Weekly Torah Portion

 

1.15.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

One of my favorite things about working at Beit T’Shuvah is the ability to witness transformation.  It is a privilege and a gift to see individuals come in broken and then heal. So much of our healing depends on our own willingness and effort to grow, to learn and to be willing to take the... Read more »

1.8.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

I received some exciting news this past Sunday.  After a phone call with my parents, in which we all lamented the ongoing sameness of pandemic life, I received an email saying that I was eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.  The State of California had adjusted their guidelines so that workers in residential Substance Use… Read more »

1.1.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

As we say goodbye to 2020, it’s obvious that the events of this past year have served to make it a defining point in our lives, a dividing line (in ways that will only continue to be revealed) between pre-2020 life and our post-2020 world.  As we march forward into 2021, we work to understand… Read more »

12.25.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

I was in a group with residents of Beit T’Shuvah earlier this week.  One resident said, “I’ve always not fit in with this group or that group – not enough this for these people or enough that for those people.  But maybe that’s a tired story.”  The Outsider.  How many of us identify as an… Read more »

12.18.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

Near the beginning of this week’s parashah, we read the story of Joseph being released from prison.  He had been jailed unjustly, having offended the master of his household.  While in prison, he gained recognition for his ability to interpret dreams.  Word of Joseph’s abilities spread beyond the prison walls.  And when Pharaoh needed a… Read more »

12.11.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

Before the pandemic it was common practice for the residents, upon arriving at Beit T’Shuvah, to be without their phones and other electronic devices for about a month or two.  One of the comments I heard frequently was a request for more clocks around the building.  Entering into residential treatment (and early recovery) had left… Read more »

12.4.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

One of my favorite ways to learn Torah is to ask myself, “What if?” Part of the beauty of learning the Torah in its original Hebrew is that the language is open to multiple interpretations.  In fact, some translations clean up and wash over some of the inconsistencies in the original text, from which the… Read more »

11.27.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

We all have moments of desperation, dark nights of the soul, in which we less call out to God than God reaches into us and pulls out a cry for help. In this week’s parashah, Jacob has a terrifying, lonely night in which God enters his dreams and comforts him, offering him hope for his… Read more »

11.20.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

“Mitzvah gedolah lihyot b’simcha tamid.” “It is a great mitzvah to always be happy.” -Rebbe Nachman of Breslov Earlier this week, I was speaking with a colleague who shared a story about a person who is on a quest to be happy.  This person is reading books, reflecting on what is important to them, and… Read more »

11.13.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

SPOILER ALERT!  There is a lot of living and dying in this week’s Torah portion, Chayei Sarah. Translated as the “the life of Sarah,” the portion provides us with models (and guidance) on how to embrace and “hold on” to what we have, while also accepting what we need to do. We start off by learning… Read more »

11.6.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

Red states.  Blue States.  Divided States.  United States.  Will we have a President-elect by the time this goes out?  Unclear. What’s for certain is that elections are anxiety provoking. According to a recent poll by the American Psychological Association, “more than two-thirds of adults are finding the 2020 election to be a significant source of… Read more »

10.30.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

This week’s parashah has one of the most compelling and memorable lines in all of Torah: The Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). This instruction from God to Abram comes with virtually no context,… Read more »

10.23.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

During my first year of rabbinical school, and the first year my then-girlfriend, now-wife and I lived together, I was taking steroids for a medical condition.  I remember returning home from school around 5:30pm, homework looming before me, perfectionist high-alert alarm blaring, and becoming angry – so, so angry – about dirty dishes, or some… Read more »

10.16.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

Over the past week, our Beit T’Shuvah community celebrated and grieved…together.  We enacted a virtual Simchat Torah celebration with dancing, Torah study, and re-upping our commitments to recovery.  We also gathered to acknowledge the familiar, but never explainable, experience of losing one of our own.  Our tradition affirms that life is messy and that a... Read more »

10.9.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

We are at a very interesting time in the Jewish calendar (I recognize I say that quite frequently, but alas, the wisdom of the rabbis and their intentionality behind our communal festivals), as we enter the final two days of Sukkot tonight (Hoshana Rabbah/Shemini Atzeret), with Simchat Torah on Saturday night. Have you forgotten the... Read more »

10.2.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

I have this image of my grandma:  she’s still in her 70s, as I knew her, but she’s back in Brooklyn, the motherland. She’s sitting around a table with other people in their 60s and 70s, almost all - if not all – Jewish; almost all - if not all - poor.  They’ve just pooled... Read more »

9.25.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

A few days ago, I woke up after an unusually vivid dream.  In the dream, I had accidentally acquired sixteen parakeets while shopping at Target, and was trying to figure out what to do with them.  When I told my husband about this dream, he thought of my sister, who for many years has had... Read more »

