Weekly Torah Portion

 

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 »

5.7.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

I don’t know about you, but lately I’ve been feeling like I’ve been experiencing a tremendous amount of change.  About a month ago, I traveled for the first time since the pandemic began, seeing my parents and sister for the first time in over a year.  Businesses are opening up, and I’ve been attending in-person... Read more »

4.30.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

Our Torah portions over the past several weeks have explicitly focused on holiness.  We started with G!D’s command/promise: “You will be Holy!” (Lev. 19:2), which was followed by instructions on how to actually live “Holy” (among others: “do not put a stumbling block in front of the blind” and “love your neighbor as yourself”).  The... Read more »

4.23.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

It was late at night, the kids were finally asleep, and my wife and I were both exhausted from the days’ work and putting our two wonderful kids to bed. The kitchen countertops were full of dishes piled up from tonight's dinner, along with the remnants from yesterday’s. Allie has eczema on her hands, so... Read more »

4.16.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

When I was 18 months old, my mom took me to a dermatologist because I had rashes everywhere.  The creams and lotions only worked so well, and she wanted to relieve my discomfort.  She wanted an answer, an easy solution, but the doctor said: “Maybe it’s stress?” Whatever is going on inside our bodies shows... Read more »

4.9.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

If you celebrated Passover this year by avoiding leavened bread for the duration of the holiday, you probably enjoyed a delicious return to pizza, fresh bread, or oatmeal cookies (for the gluten-free among us) at the holiday’s conclusion.  Yum!  After a heightened awareness of our food choices for several days (that is, what can feel... Read more »

4.2.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

For the past few weeks, I couldn’t help but note the various “anniversaries” of tumultuous experiences which happened during the early onset of the pandemic.  As February rolled into March, I was reminded of the last time I “ate out” or who was the last out-of-town guest we hosted.  I was also startled by memories... Read more »

3.26.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

A friend of mine recently asked me, “What’s your five-year plan?” I gasped.  “Five-year plan?!  I don’t think I’ve ever planned for anything beyond a year.  Do people actually do that?”  It was what seemed to be an innocuous question.  A simple question; my friend just wanted to know what my hopes for my future... Read more »

3.19.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

Do you hear that?  It’s a whisper, or a chorus, or sometimes thunder that you can feel even if you can’t hear.  You are called.  It’s the intercom from the program facilitator office when you know you’ve messed up: “Attention residents: Kerry C, please come to the PF office.  Kerry C, please come to the... Read more »

3.12.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

There is a LOT going on in the Jewish calendar right now.  On Sunday, we will celebrate Rosh Hodesh, the beginning of a new month.  Passover is fast approaching – it’s only a couple of weeks away.  And this Shabbat, we will read the conclusion of the book of Exodus, as this week’s parashah is... Read more »

3.4.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

This week's parashah gives us one of the starkest insights into our fragmented nature - of our often conflicting inclinations that, when combined together, make us both imperfect humans and holy souls.  We see the struggles created and endured by the Israelites and their leaders during the tragedy of the golden calf.  And we rediscover... Read more »

2.26.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

There is a wonderful story in the Talmud about Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah.  After the rabbis depose Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel of his leadership role, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria is selected to lead the Jewish people.  Before accepting the position, he says, “I need to check with my wife.”  That night as they discuss his... Read more »

2.19.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

What does a meaningful relationship look like?  And how do I get there? There are so many resistances to meaningful relationships, and many come down to this: if I don’t get too close, you can’t hurt me. Of course, we also know that in recovery, it’s only by letting people in - by connecting meaningfully... Read more »

2.12.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

“And these are the rules that you shall set before them,” this week’s parashah begins.  With this introduction, the Torah readies us for a list of instructions communicated to the Jewish people by God through Moses.  The Etz Hayim Torah commentary remarks, With this parashah, the tone of the Torah changes.  Up to this point,... Read more »

2.5.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

Amidst the manufactured reality of our socially distanced separation, this week’s parashah reminds us about the essential role that trusting relationships have in connecting us with the Holy and helping us live into our best selves. In between the Torah’s narrative of the splitting of the sea and G!D’s giving of the Ten Commandments, there... Read more »

1.29.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

I am the daughter of Black writers, who are descended from Freedom Fighters who broke their chains and changed the world. They call me. - Amanda Gorman, National Youth Poet Laureate If you missed her during last week’s Presidential Inauguration, Amanda Gorman’s poetry stole the show.  What’s amazing to me is that the youngest poet... Read more »

1.22.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

I imagine that the Israelites were not so different from us now.  They witnessed (in last week’s parashah) signs and wonders and destruction: the main water source turning to blood, overwhelming frogs and lice and flies, sick livestock, boils, and hail.   Some of it may have affected them, some the Egyptians only.  With all this... Read more »

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 »