Jewish Rituals

Ki Tissa: Shabbat in Jerusalem

Ki Tissa: Shabbat in Jerusalem

“V’shamru v’nai Yisrael et haShabbat, la’asot et haShabbat l’dorotam b’rit olam….” The Israelite people shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout the ages as a covenant for all time:  Ex. 31:16  This familiar Saturday morning Kiddush verse comes from this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tissa.  But the Torah says relatively little about how the Sabbath is to be observed. ...

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Yitro: G-d and Satan discuss the 10 Commandments

Yitro: G-d and Satan discuss the 10 Commandments

G-d and His servant, Satan, were having another conversation. (Cross-ref. Book of Job).  G-d said: “I’m so proud of My Jewish people!  This Shabbat they’ll read Parashat Yitro, which includes what they call My “Ten Commandments.”  These are the core rules that set forth how I expect them to live, both in their relationship with Me and with each other.  They’ll even stand up while the Ten Commandments are read, which shows how important they consider them.” Satan was distinctly unimpressed. ...

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Bo: How About a Date?

Bo: How About a Date?

A couple of years ago I read about a group of American Jewish teens on a Birthright or similar trip to Israel.  After a meal, one of them apparently said: “It’s time to say the Birkat.”  One of the soldiers guarding them said: “You must not even know what that word means; you can’t say “the Birkat;” it’s not a word you can use by itself.  (The subtext to the remark was, “You think you are superior Jews because you say a prayer in Hebrew, but you don’t even understand what you are saying!”   The kids responded ...

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Va-Yehi: Blessing your children

Va-Yehi: Blessing your children

This week’s Torah portion, Va-yehi, contains a sequence that initially seems surprising.   Joseph, Viceroy of Egypt, brings his sons, Manesseh and Ephraim, to see their aged grandfather Jacob for the last time.  Jacob places his hands on their heads.  The text then says “And he blessed Joseph saying …. ‘May G-d … bless the lads.’”  (Gen. 48:15)  That is, Jacob blessed his son by blessing his grandchildren! ...

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Hanukah's Message

Hanukah's Message

In recent years at this time, I have researched the story of Hanukah, dressed up as Simon Ben Mattathias to give “dramatic historical presentations” at synagogues, and even lectured about Hanukah aboard cruise ships.  This year, I’m doing something quite different … 

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Chayyei Sarah: A Modest(y) Proposal

Chayyei Sarah: A Modest(y) Proposal

 

Why do Jewish brides veil their faces? In this week’s Torah Portion, Chayyei Sarah, Rebecca, who has never met Isaac, agrees to travel to his home and marry him.  When she first sees him from afar, she takes her veil and covers herself.  (Gen. 25:65).  This biblical story is the source of our “bedecken” wedding veil ritual. But why did she do it? ... 

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Shoftim: Lost and Found

Shoftim: Lost and Found

I lost my new “Smartphone” a few days ago.  It happened somewhere between my Jerusalem apartment and my arrival at morning minyan.  I think I put it on the bus seat when I opened my backpack to retrieve something that then took my full attention during the remaining short ride.   I remember being surprised when I looked up and saw that we were arriving at my stop; I jumped up, grabbed my backpack, and alighted without checking around me. No one has turned it in.  Yet, prompted by the Jewish calendar, I think that I have gained, rather than lost, from this incident ...

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Naso: G-d's Will?

Naso: G-d's Will?
Most of my synagogue experience has been in Reform schuls.  Near the end of Shabbat services, the rabbi and/or cantor recites the “threefold benedictions of Torah” – the Birkat-Kohanim (Priestly Blessings/Benediction):    
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Playing Catch-Up

Playing Catch-Up

Shalom from Jerusalem! This morning in synagogue, I gave a D’var Torah (short teaching) regarding Parashat (Torah Portion) Emor (Leviticus 21:1-25:23). I look forward to sharing it with you next week.  Why not this week?  Because whereas it is Shabbat Emor here in Israel, everywhere else in the world it is Shabbat Acharei Mot – Kiddoshim (a double portion), which we here read last week.  This difference in reading cycles occurs only for a few weeks every couple of years. Why?  The reason, like much of Jewish practice, combines historical, pragmatic, and “religious” considerations.

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A Passover Pilgrimage of the Mind

A Passover Pilgrimage of the Mind

The drive from Ben Gurion airport outside Tel Aviv up into Jerusalem takes only about 35 minutes in non-rush hour traffic.  After initially crossing the coastal plain, one begins the steady climb of about 2,500 feet into the Judean Hills.  I always watch across the highway for a glimpse of the slowly-disintegrating personnel carriers left rusting as memorials to the soldiers and civilians who died there during the 1948 War of Independence.  Then, I scan the hills for the first glimpse of the “Chords Bridge” tower that now marks the principal entry into the Holy City.  All the while, as my vehicle (usually a van-taxi) downshifts up the mountain, I marvel at the thought of my ancestors leaving their homes and making this laborious and dusty ascent by foot or donkey three times each year.  The book of Deuteronomy

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He who guards his mouth preserves his life
Proverbs 13:3