Author: Temple Sinai

  • Friday, September 29, 2023 / 14 Tishrei 5784

    Friday, September 29, 2023 / 14 Tishrei 5784

    Long ago, the existentialist Biblical poet Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) stared life in the eyes and declared at the start of his book: הֲבֵ֥ל הֲבָלִ֭ים הַכֹּ֥ל הָֽבֶל Hevel ha-hevelim, ha-col hevel… Futility of futile, all is futile Encouraging, isn’t he?! You could also translate it more spiritually and “Eastern” as “Emptiness of emptiness, everything is empty”; Or more “Western” and psychological as “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” The tradition is for us Jews to read Kohelet on the Shabbat during Sukkot, which is tomorrow. (We’ll do that here at Temple Sinai at kiddush lunch – please join us!) But what I want to point out is that this is where Kohelet begins his book. He writes 12 more chapters. Do these further chapters take us anywhere else?

  • Friday, September 22, 2023 / 7 Tishrei 5784

    Friday, September 22, 2023 / 7 Tishrei 5784

    Shalom Chaverim! If you would like to watch video of the sermons from Rosh haShanah at Temple Sinai, or read them as text, they can be found at the links within. Please feel free to share.

  • Friday, August 25, 2023 / 8 Elul 5783

    Friday, August 25, 2023 / 8 Elul 5783

    My colleague in Toronto, Rabbi Yael Splansky, suggests that we take a moment to imagine the idealistic visions of the Promised Land that our ancestors must have held onto for hope through their centuries of brutal slavery; the legends about the land they must have told to encourage one another during decades of parched wandering in the desert. 

    Take yourself into the mind of an ancestor, finding yourself on the shore of the Jordan River finally able to look across the water and see the real Promised Land right before your eyes; You know we were just weeks away from – finally! – making the dream come true by going into that land-of-legends-become-actuality. Amidst the incredible buzz of excitement, you eagerly await Moses’ words of guidance.

  • Friday, August 11, 2023 / 24 Av 5783

    Friday, August 11, 2023 / 24 Av 5783

    I feel it is important to depart this week from my usual approach to sharing ‘Torah From Sinai.’ I hope that, usually, I am able to share a little teaching of Torah that adds to the peace of your Shabbat, inspires some ‘food for thought’ to Shabbat dinner discussion, or helpfully touches your soul in some way. This weekend is exceptional, and it reminds us that Torah must also deal with the less pleasant side of existence. Not all is right with the world, or with us, all of the time. Torah needs to be relevant always. This Shabbat marks six years to the day – August 12, 2017 – since modern-day, American-bred nazis invaded Charlottesville, Virginia. A protester, Heather Heyer, was killed and some 20 others injured. Those same nazis are still around, still hating. Tu B’Av is more than Israel’s commercialized version of ‘Valentine’s Day.’ It actually is a day with ancient roots dating back to Second Temple times. According to the Mishnah (Taanit 4:8) Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel said: “There were no better [i.e., more joyous] days for the people of Israel than the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur, since on these days the daughters of Jerusalem would go out dressed in white…and dance in the vineyards.” The unmarried women were joined by their potential partners in the vineyards, and would say: “Lift up your eyes and consider who you choose [to be your wife].” Just as many tragic events are reported to have befallen the Jewish people on Tisha B’Av, the rabbis attribute, in Taanit 30b, a number of joyous events to Tu B’Av.

  • Friday, August 4, 2023 / 17 Av 5783

    Friday, August 4, 2023 / 17 Av 5783

    In contrast to 9 B’Av last week – the saddest day in the Jewish calendar – this week had Tu B’Av – one of the happiest days in the Jewish calendar. Tu B’Av is celebrated on the fifteenth of the Hebrew month of Av: “Tu” is really טו – the letters tet and vav in Hebrew which have the numerical value of 15 (ט = 9 and ו = 6). Tu B’Av is more than Israel’s commercialized version of ‘Valentine’s Day.’ It actually is a day with ancient roots dating back to Second Temple times. According to the Mishnah (Taanit 4:8) Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel said: “There were no better [i.e., more joyous] days for the people of Israel than the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur, since on these days the daughters of Jerusalem would go out dressed in white…and dance in the vineyards.” The unmarried women were joined by their potential partners in the vineyards, and would say: “Lift up your eyes and consider who you choose [to be your wife].” Just as many tragic events are reported to have befallen the Jewish people on Tisha B’Av, the rabbis attribute, in Taanit 30b, a number of joyous events to Tu B’Av.

