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Looking For God's Face

by Rabbi Mark Goldfarb

The regular Torah reading cycle is interrupted this Shabbat with a special reading for the holiday of Sukkot, from the Book of Exodus. We read of the second covenant entered into between God, Moses and the Children of Israel – this covenant follows the incident of the Golden Calf and the smashing of the original set of Commandments. Moses asks God, who will go with him in leading the people? Moses also asks God to "let me see Your face" and to reveal God’s ways to him. Why does Moses ask to see God's face? What will seeing God's face do for Moses?

A Gift for Governor Brown

By: Denny Norris Yom Kippur afternoon was winding to a close. There was a buzz of expectancy in the air since the High Holidays Contemporary Issues Forum wouldn't be the usual panel discussion or featured congregant. Instead, Rabbi Laura Geller had reached out to California’s Governor Jerry Brown and asked him to speak about the state of our state. He had agreed to spend an hour at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills talking and answering our questions.

A Global Community

Rabbi Marla J. Feldman

My summer travels this year took me to Paris, where I had a wonderful time visiting museums, touring, and spending time with family. Emblematic of our increasingly international community, my French cousins are involved in the Reform/Progressive community in Paris. During my visit, they introduced me to Rabbis Pauline Bebe and Tom Cohen. Rabbi Bebe, the first female rabbi in Europe, was a former WRJ scholarship recipient during her student days at Leo Baeck in London. She and her husband, Rabbi Tom Cohen, spend summers at URJ camps, introducing French Reform Jewish youth to the American camping system. Through rabbis Cohen and Bebe, I learned a lot about the Jewish community in Paris. I was not aware that France has the third largest Jewish population, next to Israel and the U.S. On a personal walking tour of Jewish Paris, Rabbi Cohen shared many insights about the long, proud history of this Jewish community, stemming back to the Roman era.

Shnat Netzer: Retrospect and Perspective

by Kathryn Henning Every so often it hits us. You don't know when it will happen or what you'll be doing when it does, but it’s always a little bit of a shock to your system. You get this feeling in the pit of your stomach. It kind of bubbles up inside you and reminds you what you're doing; reminds you that you're doing something that no one's done before, but that so many people before you have done. All the people that have inspired you to be the person that you want to be know exactly what you're going through. The moment when you actually realize that you've moved to a different country for a year, to live with 30 people from all over the world, living, learning and growing together through shared experiences is probably one of the most inexplicable feelings to feel. You start off in Shnat Netzer fresh out of high school, a bunch of 18-year-olds, most of you without parents for the first time in your lives, pretty much left to your own devices. You have that kind of schedule that reminds you of school: It’s not as big a shock to your system as you thought it would be. You learn to fend for yourself; you grow to know what you like and what you don’t. You have to be honest; you can’t be scared to tell people when you need time on your own.

High Holidays: A Time to Reflect

Susan Bass

“Rosh HaShanah is coming.  It will be a good time to just turn the page, and start the new year fresh,” a friend said a few weeks ago.  “Then, you can focus on moving forward.  Leave all of the unpleasantness behind.”  Is it really that easy?  Is that what the High Holidays are about?  Turn the page and move on?  Are we supposed to use these ten days, these days of reflection, to honestly examine our acts of the past year, atone for them, and then just move on with our lives?  Or, are we to look for lessons, kernels of experience that we can use to inform the way we conduct ourselves and manage our lives going forward? Just as Shabbat allows us to take a break from the routine hustle and bustle of our everyday lives, perhaps we can take this time to not only break from our routine, but also to look a little deeper, to think a little longer, to ask ourselves what our role was in the successes and in the failures of the prior year.  Regardless of the outcome, it is probably most instructive to take a moment to ask ourselves, “What part did I play in that?“  When all is said and done, we really do learn more from our failures than our successes.  Maybe the growth is in finding a way to keep from repeating the same mistakes over and over.

Shabbat Shuvah

Edith Caplan

This Shabbat is Shabbat Shuvah – The Shabbat that falls between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, in the midst of our High Holy Days. These are the ten days in which we are on a higher spiritual plane – having begun our reflections of our deeds in the past year and leading to a plea for atonement for the times we hurt others, hurt ourselves, and fell short of the level of behavior we set out to attain at this time one year ago. However, we are encouraged through prayer and the sayings of our sages not to despair –we can improve ourselves and come closer to those ideals we strive to reach.

Finally Home

by Rabbi Michael Z. Cahana Finally Home. The opening verses of this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tavo, describe a ceremony of “first fruits.” Standing still in the wilderness, Moses envisions a time to come in which the people will be beyond war and want – a settled time when farmers can tend to their fields in the Promised Land. Flowing with Milk and Honey, the good land will provide for all the people’s needs. But there is something they must do in acknowledgement. “You shall take some of every first fruit of the soil, which you harvest from the land that your God YHVH is giving you, put in a basket and go to the place where your God YHVH will choose to establish the divine name.” (Deut. 26:2)

The Rose

Susan Bass

“Click, click, click.” Nonnie, my beloved maternal grandmother, was never far away from her knitting bag. She carried it with her to the beauty parlor where, sitting under the dryer, she could knit uninterrupted for 20 minutes. She carried it to doctor’s appointments and movies—she could actually knit in the dark—turning out sweaters, scarves, and afghans. My senior year of high school, Nonnie went into knitting overdrive, turning out sweaters (so I shouldn’t get cold) and afghans (in school colors). Somewhere along the way, she also began to cross-stitch. In addition to the knitted goods, there was now a steady stream of tablecloths—with matching napkins—adorning our dining room table on “special” evenings. 

Nitzavim, Deuteronomy 31:1-30

By: Cher Krichmar In this week’s Torah portion, Nitzavim, Deuteronomy 31:1-30, God instructs Moses about his death, as well as the succession for the people of Israel and the Promised Land. Moses will not see the Promised Land, but Joshua is instructed by Moses on how to lead the people. This parasha speaks to me as a committed woman in sisterhood. I have had the honor and privilege of being on the WRJ, WRJ Pacific District, and local sisterhood boards. As leaders, it is our responsibility to bring the message from WRJ to our local sisterhoods, and teach them and guide them to be strong, thriving sisterhoods. I have co-chaired our area days for the last four years, and have had the pleasure of seeing new and returning women and their excitement from the camaraderie and learning of the days’ teachings. As a leader, I, too, feel like I am commanded by God to teach new and younger women the ways of sisterhood.

Ki Teitzei

By:  Renee Morris Roth This week’s Torah portion, Ki Teitzei, is a list of seventy four laws given to the people. The topics of the laws address relationships between family, neighbors, members of society and even laws concerning animals. They speak to sexual misconduct, clothing, and forbidden relations. They address laws protecting the vulnerable, with special care to paying wages to workers, protecting the stranger, the fatherless and the widow. There are laws disclosing the need to be honest in business with regard to using accurate weights and measures. Finally, there is a charge to remember Amalek - to blot out the name of the enemy of the Jewish people.