9.18.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

It’s hard to be apart at this time of year.  Many of us would be planning menus: who will bring what, and is anyone going to make gefilte fish from scratch?  Elders might be teaching family recipes to younger generations, and at Beit T’Shuvah, we’d be together in the sanctuary listening to the choir and... Read more »

9.11.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

Rosh Hashanah is just 7 days away! Do you feel as completely unprepared as I do? As we enter 5781, it feels like I'm constantly pulled between a heightened sense of urgency and a heavy weight of powerlessness. Pandemic. Presidential election. Racial injustice, protests, riots and counter-protests. Raging wildfires and climate change. Zoom fatigue and... Read more »

9.4.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

Two weeks from tonight, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, we’ll include the Shehecheyanu prayer as part of the kiddush (sanctification) ritual.  This prayer is an acknowledgment of the arrival of a new experience and expresses gratitude for help in our getting to this moment.   However, I’m not sure if it will be able to... Read more »

8.28.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

As we continue our annual Torah reading cycle through the Book of Deuteronomy, the fifth of the five books of the Torah, we look ahead toward Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, holidays that are quickly approaching on time’s horizon.  This week’s parashah, Ki Teitzei, contains a collection of miscellaneous laws - as if the Torah... Read more »

8.21.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

Imagine (or remember) getting to a point in your life that requires physically separating from the existing surroundings, lest the possibility of being completely consumed by destruction and pain occur.   This decision to leave is connected to heading towards a safe space, a place specifically designated for protection and rehabilitation.  The catch (there’s always a... Read more »

8.14.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

What are the blessings and what are the curses that we encounter on a daily basis?  When do we choose blessings over curses?  And when do we choose the opposite? As a kid, I remember running from my father’s blessings.  Every week during Shabbat services, he would usher me under his talit and hold me... Read more »

8.7.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

Let’s play ball!  Or not … Back to school!  Or not … Restaurant dining!  Or not … We’re craving normal.  We’re craving restaurants and beach life, going back to work, gathering for services, and social cues beneath the cheekbones.  But for our own health and the health of people we care about (and people we… Read more »

7.31.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

Our parashah this week, Va’etchanan, gives us a beautiful description of the process of t’shuvah.  As Moses exhorts the Israelites to follow God’s instruction, he acknowledges that they might not choose to do so, that they might stray from the right path.  And if (and when) they do, they will end up in darkness, having… Read more »

7.24.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

I frequently return to the wisdom found within The Spirituality of Imperfection by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham to help guide my spiritual counseling work.  The authors’ perspective of spiritual growth starts with the premise of accepting the reality of our very human tendencies towards hypocrisy and self-deception.  They share that “…we human beings find… Read more »

7.17.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

The veil between life and death is thin, and sometimes we see just how thin it is – how fragile each of us is.  Sam’s death last week.  The deaths of others in our extended community.  We have looked straight through that very thin veil, and many of us see ourselves on both sides: “that… Read more »

7.10.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

When the pandemic is over, then we’ll live life.  “When we’re all back at 8831…”  “When we have childcare…”  “When, when, when…”  Our waiting creates the illusion that life in the time of COVID-19 is not living, that we are waiting for life to resume and pick up where we left off – if not… Read more »

7.3.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

Earlier this week, I was speaking with some colleagues as we were working on assigning tasks to complete a project.  One person would be in charge of this, another in charge of that.  We went through our list of tasks, and we came to one that left us stumped.  Who should take responsibility? “God,” someone… Read more »

6.26.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

No matter where we look – whether at home, at work, or in the news – tempers are running hot and moments of reconciliation and healing are in short supply.   Coronavirus aside, divisiveness and disagreement have become an infectious virus, continually adapting and spreading to new scenarios and new carriers.  Symptoms of this infection include… Read more »

6.19.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

Many moons ago, I got a fortune cookie that read: “Everyone has a photographic memory, some just don’t have film.”  Oh how true this is!  It’s amazing that for some completely random things, my memory is spot on.  But for other things, especially the important things that I really want to remember, it appears I’ve… Read more »

6.12.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

Unlearning racism is a matter of recovery. It’s apparent in our torah. There is an incident of explicit racism in this week’s parsha, Beha’alotcha.  We don’t like to talk about racism in the torah, but it’s there.  It’s there because in Judaism, our teachers and prophets are imperfect and remain that way.  It’s their imperfections… Read more »

6.5.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the Israelites: When a man or woman commits any wrong toward a fellow human, thus breaking faith with the LORD, and that person realizes their guilt, they shall confess the wrong that that they have done.  They shall make restitution in the principal amount and add one-fifth… Read more »

5.29.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

This Shabbat coincides with the Festival of Shavuot.  In Israel, Shavuot aligns with the wheat harvest.  Historically, as a pilgrimage festival, it was one of the three times in the year that people would journey from their farms to the Temple to offer up a portion of their crops to the priests.  Since we are… Read more »

5.22.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

Shavuot is coming.  Are you prepared?  Are you ready to receive the Torah?  Have you put aside your slave mentality and worked on your character flaws, refining your inner person in order to receive Divine revelation? Good, because I haven’t either! Regardless, Shavuot is only a week away, so now is the time to rededicate. … Read more »

5.15.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

Is it possible I’m too tired to write the “Schmata”? My therapist would ask: are you emotionally tired?  Physically tired?  And my pandemic-inspired truth is: both.  Emotionally, I’m done.  Grief for a life that was is exhausting – both for the way we used to live and for the people who have died recently of… Read more »

5.8.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

If your journey through this new age of Zoom, this moment of pandemic and quarantine, is anything like mine, it’s had some notable ups and downs.  From shock to confusion to gratitude to outright rebellion against reality, I have experienced a huge range of emotions since this historical moment began.  And this week, like each… Read more »

5.1.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

This week we read about the two tenets of Judaism: ritual and ethics.  We read descriptions of and proscriptions for the sacrifices, and then we read the words: “You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy”(Lev. 19:2b). The goal and commandement of this week is to be holy. All the commandments… Read more »

4.24.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

Every week when I begin learning the weekly Torah portion, it typically doesn’t take long before my attention is pulled to a specific verse or word.  This week, the second verse hit me like a ton of bricks:  אִשָּׁה֙ כִּ֣י תַזְרִ֔יעַ The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the Israelite people thus: When a… Read more »

4.17.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

It’s week four or five for many of us.  The length of days and nights is settling in.  I’m feeling waves crashing against my body – emotional waves, mostly of fear and anger and, almost begrudgingly, moments of joy.  Every feeling is exaggerated, extenuated, extra.  It’s overwhelming.  One day at a time becomes one hour… Read more »

4.10.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

While the primary essence of Passover is fairly straightforward – am I headed in the right direction in the process of slavery to freedom? – I find it really easy to get lost in the layers of its story, as well as all the accompanying rituals and traditions.  (Passover isn’t unique in this regard, most… Read more »

4.3.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

Kol ha-olam kulo gesher tzar me’od.  V’ha-ikar: lo y’faheid klal. The whole world is a very narrow bridge.  And the most important thing: do not be at all afraid. –Likutei Moharan, Part II, 48:2 (Sefaria) In the past few weeks, and especially in the past few days, I have seen many of my friends and… Read more »

3.27.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

Welcome to Recovery A message from people in recovery to people not in recovery. When we addicts give up dope, or alcohol, or gambling, or video games, or sex, we have to admit we are powerless over that thing we want so badly – over that thing with which we’ve had the most intimate relationship… Read more »

3.20.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

There are a number of themes in this week’s double Torah portion, Vayakel-Pekudei, that I believe can help us during this COVID-19 outbreak.  Of course, these are also useful tips for when this crisis passes.   Theme #1 Community and Obligation:  Moses then gathered the whole Israelite community and said to them: “These are the things… Read more »

3.13.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

The Israelites sit at the foothills of Mount Sinai.  Moses, their leader, the person who promised them freedom and the Presence of God, has disappeared.  And they’re afraid.  They retreat, regress, to old patterns – demanding something to worship.  Aaron responds to their demands by collecting their gold and melting it into something familiar: a… Read more »

3.6.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

A consequence of Election Day is that leadership on many levels has seemed to be in flux this week.  The news has bombarded us with an endless stream of drama and intrigue – with plenty of plot twists and turns – ultimately leading to speculation about the untold possibilities of the future.  On the surface,… Read more »

2.28.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

This week we read in our parsha about the building of the tabernacle.  God says to Moshe, “let them (the Israelites) make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.”  Only a little bit of time has passed since the giving of the Ten Commandments, and already Moshe begins the first capital campaign in… Read more »

2.21.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

In today’s political climate of division and anger, the idea of loving our enemies can seem laughable and utterly impossible.  In his book Love Your Enemies, Arthur C. Brooks writes that one in six Americans stopped talking to a family member or close friend because of the 2016 election. Brooks explains further: You might say:… Read more »

2.14.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

rev·e·la·tion noun The divine or supernatural disclosure to humans of something relating to human existence or the world. That’s the dictionary’s definition, but what does revelation actually look like?  How does one know they are experiencing a supernatural disclosure? In this week’s Torah portion, Yitro, we get a glimpse of the Israelites’ experience of their… Read more »

2.7.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

There’s a disturbance over the waters – a wind.  Something is about to happen, to change.  Something big.  The birth of a Universe from tohu vavohu, from utter chaos (Bereshit 1:1).  This is how Bereshit, how the whole Torah begins – all of the world, humanity, your life, my life. And in this week’s parashah,… Read more »