Weekly Torah Portion


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 »

4.19.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

Religio-tourist that I am, I convinced my wife that passing by Notre Dame at night wasn’t enough. We had to go visit during the day – to walk through the halls and smell those distinctly Catholic smells. How could we not? Sure, we had come to Paris for the rugby and the romance (almost the… Read more »

4.12.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

With Passover beginning exactly a week from tonight, many of us are ramping up our holiday preparations.  For some, this involves a great deal of “outer work” (deep cleaning the house, searching for chometz/leavened food, etc.), and for others, the focus is more internal (reflective searchings for patterns of arrogance/entitlement/stuck-ness).  This holiday – one in… Read more »

4.5.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

This week’s Parashah introduces two topics that seem at first glance to be unconnected.  It opens with the birth of a child and the commandment to have a brit for a boy (the covenantal circumcision) and then prescribes the treatment of tzaraat (translated as “leprosy”) and the measures needed to heal from it.  We learn… Read more »

3.29.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

This week’s Parashah is Shmini.  This translates to “eighth.”  This is the day that Aaron and his sons are to do the work of the Sanctuary after their ordination.  It brings up the question of why the eighth day?  My friend and Rabbi, Rabbi Ed Feinstein, taught me that this teaches us that the “day… Read more »

3.22.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

Command Aaron and his sons… Leviticus 6:2 This week’s parashah is Tzav.  This means “command.”  God tells Moses to command Aaron and the priests to do certain things; these are most definitely not suggestions, they are commands. Many of us have problems with this word.  We all want to be free to do as we… Read more »

3.15.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

Just last week, after I completed a visit with a patient at a hospital I work at, my mind started racing about all of the things I could have done better.  Why did I say X instead of Y?  Metaphorically I beat myself up.  It’s as if a voice came from behind and told me… Read more »

3.08.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

Four and a half years ago, when I had first arrived in Los Angeles to begin rabbinical school, I made a scary decision. I took out my phone, navigated to the number that read, “Home,” deleted “Home” and wrote “Mommy and Daddy.” With a few keystrokes I fundamentally changed where I was in the world,… Read more »

3.01.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

This week’s Parashah is VaYakhel. This translates to ‘and he convoked’. Here we are, after the Golden Calf, being called together by Moses. Moses is the messenger of God telling the people that, even after the “sin” of the Golden Calf, they/we have the opportunity to move forward in our lives. WOW!! How unlike humans… Read more »

2.22.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

Take a moment to consider the last time you started something new. Maybe it was your recovery, or that of a loved one. Maybe it was a job or a relationship, a hobby or spiritual practice. Do you remember the excitement? The way it animated you with eager anticipation? The way you could feel yourself… Read more »

2.15.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

“You Matter.”  This phrase is familiar to all of us here at Beit T’Shuvah.  It is posted on the walls and serves as a beacon of hope and light.  It is how we read the texts of our tradition and integrate Torah into our lives. “You Matter” and all that comes with this shift in… Read more »

2.8.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

Several years ago, I walked into our Jerusalem apartment and said: “Julia, I believe in God.”  And Julia, my wife, looked at me sideways, shook her head, and said: “Okay.”  Then she went back to her laptop.  During the week following this revelation, the colors changed: the greens were more verdant and the fuchsia flowers… Read more »

2.1.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

This week’s parashah demonstrates the progressive nature of the process of liberation.  Up until now, the Israelites’ interactions with G!D were primarily passive in nature.  Their journey from slavery to freedom was initially defined by their three direct encounters of G!D’s power and glory.  In quick succession, they experienced the Ten Plagues, the parting of… Read more »

1.25.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

I don’t care how much Torah you know.   What matters is how you live it. Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik articulates for us a challenge in telling our story and learning Torah: We not only tell stories describing events; we tell stories precipitating the re-experiences of events which transpired millennia ago.  To tell a story… Read more »

1.18.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

This week’s Parashah is BeShallach.  This translates as “When He Sent.”  Each year I find it interesting that Pharaoh had to send the Israelites out of their slavery and he had to send them out strongly, according to the verb in Hebrew.  It is interesting because, after all these years, it is still true –… Read more »