“All seven days one makes his sukkah permanent and his home temporary.” Mishnah Sukkah 2:9 Sukkot is a holiday that is centered on the little structures we build and eat and sleep in for a week every fall. In our tradition, the sukkah is referenced often, but really only in two contexts. The first is […]
Hi friends, Six weeks ago I was ordained a Rabbi. Two weeks ago I started a new job. Here are some thoughts on Tisha Be-Av that came out of those first days in my new work. I pray they help to provide some context for this terrible day, and help us all come out of […]
The following is the text of the dvar torah I gave this past Shabbat at Congregation Bnai Jeshurun in New York City. Its written to be heard, so might read a little weird – but the ideas are there. Enjoy!
It is Elul, the time leading up to the Yamim Noraim, the HHD. We are tasked with Teshuvah, with a return to our inner selves, with the mission to seek out who we really have been in this past year, and to judge ourselves – before Yom Kippur, when God and only God is judge. But Judgement is a complicated word. It stirs up emotions. It makes us uncomfortable. We use it in so many ways. When I first think about judgement, it is personal, it is about how I make decisions, about who I am and how I act. But it is also about others. It is about how we approach those around us, and how they approach us. We act, and when others see what we do or hear what we say, they judge us. Its human nature I think, its just how we are wired to behave. Of course, that does not mean we have to like it… I cant tell you how many times someone else has told me I did something wrong and I have said “don’t judge me.” But deep down I always know the truth, that I have no right to say that. No right because I judge others constantly, no right because we are all judging each other all the time. And in any case, its not really what I mean. When I say “don’t judge me” what I really mean is “judge me fairly” “consider my position, my experience” “listen to me before deciding about me.” I know that it is by my judgement that I am judged, and I want others to understand where that judgement came from.
There is a challenge to us all found in this week’s parasha – Re’eh – it is there right from the start. Put up or shut up, says God.
“Behold, this day I set before you a blessing and a curse.” (Devarim 11:26)
We have a choice, says God – chose the right path or the wrong one. This is the reality of freedom, the idea that we constantly make decisions and that those decisions have consequences. I have been thinking a great deal about this idea in the wake of this past week’s terror attacks near Eilat.
Each and every moment of life we make decisions, and no matter how much we like to blame others for forcing us to make them – it is us in the end who acts, who does the deed. Those who snuck into Israel with the intention to kill as many as possible almost certainly blame Israel for causing their actions – but they pulled the triggers. They chose the curse.
And those who decided to respond in kind by ordering bombs dropped, those who fired across the border, those who drop their quest for a new social order, they chose too. And they also chose the curse.
Jonah Geffen, Rabbinical Student
Kelly Cohen, Jewish Educator
It is Sunday night May 8th, and I am in Jerusalem. Sunset marks the beginning of Yom Hazikaron, the day this state has set aside to remember all those who have been killed – soldiers and victims of terror – since the state came into being. It is a day devoted to suffering, to a collective […]
HaRav Ovadia Yosef is no stranger to saying thing that cause many of us to cringe. The latest: