The Song That Saved My Life

The Dvar/article below is also available as a Podcast, simply click any of the following options: Apple, Spotify, Bandcamp, Soundcloud,  &/or Youtube. _____________________________________________________________ The Rashbam says the entire book of Devarim (Deuteronomy) is called שירה, “Song, Poem.” This Parashah instructs us to “write this song for yourselves”. This song is the Torah, and we learn from here that it is a mitzvah to write a Torah scroll. We see this week that Torah is synonymous with Song. As I reflect on my life, I realize that song has always led me. Throughout my childhood, it always had a transformative power. Some of my earliest memories are listening to Michael Jackson’s Thriller album on vinyl when I lived in Naples, Italy. I would dance to it in a way that I felt as if I was reaching another dimension, physically and emotionally. I …

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God desires the heart

I was asked to write for the Jewish Journal’s “Table for Five: Rosh Hashanah Edition.” They chose 5 writers/teachers/rabbi’s to write 250 words about the following verses: Behold, I stand here, impoverished in good deeds, perturbed and frightened in fear [of Him,] Who is enthroned upon the praises of Yisrael. I have come to stand and to plead before You in behalf of Your people, Yisrael, who have appointed me their messenger, even though I am not worthy or qualified for the task. – Hineni, From The Rosh Hashanah prayers Here’s what’ll hit newsstands on Thursday: When Leonard Cohen released what he knew would be his last album, he titled the song to begin his parting opus, “You Want It Darker.” On it, he sings “Hineni, hineni, I’m ready, my Lord.” Rosh Hashanah is a moment in time where we …

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Greener Where You Water It

The Dvar/article below is also available as a Podcast, simply click any of the following options: Apple, Spotify, Bandcamp, Soundcloud,  &/or Youtube. _____________________________________________________________ As we touched on in parashat Ki Teitzei, another way to think about our collective Oneness is through water. We know that water is fundamental to all life; our bodies are mostly water, and the brain and heart, in particular, are composed of 73% water. That means we have 73% in common with every person in the world. Which gives new meaning to the saying, “the grass is greener where you water it”. On top of that, people mirror each other’s inner belief systems, so if we aren’t “watering” ourselves and those around us in connectedness and positivity, then individually and collectively we can’t grow.  Continually giving yourself and others life-force is essential to being in a blissful …

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First Fruit

The Dvar/article below is also available as a Podcast, simply click any of the following options: Apple, Spotify, Bandcamp, Soundcloud,  &/or Youtube. _____________________________________________________________ I’ve been to Israel so many times, it would be impossible to count at this point, and every time I think about it, my memory always starts with arriving at Ben Gurion Airport and immediately going to my Savta’s house in Ramat Gan. As a kid, I would run to the makolet (market) and grab an artik (ice pop) and some assorted treats and would simply say, Savta Yedida and walk out. I didn’t know there was a tab that she had to pay afterwards; I guess at the time, I had just thought the owner must have viewed my Savta how I view her, and so he would give her anything, on the house. My family is …

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Don’t Hate, Foster The People

The Dvar/article below is also available as a Podcast, simply click any of the following options: Apple, Spotify, Bandcamp, Soundcloud,  &/or Youtube. _____________________________________________________________ I was at the minyan I’m almost always at on Shabbat, my friend Lorenzo’s minyan, inspired by and under the instruction of the Ostrova-Biala Rebbe. The minyan is in his backyard, and the group of men and women couldn’t be a more elevated group. You know the feeling you get when you walk into a room full of family members that you adore or best friends from school, and all the jokes you had for all those years come rushing back, and you know you are about to be surrounded by love? It may sound cheesy, but it’s the feeling of being in a community that truly feels aligned. And I’ve found it in this minyan, with this …

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…And Justice For All

The Dvar/article below is also available as a Podcast, simply click any of the following options: Apple, Spotify, Bandcamp, Soundcloud,  &/or Youtube. _____________________________________________________________ The title of this Dvar is a wink to my friend, the holy soul, Fabian Lijtmaer. His Dvar Torahs usually involve fire, Heavy Metal references, spirit animals, and the powers that exist within each element by the shefa (flow) of the Shechinah. So, naturally, when I thought about what might be a good title for a dvar all about justice I felt Metallica’s album “… And Justice For All” calling to me. Much love to the special soul that is Fabian.  Now to the words behind the title… So much anxiety is brought on by thinking one won’t receive what is just. Of course, everyone’s view of their own justice looks different. But the idea of not receiving …

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Mo Money Mo Problems, Mo Charity Mo Peace

The Dvar/article below is also available as a Podcast, simply click any of the following options: Apple, Spotify, Bandcamp, Soundcloud,  &/or Youtube. _____________________________________________________________ “His [God’s] tzedakah endures forever.” As I read these words from Tehillim, I picture King David with his harp, composing these words, feeling fully elevated, recognizing that God is all-giving all the time, eternally, the ultimate example of tzedakah, of righteous giving.  At some point in life, we all learn that money comes and goes; you can be up one day and down the next. It’s all in the hands of Hashem. So the deeper way to conceive of money in our lives is that you only own that which you give away, as it says in Mishlei (Proverbs), “There is one who gives generously yet ends with more.” This means that by focusing on what you can …

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There’s Always Money In The Banana Stand

The Dvar/article below is also available as a Podcast, simply click any of the following options: Apple, Spotify, Bandcamp, Soundcloud,  &/or Youtube. _____________________________________________________________ Not by Bread Alone When I was living in Bushwick, NY, my roommate Aaron Wertheimer, an old childhood friend, would always watch Arrested Development. Seeing it in passing, I didn’t fully get the epicness of the show and its humor. When I gave it a real chance, I was hooked. I think it even topped Seinfeld in how beyond brilliant it was. As I write this, so many lines are circling my mind, but one that sticks out is George Bluth, Sr. reassuring his son, Michael Bluth, the main character, that “there’s always money in the banana stand”. When Michael hears this, he interprets it to mean that the banana stand that the family owns will always make …

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The Secret To Oneness (and the Shema)

The Dvar/article below is also available as a Podcast, simply click any of the following options: Apple, Spotify, Bandcamp, Soundcloud,  &/or Youtube. _____________________________________________________________ “This Torah shall not be removed from your mouth”  Rabbi Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai that even if a person would just recite the Shema in the morning and the evening, he fulfills this mitzvah of “not removing the Torah from one’s mouth.” The lesson is that if you fall short of your goal, you have to focus on the good that you have done, because each person is only expected to do as much as they can, given where they’re starting from. If they do that, it’s as if that person has fulfilled all of Torah.   I remember learning the power of the Shema (שְׁמַע) as a little kid. It felt like …

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Only God Can Judge Me

The Dvar/article below is also available as a Podcast, simply click any of the following options: Apple, Spotify, Bandcamp, Soundcloud,  &/or Youtube. _____________________________________________________________ Tisha B’av is the most somber day in the Jewish calendar. It’s sobering to think that thousands of years ago, we were on top of the world: in the Promised Land, with our Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple), fully connected to the Divine. And then how quickly– in just three weeks– that connection was destroyed. When you really consider a loss like that, no matter how ephemeral it may be in the bigger picture, its weight can feel unbearable.  The Biur Halacha explains that Devarim is always read on the Shabbat prior to Tisha B’av so that Moshe’s tochacha (admonition or reproof) to the Jews will coincide with the Tisha B’Av period. It’s important to understand the cyclical nature of …

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