  • Friday, July 28, 2023 / 10 Av 5783

    Friday, July 28, 2023 / 10 Av 5783

    “Comfort, comfort My people, says your God.” Nachamu, nachamu ami, yomer eloheichem – Isaiah 40:1 Thus begins this week’s Haftarah, seeking to comfort us after our focus this past week on all that grieves us. We observed Tisha B’Av on Thursday, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar on which many tragedies have occurred. The grievous themes of loss, uncertainty, social disorder, limitations, and exile feel inescapably resonant every year. Fortunately, our tradition reminds us that grief doesn’t get the last word. In fact, Isaiah’s conveying of God’s intent to comfort and console us lends itself to this entire Shabbat, which is known as “Shabbat Nachamu”, the Sabbath of Comforting. It is the first of seven weeks of comforting and consolation that lead up to Rosh haShana.  Our High Holiday season, then, is really inaugurated this Shabbat. This Hafatarah and those that follow for the next seven weeks suggest that now is the time to look for notes of optimism to build upon; to move forward knowing that things will get better and must improve; to channel God’s effort to comfort and reconcile with us into our own capacity for kindness, care, and compassion for others in our lives who need us.

  • Friday, July 14, 2023 / 25 Tammuz 5783

    Friday, July 14, 2023 / 25 Tammuz 5783

    Each week’s Torah portion has an uncanny way of being precisely relevant to something going on in the world or in one’s personal life that particular week. With my family and I preparing to depart next week for Israel, one of the main themes of our double portion this week, Mattot-Masei, resonates on a personal level. This portion concludes the book of Numbers, and in so doing brings us to the end of the first great narrative of our people. What began with Creation, then became the story of Abraham and Sarah’s family, through slavery in Egypt and the Exodus, and finally telling about the 40 years of wandering in the desert as we became a nation, concludes this week with the Israelites poised to enter the Promised Land at long last.

  • Friday, July 7, 2023 / 18 Tammuz 5783

    Friday, July 7, 2023 / 18 Tammuz 5783

    My esteemed teacher in Jerusalem, Rabbi David Golinkin, shared these words this week, and I think they are important to share with you. He is discussing what happened after a horrific attack by Palestinian terrorists that murdered 4 Israelis last week. Large numbers of Israelis attacked neighboring Palestinian villages in response. Since these events and after Rabbi Golinkin shared this message, an Israeli soldier was killed during an IDF operation to destroy a web of terrorist infrastructure in Jenin, a terrorist injured 7 people in a car-ramming attack in Tel Aviv, and a second Israeli soldier was killed (yesterday) in an attack on a patrol near the settlement of Kedumim. As always, the weekly Torah portion offers deep insight and relevance to the events of our day. In this week’s parasha, the grandson of Aaron, Pinchas, is rewarded with God’s eternal ‘covenant of peace’ for having been ‘zealous for God’ in his actions, violent though they were (see the conclusion of last week’s Torah portion, Numbers 25: 1-9). Cheesecake. This holiday celebrates dairy delights. It’s THE holiday for vegetarians. Breakout those lactose pills if you need them! Cheesecake, blintzes…happiness! Shavuot is ‘Counter-Cultural’… Most people don’t celebrate Shavuot, or even know much about it at all. Yet, starting with the early kibbutzniks, secular Israelis have connected with the Biblical aspect of the holiday, which is about celebrating the ‘First Fruits’ of the spring harvest. Like wonderful hippie flower-children, elementary school kids dress in white and literally wear flowers in their hair in the days before the holiday. They decorate baskets filled with (preferably organic) spring fruits to give as gifts.

  • Friday, May 25, 2023 / 5 Sivan 5783

    Friday, May 25, 2023 / 5 Sivan 5783

    Here are the ‘Top Ten’ reasons to try out Shavuot this year to see whether it might become your new favorite holiday! Cheesecake. This holiday celebrates dairy delights. It’s THE holiday for vegetarians. Breakout those lactose pills if you need them! Cheesecake, blintzes…happiness! Shavuot is ‘Counter-Cultural’… Most people don’t celebrate Shavuot, or even know much about it at all. Yet, starting with the early kibbutzniks, secular Israelis have connected with the Biblical aspect of the holiday, which is about celebrating the ‘First Fruits’ of the spring harvest. Like wonderful hippie flower-children, elementary school kids dress in white and literally wear flowers in their hair in the days before the holiday. They decorate baskets filled with (preferably organic) spring fruits to give as gifts.

  • Friday, May 12, 2023 / 21 Iyar 5783

    Friday, May 12, 2023 / 21 Iyar 5783

    These week’s double Torah portion, BeHar-Bechukotai, concludes the third book of this year’s Torah reading cycle – we finish Leviticus this week. Nevertheless, we continue with business-as-usual again as we immediately begin reading in the 4th book of the Torah, Numbers, next week.

    Is there ever really a break? A true vacation? Not from the Torah, no: We famously finish reading the entire cycle of Torah on Simchat Torah and then right away open another scroll and start all over again at the Beginning! The message is that Torah is the exception, the one thing in human experience that – like God – touches our lives to the eternal and never-concluding, the ever-present now.  

    But what about on a personal level?

    Many of us are solidifying our summer plans right about now, or perhaps some of us are already in the operational phase of those plans. How ‘good’ were you at truly relaxing and vacationing when your kids were smaller? How about now? Is there anything in your daily routine that you cannot take a break from, or don’t want to?