning routines, and get ourselves ready for our day and work. The inner and... Read more »

12.31.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

One doesn’t have to look deeply into this week’s parashah to find parallels into our current state of affairs. In the second section of Exodus, Moses has emerged as the leader of the Israelites, and with G!D’s support, is spearheading a protest campaign to free his enslaved community. The vicious Egyptian ruler Pharaoh is refusing... Read more »

12.24.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

This week feels like longest night of the year. There’s a heaviness here, like everything that’s meant to be close is far away: family, friends, that “normal” life, the 2020 I thought I would have, the 2021 I thought I would have, the future I thought I would share with friends and family who are... Read more »

12.17.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

Last night, I was sitting at home with my husband, who was emailing a friend. As he was about to hit “send” I interrupted and joked, “You should sign it, ‘Happy Festivus!’” We burst out laughing, and moments later, we were watching the classic Seinfeld episode. While it originally aired in 1997, the themes it... Read more »

Letter about the life of Rabbi Marc Blumenthal

Written by Jim Rattray, Marc's brother-in-law The past few weeks have been particularly difficult for us as a family. Lisa's older brother, Marc Steven Blumenthal, passed away yesterday (12/8) after a brief illness at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was only 65. Yes, only 65. Marc was a rabbi and spiritual counselor to thousands.... Read more »

12.3.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

Tonight we’re celebrating the sixth night of Hanukkah, and we been talking a lot about miracles at 8831 Venice Blvd.  Our conversations have ranged from bearing witness to miracles of recovery to exploring what exactly are the miracles that the holiday of Hanukkah celebrates.  Talking about miracles in a time when scientific certainty is a dominant (and welcomed) value can be tricky.  Rabbi Schulweiss (z”l) quotes Menachem... Read more »

11.26.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

This time of year pulls at such extremes: holiday uplift and gratitude comes with the longing for people far away and the weight of people no longer here, the missed connections, and the messed up connections.  There’s an unsettled churning in the mind, the spirit, and the weather that reminds us how little control we... Read more »

11.19.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

There is a moment in this week’s parasha - a story just a few sentences long - that captures two peak moments of human experience: birth and death. Jacob and his family are journeying to their new home, and as they are traveling, Rachel goes into labor. Even as she is giving birth to new... Read more »

11.12.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

When we think of dreamers in the Torah, we may naturally come to think of Joseph and his many dreams -- the dreams of an arrogant teenager that set him apart from and above his brothers, which got him into trouble, and also the dreams of the Pharaoh that Joseph was able to decipher and... Read more »

11.5.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

Our tradition tells us that Torah, as a reflection of G!D’s love, is perfect and unblemished. It is understood that no letter - let alone any of its words - is misplaced or unneeded. Nonetheless, there are numerous episodes in this week’s parashah that make it difficult to accept Torah as perfect. The narrative forces... Read more »

10.29.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

Hayyei Sarah is an invitation.   Imagine receiving an envelope addressed to you with hand-written Hebrew calligraphy.  The calligraphy is the only ornamentation on the envelope.  You open it and you are invited to life after trauma.  Some never check their mail because it’s too hard to get off the couch or because they’re high and then high... Read more »

10.22.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

“Everybody lies.” I was speaking to a colleague earlier this week, as she was reflecting on her experience listening to people tell the stories of their lives.  She continued, “Everybody lies, and some people lie more than others.” Surprisingly, we read a story in this week’s parasha that almost gives support to this very human... Read more »

10.15.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

Highlights from jam-packed parashat Lech-Lecha:    The Spiritual Journey:    The Lord said to Abram, “Go to yourself from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation,   And I will bless you;   I will make your name great,   And you be a blessing (Genesis 12:1-2).   This to... Read more »

10.8.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

One of the Beit T’Shuvah residents keeps having toilet paper stolen from her room. Maybe it’s a prank? Perhaps it’s someone else’s laziness? (Residents are responsible for re-stocking their own toilet paper from the storeroom). The whole situation led to an engaging conversation in last week’s Big Ethics, and what resulted was an important discussion... Read more »

9.24.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

In his online class How To Cure The High Holiday Hangover, Rabbi Shais Taub speaks about some of the experiences we can have as Jews during the time right after Yom Kippur ends.  As a recovering alcoholic who is no stranger to the pursuit of the high of intoxication, Rabbi Taub understands Yom Kippur as a tremendous spiritual high - in its own... Read more »

9.17.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

What do you want your legacy to be? If you knew your death was impending, how would you want to be remembered? What would your last actions be? These are the questions I imagine are running through Moses’ mind as he nears the end of his life. Not only is he thinking about his own... Read more »

9.10.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

Is the world opening up or are we back in shut-down mode? What exactly are the current safety protocols? Is this family event safe? Because of the pandemic’s on-going evolution, the continual uncertainty looms immense and further reminds us that the only constant in life is change. Safety concerns and disruption to life have become... Read more »

9.3.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

What does it mean to stand before God? Is it like standing before someone you’ve hurt and accepting their response even if it’s not what you’ve hoped for? Is it like getting married? A joyful and humble and profound moment that connects you to someone and Something else beyond you? Is it a cry for... Read more »

8.27.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

With Rosh Hashanah only ten days away, this is the season of lessons learned (reflections from the past year) and learning lessons (propelling us into the new year). The uncertainty resulting from the ever-evolving pandemic looms large in almost everything we do, including our preparations for the High Holy Days. Within the past week, more... Read more »

8.20.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

There is a story in the Talmud about Rav Amram Hasida, aka Rav Amram “The Pious.” He was given the title “The Pious” because he knew what the next right action was and was firm and disciplined in his capacity to choose God’s path. So Rav Amram was entrusted to watch over the security of... Read more »

8.13.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

In life, and in recovery, we encounter moments that pull us back to basics. Sometimes we make a conscious choice to review the things that are foundational to us, and sometimes we are forced to revisit these principles when we are shown that we’ve gotten distracted. In recovery we are always grateful to the newcomer... Read more »

8.6.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

“See, I place before you today blessing and curse” (Deuteronomy 11:26). It’s one of my favorite lines in all of Torah.  Then again, I feel like I say that almost every week because there is always a verse that sparks my curiosity and helps me live well. Blessing and curse.  It’s right there, laid out... Read more »

7.30.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

"Gratitude lasts about 72 hours.” -Harriet Rossetto This week’s Torah portion, Eikev, gives us an instruction to express gratitude at mealtimes. Many of us are familiar with the concept of pausing for a moment before eating to express gratitude for our food: for the people that prepared it, for the land that produced it, and... Read more »

7.23.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

There are all of these reminders. A bright orange sun dipping at the horizon. A new blue morning sky just enough to see a friend. A hummingbird hovering. A real life hug. A speaker at a meeting who helps you stay clean. So many reminders edging themselves into our lives - to remind us of... Read more »

7.16.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

This week we find ourselves embarking on Devarim/Deuteronomy, the fifth and final book of the Torah. While we’ll be reading through Deuteronomy until the conclusion of Sukkot in mid-September, in many ways, the dramatic narrative of the Torah is basically over. Much of what we’ll read over the next few months is a recounting of... Read more »

7.9.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

We create worlds with our words. Twitter - dare I say it - is an ideal example of this. 280 characters or less creates Twitter storms with hundreds of thousands of people responding in hundreds of languages, ready to defend someone they’ve never met or burn the whole thing down. Worlds are born of 280... Read more »

7.2.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

I first came to Beit T’Shuvah for an Elaine Breslow Institute Immersion training for rabbinical students in January 2015.  Within minutes, I fell in love with the community; within hours, I knew that I wanted to stay connected to Beit T’Shuvah long after the training was over.  After almost every EBI session, I spoke to... Read more »

6.25.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

While the announcement was fifteen months in the making, it still arrived with a sense of unexpected surprise. On Wednesday, our residents were informed that we will begin opening our doors a little wider, allowing them more opportunities to get outside the walls of 8831 Venice and (re)engage with the world. In practical terms, this... Read more »

6.18.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

I remember sitting in a hotel lobby with a group of rabbis who had founded their own spiritual communities.  It was, for all its importance, impromptu - an unscheduled gathering of people breaking barriers of welcoming and prayer and relevance in American Judaism.  Generally, this was not a quiet group and, while not necessarily arrogant,... Read more »

6.11.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

Why take a position in leadership?  Would you take it for the power?  Financial gain?   Status or access to resources?  What motivates one to take a position of power and be subject to the needs of a community - their whims, desires, and complaints? Remember back in the book of Exodus - Moses never wanted... Read more »

6.4.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

In this week’s parashah, the Israelites get their first real taste of the Promised Land.  Having survived slavery and come into liberation, having encountered God at Mount Sinai, having faced their own flaws as they tried to worship a golden calf, having come all this way, they are finally about to reach the culmination of... Read more »

5.28.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

Whoever does not make him/herself ownerless, like the wilderness, is not able to acquire wisdom and Torah (Bamidbar Rabbah 1:7).  Ever since my first experience with Hitbodedut -- a Chasidic practice championed by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, where one goes out into nature alone and pours out one's heart and soul in prayer to God... Read more »

5.21.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

For the first time since the pandemic, I was blessed with the opportunity to study together, in person, with a community of learners during last Sunday night’s celebration of Shavuot.  Shavuot marks the giving and receiving of the Torah, and we engaged in a tikkun leil Shavuot (an all-night study session) until the break of... Read more »

5.14.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

Potty training is a wilderness.  Where is the closest bathroom?  Is there a line?  Will people kindly let the three-year-old to the front of the line?  Will she notice she needs to go?  Or do we keep her on a timed schedule?  Will she pee on the floor of Banana Republic? There is wisdom out... Read more »