Weekly Torah Portion


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 »

1.11.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

In this week’s Torah portion, Bo (which comes from the opening verse of the parashah: “And YHVH said to Moses: ‘Bo! Come to Pharaoh…’”), we encounter the plagues in full swing. In this parashah, we read about the last three plagues:  arbeh, choshekh, v’makkat b’khorot (“locusts, darkness, and the death of the firstborn”).  Just when… Read more »

1.4.2019 Weekly Torah Portion

“Who needs a heart if a heart can be broken?” sings Tina Turner in a loud and confident manner.  We hear the lyric and wonder what heart she is talking about.  Certainly not the biological heart — that crucial organ in our body that beats over 100,000 times a day or 42 million times over… Read more »

12.28.2018 Weekly Torah Portion

Shmata D’var, Parashat Shmot: Can you picture your rock bottom?  The point at which you lost hope of ever climbing out of this hole?  What did you tell yourself in that moment?  Maybe you told yourself that you’re a lost cause?  That you’ll never be able to be anything more than what you are?  That… Read more »

12.21.2018 Weekly Torah Portion

Genesis 47:28 Jacob lived seventeen years in the land of Egypt, so that the span of Jacob’s life came to one hundred and forty seven years.  29 And when the time approached for Israel to die, he summoned his son Joseph… At the end of the last parashah, Israel arrived and settled in Egypt.  We… Read more »

12.14.2018 Weekly Torah Portion

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.” James Baldwin We are all different.  However, the angst of living as a human being is one that each of us understands.  No matter the circumstance, privilege, joy, and story that we carry with us, there… Read more »

12.7.2018 Weekly Torah Portion

Stories are our way to be found.  We see ourselves in stories, yes, but if we let them, our stories find us.  I never set out to be a rabbi, being a spiritual partner to seekers found me.  When my Godmother hired an astrologer to read me when I was 13, and he said I… Read more »

11.20.2018 Weekly Torah Portion

Occasionally, we hear the sentiment “Go with G!D”; but what does it actually mean? Is it a fancy way of saying, “Don’t get stuck; draw upon your faith; keep moving forward”? Or maybe it’s, “Chose the path of Holiness; follow your Divine intuition.” Often, it’s offered at the ending of a conversation, as a simple… Read more »

11.16.2018 Weekly Torah Portion

Parshat VaYetze This week’s Torah Portion is VaYetze. This translates to “and he went out.” It is the first leg of Jacob’s life’s journey, first to Haran, then back “home” to Canaan, and finally to Egypt. The Parashah begins with an interesting phrase: “the place struck him,” and/or “he encountered the place,” and/or “met the… Read more »

11.9.2018 Weekly Torah Portion

Parashat Tol’dot     In this week’s Torah portion, Tol’dot (literally, “generations” or “descendants”), we usually focus on the stories surrounding Jacob and Esau.  In the middle of this parashah is a story about a famine in which Isaac and Rebekah go to the area known as Gerar.  In Gerar, they encounter Avimelekh, the king of the… Read more »

11.2.2018 Weekly Torah Portion

Chayei Sarah          When I was at the Pittsburgh vigil Sunday night, I stood near the back of the crowd, taking scrupulous care of my candle.  It was a single Shabbat candle with foil wrapped around the bottom.  The wind was slight, but it was enough to make me fear for the candle.  I kept… Read more »

10.26.2018 Weekly Torah Portion

Parashat Veyera Chapter 22 of Genesis deals with the Akeidah, the binding of Isaac.  I have many thoughts on this chapter.  First of all, how do we know that this was really the voice of God?  What kind of test is it to ask a man to sacrifice his only remaining son at home and… Read more »

10.19.2018 Weekly Torah Portion

Parashat Lekh Lekha If I were working as a translator, asked to concisely render the opening words of this parashah, I think I’d be stumped.  I would have to make a clear choice that sums up the meaning of these words.  The phrase lekh lekha can be translated in a number of different ways.  The… Read more »

10.12.2018 Weekly Torah Portion

Parashat Noah This week we read Parashat Noah which is a classic biblical story familiar to many of us. It is a tale of how a broken world full of broken people was destroyed with a flood by God and that Noah, the righteous man of his generation was spared along with his family and animals; and… Read more »

10.5.2018 Weekly Torah Portion

Parashat Bereishit Last Friday night, I spoke about the hearings for Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh.  I spoke about their effect on survivors of sexual assault – the countless many of us who are experiencing re-traumatization.  Precisely now, when our national conversation focuses on sexual assault and some of us are reliving our worst memories,… Read more »

9.28.2018 Weekly Torah Portion

Parashat Sukkot After months of preparation, meticulous planning, collective engagement, and Divine partnership, we find ourselves at a very special time of the year. While this describes the arrival of the mid-term election season, my thoughts have been much more immersed in the successes of the High Holy Days and, currently, the celebration of Sukkot…. Read more »

9.21.2018 Weekly Torah Portion

Parashat Ha’azinu Here we stand. Almost at the end, almost in the promised land. But, as the saying goes, too long after sunset and too far from dawn. We are in the final stretch. A space that can be the cause of our anxiety where the perils of the road are very much still ahead… Read more »

9.14.2018 Weekly Torah Portion

This week’s Torah Portion is Vayelech, “and he went.” This is a most appropriate Parsha for this Shabbat Shuvah. Moses went and spoke to the people and told them that Joshua was going to be their new leader. They already knew this, yet he wanted them to know that Joshua’s time to lead had come…. Read more »

9.7.2018 Weekly Torah Portion

Parashat Nitzavim Nitzavim is the last parashah of the Jewish calendar year. In it are several important items to consider as we stand at the threshold of the year 5779. At the forefront of the message of this parashah is teshuvah. Over and over the message of “return” is put before us; not just the… Read more »

8.31.2018 Weekly Torah Portion

Parashat Ki Tavo Just as the Israelites are about to cross into the land of Israel, a declaration is made: “Moses and the levitical priests spoke to all of Israel, saying: Silence! Hear, O Israel! Today you have become a people of Adonai, your Source” (Deuteronomy 27:9).  This declaration is the language of relationship. Moses… Read more »

8.24.2018 Weekly Torah Portion

Parashat Ki Teitze Deuteronomy 23 :22 When you make a vow to the LORD your God, do not put off fulfilling it, for the LORD your God will require it of you, and you will have incurred guilt;  23 whereas you incur no guilt if you refrain from vowing.  24 You must fulfill what has… Read more »

8.17.2018 Weekly Torah Portion

Parashat Shoftim With Rosh HaShanah arriving in less than a month (and my daughter going back to school this week), summer has officially ended and my attention has turned towards the fall.  During the next few weeks leading up to the High Holy Days, our tradition guides us to step-up our focus on inner-work, preparing… Read more »

8.10.2018 Weekly Torah Portion

Parashat Re’eh Resentment is that bitter indignation at believing we have been treated unfairly. It’s what happens when the stories we tell ourselves about what we deserve do not match reality, and we say to ourselves, “This is so unfair!” We all carry resentments: towards our supervisors for passing us over for a raise or… Read more »