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Yom Chamishi, 26 Kislev 5775

Shabbat Greetings

Weekly commentary from Rabbi Malinger

The Omer

Written by Rabbi Laurence P. Malinger on Friday, 02 May 2014. Posted in Rabbi

We are currently in the third week of the omer - the 49-day period of nightly counting between Passover and Shavuot. According to rabbinic tradition, the omer serves as a bridge between two spiritual milestones: the redemption from Egypt (Pesach) and the giving of the Torah (Shavuot).

Metzora

Written by Rabbi Laurence P. Malinger on Friday, 04 April 2014. Posted in Rabbi

As many of you know, I spent this past week attending the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) annual meeting in Chicago, IL. It was a great conference filled with wonderful sessions on practical rabbinic skills, learning new things about prayer, education and leadership, and reconnecting with colleagues and dear friends. The major highlight of our conference was the "36 Rabbis Shave for the Brave" event that took place on Tuesday. Actually, over 70 of my colleagues (both men and women) shaved their heads to raise awareness and funding for pediatric cancer research. All of this was done to support our colleagues, Phyllis and Michael Sommers and their family as they continue to remember their son, 8-year old Samuel Sommer, who died this past December from leukemia. Our collective fundraising raised over $570,000 dollars!

Acharei Mot

Written by Rabbi Laurence P. Malinger on Friday, 11 April 2014. Posted in Rabbi

I have now experienced what many of you have as well. Someone loses a loved one - family, friends and acquaintances close ranks around them, attend Shivah, coordinate details, bring food and provide comfort. Then Shivah ends, everyone bids the bereaved farewell and return to daily life.

Passover

Written by Rabbi Laurence P. Malinger on Friday, 18 April 2014. Posted in Rabbi

This Shabbat, instead of the regular Torah portion, Exodus 33:12-34:26 is read, which makes references to the "13 Attributes of God's Mercy" and concludes with instructions regarding the observance of the festival of Passover.

Kedoshim

Written by Rabbi Laurence P. Malinger on Friday, 25 April 2014. Posted in Rabbi

Parashat Kedoshim (Leviticus 19:1-20:27) is arguably the most morally compelling portion in the Torah. It begins: "You shall be holy, for I, Adonai your God, am holy" (Lev. 19:2). What follows in chapter 19 of Leviticus is often called the "Holiness Code" and explains in detail what it means for us to "be like God" - beginning with observing Shabbat and abolish idolatry while being scrupulous in our religious observances. But it is not just about religion and ritual, we must revere our parents and provide for the needy and be honest in our dealings with others.

Vayeshev

Written by Rabbi Laurence P. Malinger on Friday, 22 November 2013. Posted in Rabbi

Parashat Vayeshev (Genesis 37:1-40:23) begins with a brief and seemingly simple sentence: "Jacob dwelt in the land of his father's sojournings, the land of Canaan." (Genesis 37:1)  Yet the use of two distinct words calls out for our attention, "dwelt" and "sojournings." Why didn't the text use the same word for both?  In the Hebrew, both can mean dwell, settle, reside, but yashav has a more enduring connotation. It would seem that Jacob was more permanently settled than his father Isaac, who perhaps moved around more.

Vayishlach

Written by Rabbi Laurence P. Malinger on Friday, 15 November 2013. Posted in Rabbi

It seems as though often in life we only look for God when we need something and when we get what we need, we quickly forget about God.  Or we might occasionally encounter God in an extraordinary moment - perhaps a peak experience, a transformative event in our lives, a challenging ordeal - but when the moment passes, we again go back to our ways.

Vayetze

Written by Rabbi Laurence P. Malinger on Friday, 08 November 2013. Posted in Rabbi

This week's parasha Vayetze (Genesis 28:10-32:3) begins with Jacob fleeing his brother Esau, whom he tricked, and learning of Jacob's first encounter with God in a dream. Upon awakening, Jacob realizes of his special mission and exclaims,  "Surely God is present in this place, and I did not know it!" (28:16)  Often as we journey through our own lives, we are unable to experience God's presence at every moment.  Imagine what was going on through the minds of our brothers and sisters in Nazi Germany in 1938.

Toldot

Written by Rabbi Laurence P. Malinger on Friday, 01 November 2013. Posted in Rabbi

My parents both have worked throughout their lives to support our family.  My father is an electrical engineer and my mother was a real estate agent.  Neither Mom nor Dad ever encouraged me to get involved in their vocations so that one day I might follow their footsteps.  Rather, they encouraged my directions with these instructions, "Be a good boy" and "Nothing is more important than your education."  Implicitly, primarily through their example, they encouraged me to be an engaged Jew.  I was free to choose my professional pursuits yet encouraged to take several life directions.

Chayei Sarah

Written by Rabbi Laurence P. Malinger on Friday, 25 October 2013. Posted in Rabbi

We read in this week's parshah, Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18), the well known story of Rebecca at the Well which is part of a longer text called, "The life of Sarah." It is called this not because it is about the life of Sarah, but because it begins with the words "The life of Sarah was 100 years, 20 years and 7 years". Strangely, the portion actually starts by talking about Sarah's death and goes into details of her burial. Eventually we learn the story of Rebecca and how Isaac, son of Abraham finds and marries her.

Vayera

Written by Rabbi Laurence P. Malinger on Friday, 18 October 2013. Posted in Rabbi

This week, in Parshat Vayera (Genesis 18:1-22:24), Avimelech, king of Gerar, faces a grave threat to himself and his household. Abraham enters the town and repeats his prior ill-fated decision to present Sarah as his sister instead of his wife upon arriving in a foreign land. Unaware that Sarah is married, Avimelech takes her for himself. To Avimelech's great surprise, God confronts him in a dream, threatening to kill him unless he returns Sarah to Abraham. Following an animated exchange Avimelech concedes, but only after God once again threatens death and this time extends the potential sentence to "all that is yours." Avimelech returns Sarah to Abraham and he and the women of his household are healed from the infertility that had been inflicted upon them as punishment for seizing Sarah. (20:1-18)

Lech Lecha

Written by Rabbi Laurence P. Malinger on Friday, 11 October 2013. Posted in Rabbi

"It is in our lives, and not our words, that our religion must be read." I thought a great deal about this quote from Thomas Jefferson as I read this week's parshah, Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27).  If you recall, God's calls of "lech lecha" to Abram is predicated on God's promise that Abram will become "a great nation," and that Abram will be sent to a land in which he can build a large, prosperous nation. As a result, it was not lost upon me that one of the first things we learn after God calls Abram to leave Haran is that, "There was a famine in the land," (12:10) this same land that God says Abram will be shown.

Sukkot and the World Around Us

Written by Rabbi Laurence P. Malinger on Saturday, 21 September 2013. Posted in Rabbi

In this week's Torah portion we turn back to the Book of Exodus, Chapter 33:12-34:26, because it is Shabbat Chol HaMoed Sukkot, the Shabbat that falls during the holiday of Sukkot. At the beginning of the reading Moses asks God to see God's face. They are having an intimate conversation, as only Moses and God can share, and Moses wants and needs reassurance of God's presence. I wonder why the rabbis would have included these Torah verses to be read during the holiday of Sukkot.

Yom Kippur on Friday the 13th

Written by Rabbi Laurence P. Malinger on Monday, 16 September 2013.

Someone sent me a High Holy Day card that read, "Yes, God deliberately scheduled Kol Nidre on Friday the 13th. Get with it, people!"  After I stopped chuckling, I realized that for some people, the power and dread of this sacred day on the calendar is very real.