Weekly Torah Portion

 

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 »

1.31.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

Over the past few weeks, many of us have been immersed in an ever-escalating drama, one with colorful characters, multiple storylines, and plenty of plot twists and turns.  NFL playoffs?  Presidential Impeachment hearings?  Actually, this steady build-up of tension and dramatic anticipation is provided by the early chapters in the Book of Exodus.  In this… Read more »

1.24.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

I don’t know about you, but I’m not always the best communicator.  Sometimes I stumble in choosing words, sometimes I’m too indirect, and sometimes my anger gets the best of me and my message gets lost.  That last one is the most frustrating, when I feel passionately about something – and I might even be… Read more »

1.17.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

I am dedicating this parashah to my father, Jerry Borovitz, z”l, on the 54th anniversary of his death and to my brother, Stuart Borovitz, z”l, on the 19th anniversary of his death. This week’s parashah is Sh’mot.  This translates to “names.”  It is the first parashah of the second book of the Torah.  Jewish Tradition… Read more »

1.10.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

What are the things in life that you never imagined you would experience? This past week, as we ushered in the year 2020, I could not help but feel nostalgic for the past.  As I scanned through old photos of my 19-year-old self celebrating New Year’s Eve in 2000, I was struck with amazement and… Read more »

1.3.2020 Weekly Torah Portion

In Parashat Vayigash, Joseph and his brothers reconcile.  After years of separation, after Joseph’s youthful narcissism, after his brothers’ selling Joseph into slavery, they meet once again.  Now, Joseph is a ruler in Egypt, and the brothers are tradesmen seeking food during a famine. It’s an emotive scene in a typically unemotive Tanakh.  Joseph weeps. … Read more »

12.27.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

The holiday season is upon us. Tonight we’re celebrating the sixth night of Hanukkah, Christmas memories are still fresh for many people, and we’re all looking towards the start of 2020. Culturally, we have a pervasive way of celebrating this time of year, from late-night retail hours to 40+ college football bowl games. From endless… Read more »

12.20.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

This coming week is a momentous one for many of us.  In addition to the coming holidays of Chanukah and Christmas, this week takes on even more meaning.  Some of us have been looking forward to this weekend with joy and trepidation for years if not decades.  Because this weekend is the culmination of decades… Read more »

12.13.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

I am very grateful to Chaplain Adam Siegel and Kathryn Vischjager for their attendance at the Hillel Conference this week.  They met with Hillel professionals from all over and promoted and represented our Elaine Breslow Institute and Beit T’Shuvah.  They did a wonderful job, and I have received rave reviews!  I also am grateful to… Read more »

12.06.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

What does it mean to know God?  More importantly, what does it take to form a relationship with God? Perhaps we are surprised and experience a God moment – in nature, in the moment, or in an awakening. Perhaps whenever two people come together, God is there in the conversation.   A more important question… Read more »

11.29.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

Happy Thanksgiving! I am incredibly thankful to be a member of this wonderful community.  I am particularly grateful that my job is to help others take another step along their spiritual journey; and as a result, I get to witness miracles of transformation. What happens when we get the thing we think will bring us… Read more »

11.22.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

Chayei Sarah 5780 Abraham is a person of faith and hesed, kindness.  He faithfully follows God out of the world he knows.  In his most physically painful moment after circumcision, he welcomes guests into his home.  He argues/negotiates/counsels with God for the sake of the righteous people of Sodom and Gomorrah.  He creates a small… Read more »

11.15.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

Vayeira 5780 This week’s Parashah is Vayeira. This translates to ‘appeared’. God appears to Abraham in this Parashah many times. At the beginning, God (Adonai) appears as a visitor to the recovering Abraham (from his circumcision). This is where we get the idea of visiting the sick, Bikur Cholim. We visit people who are sick… Read more »

11.8.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

Lech Lecha 5780 When I was in middle school I remember this television show that I used to watch. The first episode of the show opened with a scene that was supposed to be heaven.  There was Saint Peter who was shepherding the people as they came in, trying to help them figure out if… Read more »

11.1.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

Noah 5780 As wildfires erupted this week across our city and state, we were forced to encounter the sheer power of this destructive phenomenon.  Our tradition, like many others, has a deep and multi-faceted relationship to fire.  This ranges from its use in weekly ritual (lighting the Shabbat and havdalah candles) to its metaphorical significance… Read more »

10.25.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

Parashat Bereishit “Why didn’t you tell me we were out of milk?” I ask my daughter.  “Why didn’t you wash your dirty dishes?” I ask my husband.  In each case I make the mistake of asking, “Why?” Especially when it is essentially rhetorical, “Why” is a pointless and counterproductive question.  It can (thinly) veil an… Read more »

10.18.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

From Yom Kippur to Sukkot: The Joy of Living One of my favorite images of Yom Kippur is the beginning of Kol Nidre.  All the Torah scrolls are removed from the ark – which is left empty – and the entire community, dressed in white garb, gather together to begin a 25-hour ritual of fasting… Read more »