One Bit Better

Yom Kippur Morning 5781 Service

It happens every summer. In the middle of a long meeting about something completely unrelated, Rabbi Limmer pauses, looks at me and says, “So, what are you thinking of speaking about on Yom Kippur?” Some years, I have a quick answer; other years it’s more of a process. This year, I blurted out a rant: I don't need Yom Kippur this year to tell me to be a better person or to tell me to do better. This year has been challenging enough! I have been hard on myself already, and I know many of our congregants have been hard on themselves, too.  This year, what I need is for Yom Kippur to tell me that it's going to be okay, that we’re going to be okay. And that all we need to do is just take each day one at a time. These past six months have been nothing...

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Ner Tamid – Keeping the Flame Lit

Winter 2020 Bulletin Article

I still remember the day when I was in 10th grade confirmation learning my Temple’s best kept secret. For as long as I could remember, a light hung above the ark in the sanctuary. The ner tamid, or eternal light, as I learned it was called in religious school. The truth is, I never bothered to ask how the light stayed lit, and never went out. It sort of felt like magic. But as I grew older, I assumed there was some secret to the light staying lit, and on that first night of Confirmation class, our rabbi took us into the sanctuary, and we learned the secret, we discovered that which made the light eternal. It wasn’t magic after all. As we walked into the sanctuary, we saw a ladder on the bima right beneath the eternal light. Our rabbi turned to the class and said, “As the oldest...

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What Are We Going to Do About It?

Yom Kippur Day 5780

It was a Saturday morning around 8am. I picked up a few dozen donuts and drove to Sinai to deliver breakfast to our 5th and 6th students who spent the night sleeping at the temple. When I arrived, half of the students were barely awake, struggling to pack up their sleeping bags,  and the other half  had a ton of energy, “we’ve been awake since 5, rabbi!”. And by 9, all students had been picked up. I got in my car feeling like the Shabbat sleepover was a success. The 5th and 6th graders had a great time, and everyone made it home safely. Well, not everyone. It was October 27th, 2018. As our students made their way home safely that Shabbat morning,  a gunman entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and opened fire. 11 worshipers were murdered. 7 others wounded. All at the hands of a terrorist...

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Ensuring Freedom for All: A Letter from our Rabbis

As we welcome this anniversary of our nation’s independence, we rightfully celebrate the unique liberties we enjoy in America. At the same time, our Jewish heritage reminds us that our celebrations of liberty should compel us to work for the liberation of all. This July 4th is especially bitter as it arrives amidst horrifying news of squalor and degradation emerging from the detention centers at which the very country we celebrate is confining those who seek the freedoms we enjoy. We have heard horrifying reports from Homestead, FL and Clint, TX, anguishing arguments over the minimal support our government is providing asylum seekers, and continuing coverage of children separated from their families. This should be troubling to all Americans; it is especially disconcerting to our Jewish community. The question we ask ourselves, and which we are asked almost every day is: what can I do to make a difference? The...

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Something New Under the Sun

Yom Kippur Day 5779

To watch Rabbi Greene give her sermon, click here.  “They called her a THOT,” the female counselors shared one night during a staff meeting this summer. “The 6th grade boys, they called a THOT” “What’s a THOT?”, I chimed in? The counselors giggled at my naive question. “No but, really, I asked again, what’s a “THOT”? They all paused sheepishly, until the Unit Head took one for the team, “Rabbi,” she said as she rolled her eyes, “it’s an acronym, T-H-O-T, THOT, ‘That Ho Over There.” I froze. So did the laughter. And this is where it all begins. October 5th, 2017 revealed the news coverage of the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandal. Ten days later, actress Alyssa Milano posted the following tweet, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write, ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” And within hours, minutes, seconds, posts emerged...from everywhere. Here are just a...

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If You Build It, They Will Come

Religious School

Last year, after conducting a series of listening groups with our religious school families, our religious school committee decided it was time to pick two areas of focus for our 5779 school year.  Strengthening Our Community This year, the religious school committee has decided to create intentional opportunities and experiences to create meaningful connections among families, parents, and students in our religious school. Below are opportunities to connect with the religious school community:   September 23   Pancake Breakfast & First Day of School   September 28     Sinai Family Shabbat Services and Dinner   October 14   Parent Coffee & Breakfast at Drop-off   Sunday Speaker Series   October 21     Parent Coffee and Breakfast at Drop-off   November 18      Parent Program with the Rabbis followed by       Family Service   December 7      Sinai Family Shabbat Services and Dinner   More to...

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Three Simple Summer Tasks

Reflections

My Summer To-Do List: 1. Take a long walk. 2. Read a good book. 3. Make a new friend. Advice I learned from Rabbi Lisa Greene, who often quoted her father, Rabbi Barry Greene’s annual summer to-do list (and no we are not related). Take a long walk. I hope to take many long walks. I love summer in Chicago. When the weather is nice, I try my best to be outside. I think Rabbi Barry Greene’s advice was poignant -- for what happens on those long walks? My mind wanders, and yet I appreciate my surroundings. Sometimes I notice beautiful flowers or a spectacular tree. Sometimes I get lost in my own thoughts. Sometimes, I have no idea where I ended up or how I arrived. Often I find myself in a moment of awe and wonder, or as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel called it Radical Amazement. Think about...

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Israel: A Journey

Reflections

“Your trip can be just another vacation, or it can be the journey of your life,” writes Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman in his book Israel: A Spiritual Travel Guide. I still remember my first trip to Israel. I was 18 years old, a senior in High School. It was a teen trip through my home syangogue. I still remember the first time I stepped off the bus. That first breath of fresh air. I’d always heard stories of people kissing the ground upon landing in Israel. The Tel Aviv airport had recently been remodeled. But my friends and I still wanted to kiss the holy ground. So we walked off the bus, onto the Jerusalem stone, knelt down and kissed the holy land. I still remember the first time I saw the Old City, in person. Our trip began at the most perfect look-out point. The Dome of the Rock shone...

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Purim Renewed

Reflections

As a young child, I loved the holiday of Purim. I would dress up, usually as Queen Esther, head to temple, watch the Purim Spiel and win prizes from playing games at the carnival. One year, dressed in a poofy 80s pink dress, I even ended up in the local newspaper! But, likely, between the ages of 9-22, with the exception of one celebration in Israel, I forgot about the holiday. It seemed, after all, to be a children’s holiday. My love for the holiday of Purim returned when I entered rabbinical school, and discovered the importance of the holiday as an adult. Purim for adults looks quite different from Purim as a child. There’s no carnival or prizes, but the theme of the day remains the same. For all year long, we take ourselves seriously, don’t we? We dress “appropriate” for holidays, for services. Our worship is serious, the...

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The Door Marked “Teshuva”

Yom Kippur 5778

When you enter the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, you have a choice to enter through one of two doors: a door marked PREJUDICED or a door marked UNPREJUDICED. A door marked PREJUDICED or a door marked UNPREJUDICED. Which door would you choose? What if the doors were marked with the character traits GENEROUS and GREEDY? Which attribute describes you? Which door would you go through? Or what about MERCIFUL and JUDGMENTAL? Which door would you enter? Chances are, you picked the good doors. If you are like most people you would choose to enter the doors marked UNPREJUDICED, GENEROUS, and MERCIFUL. But cutting edge research shows us there might be a gap between who we say we are and who we actually are.  “Everybody Lies,” was the beginning of a title of a book that came out this past Spring.   The title of this book is compelling, and...

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