Weekly Torah Portion

 

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 »

10.11.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

Parshat Ha’azinu Just as we reached unetaneh tokef on Yom Kippur – that prayer in which calls out desperately “who will live and who will die”- Rabbi Mark received a text from his brother that his niece and nephew had been in that synagogue in Halle, Germany.  Some had known about the attack, and some… Read more »

10.4.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

Parshat Vayeilekh According Rabbi Eliezer, in Tractate Shabbat 153a of the Babylonian Talmud, we are obligated to engage in t’shuvah all the days of our lives.  I am proud to be part of a community that demonstrates this commitment to chesbon ha’nefesh (accounting of the soul) on an on-going basis. This Shabbat, which falls between Rosh… Read more »

9.27.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

Parshat Nitzavim “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”  This quote seems incredibly appropriate this week as, together, we approach the High Holy Days.  As a rabbi, it’s always a hectic time for me.  As some people say, it’s the clergy’s “tax season,” a reference to that time in late March and… Read more »

9.20.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

Parshat Ki Tavo I am so grateful to Pastor John Pavlovitz for his uplifting and amazing presence last weekend. From Shabbat Services through Sunday evening, John taught, loved and lived his “Bigger Table” life. We are so Blessed to have him as a friend, teacher and guide. This week’s Torah Portion is Ki Tavo.  The… Read more »

9.13.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

Parshat Ki Teste The bulk of the Parashat Ki Tetse is a diverse array of social, legal, ethical, and ritual laws.  Maimonides contends that 72 of the 613 mitzvot come from this parashah.  For example: not to plow a field with an ox and ass in harness together, not to weave linen and wool together,… Read more »

9.6.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

Parshat Shoftim There is a story told about Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev (1740-1809), a great hassidic master who was nicknamed the “defense attorney,” because he argued with God on behalf of the Jewish people.  On one Rosh Hodesh (the first of the month) of Elul he was gazing out a window when a shoe… Read more »

8.30.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

Parshat Re’eh This week’s parashah opens with some of the most poignant statements in the Torah.  We find Moses, in the final days of his life, exhorting the Israelites to drop their relentless obstinacy and to recognize a reality filled with both blessings and curses. See, I am placing before you this day a blessing… Read more »

8.23.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

Parshat Eikev Is Saying Thank You Nature or Nurture Early in my marriage my husband complained that I never said “Thank you.”  I denied the accusation — there was no way that I was that rude person who was so cavalier that I ignored people’s kindness to me.  Of course I said thank you!  But… Read more »

8.16.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

Parshat Ve’ethanan  Two weeks ago, I danced with compassion. It was a sacred sort of dance – an exercise in calling forth a part of myself sometimes hidden behind a history of fear. There were 14 other people in the room all waltzing, tangoing, salsaing – awkwardly – all to get in touch with parts… Read more »

8.9.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

This week’s Parashah is D’Varim. This translates to things/words. It is the opening chapters of the 5th Book of the Torah, Deuteronomy, aka 2nd law, because we get a recap of the laws and stories of the Israelites journey from Egypt and many new laws as well. I often call this, Moses’ Ethical Will to… Read more »

8.2.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

You know, there are moments when you read the weekly parsha and everything clicks.  You open the Torah, and the ancient wisdom and knowledge smack you right in the face with their eloquence and brilliance.  Then there are weeks like this. In this week’s parsha we read that a woman can take an oath upon… Read more »

7.26.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

For many years, I thought religion was the ultimate evil.  That religion caused more harm than good and was the justification for all wars in “god’s name.”  The episode that plays out in this week’s parsha can easily corroborate that belief. Here’s some context from last week: An Israelite man and a Moabite woman engaged… Read more »

7.19.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

In one of the trippiest moments in all of Torah, Balaam’s donkey opens its mouth and speaks.  And not only does it speak, it speaks more soundly than its holy-man rider.  It’s Shrek meets wisdom literature. Balaam, the holy-man, is traveling to visit Balak, the Moabite king, who wants Balaam to curse the Israelites, whom… Read more »

7.12.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

In reading through this week’s parashah, we’re repeatedly forced to encounter the truth that being human means constantly surrendering to the many “unexplainable” aspects of our lives.  This parashah is so rich precisely because the willingness to surrender to this truth is not something that comes easily to many of us. The text starts off… Read more »

7.5.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

In this week’s portion we read about the rebellion of Korach and his followers.  If we look at the text, we might see Korach as a sympathetic character.  He says to Moshe, “For all the community are holy…Why then do you raise yourself above the Lord’s congregation?”  At first glance it looks like Korach is… Read more »

6.28.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

You could not pick a better parashah for me to write for my final Schmata!  For it is in this week’s parashah, Shalach Lecha, that we learn about the infamous spy story.  We see the twelve of them go to scout the land of Canaan on Moses’ command, and ten of them return and report… Read more »

6.21.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

What do you do with a bunch of whiny complainers!  Complaint after complaint: The food is bad; the air conditioning is not cold enough; the air conditioning is too cold; my roommate is a slob; my roommate snores; the program is boring; I’m bored.  It never ends.  And it’s so tedious. Perhaps this is the… Read more »

6.14.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

Typically, it’s only on Friday nights that the Beit T’Shuvah sanctuary is elevated with a spirit of collective celebration.  Last weekend however, the sanctuary was filled on both Friday and Saturday evenings with our community’s unique type of celebration.  We celebrate the festival of Shavuot, which began on Saturday evening, as a time marking (G!D’s)… Read more »

6.07.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

Judaism is a religion of relationships – how we are obligated to ourselves, one another, to community, and to Something Bigger Than Us.  It teaches us how to live in holy obligations, holy commitments, amid the messiness of these relationships. In addiction, we lose all sense of these obligations.  In recovery, we struggle to return… Read more »

5.31.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

This week’s Parsha is Behukotai.  This translates to “in my statutes.”  I believe God is telling Moses to speak to the Israelites and instruct them again to live within the Letter and Spirit of the Law.  This is, as we all know, a very difficult task.  Too often people live on one side or the… Read more »

5.24.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

Counting comprises the focal point of this parsha Behar.  Upon settling the land of Israel we are commanded to count six years of harvesting the land and in the seventh year we are commanded to allow the land to lie fallow, in Hebrew a Sh’mitah year or Sabbatical year in English: Six years you may… Read more »

5.17.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

Parashat Emor This week during Torah study Rabbi Mark asked us, “What do you do when God speaks to you? Do you listen?” Answers from the residents varied but it became clear that knowing what is “God’s voice” is elusive at best. The question is a powerful one: what would you do if one day… Read more »

5.10.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

When I was a teenager, I went to a non-denominational Hebrew school for teenagers that met once a week. I came out of the closet when I was 15 years old and thankfully felt no religious antagonism from my community or family.  I even thought that Judaism as a religion had no issues with being… Read more »

5.3.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

It was barely a week ago that we ended Passover, and in our initial preparation for the holiday, we as a community came together to burn our spiritual chametz, that which enslaves us from the inside.  After some deliberation we each wrote our personal slaveries on a piece of paper and then cast it into… Read more »

4.26.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

Passover is THE holiday.  It is the one where folks around the globe sit down for Seder- to tell the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) liberation story ever told.  Passover is the time where spring has sprung – blooms blossom and a sweet scent fills the air.  It’s the holiday where our neurosis really shines… Read more »