Rabbi’s Messages

Articles, letters, and other notes from our Rabbi.

The Revelry & Joy of Purim

Posted on Feb 1, 2018 in Rabbi's Messages

There is no doubt that of all our festivals, Purim is the most fun. What other holiday can kids as well as adults dress up in costume, act irreverently, laugh, get a little wild, and for adults to have the Mitzvah of drinking alcohol? I’m not joking; it is literally a Mitzvah, a commandment, to drink on Purim so much that one doesn’t know the difference between “Blessed Mordecai” or “Cursed be Haman.” In all fairness, though, the rabbis did try to moderate the drinking part and lessen the amount one must or should drink on this joyous holiday. The essence of Purim is...

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Camp Newman Fire & Our Youth

Posted on Jan 3, 2018 in Rabbi's Messages

It has been known for some time that youth who attend Jewish overnight camp end up with stronger Jewish identities well into adulthood.  They are more likely to light candles for Shabbat and Hanukkah, have a connection to Israel, donate to charity, attend synagogue, and participate in Federation. Jewish camp is great for the future of Judaism. For the Reform movement, the Union of Reform Judaism, hosts a number of excellent camps around the country.  At Temple Beth David, we have a special connection with Camp Newman in Northern California.  Thanks to the family of Rabbi Henry Front, may...

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The Joy of Latkes

Posted on Dec 5, 2017 in Rabbi's Messages

Hmmmmm, there’s something about the aroma wafting through the room as latkes are frying in oil.  The rich fragrance brings with it a warmth and reminder of a good meal to come. For Ashkenazi Jews (those of East European descent), we eat potato pancakes called latkes during the 8 nights of Hanukkah.  Sephardic Jews, on the other hand, eat jelly filled doughnuts called sufganiot.  Eating foods with oil may not be the healthiest of dietary choices and yet they remind us of the miracles of Hanukkah. After the Maccabees’ victory over the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), they...

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Come Celebrate Israel’s 70th birthday in Israel!

Posted on Oct 31, 2017 in Rabbi's Messages

…and learn about its role as the birthplace of the three main world religions April 12, 2018- April 22, 2018 “Every time I go to Israel it is in many ways like going home, it is welcoming and comfortable to be in the only country where what we do as Jews is the norm and the way of life.”  Charlie Niederman I am excited to lead our trip to Israel this upcoming April!  I’ve designed this trip for both newcomers and experienced visitors to Israel.  You are welcome to join us whether you are a member of Temple Beth David or just feel a connection to our community. We will explore...

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The Blast of the Ram’s Horn

Posted on Sep 1, 2017 in Rabbi's Messages

I’m running my fingers along the smooth polished ram’s horn. I can feel its ridges and see the shades of onyx, sand, and specks of amber. Raising the narrow aperture to my pursed lips, I take a deep breath and then struggle to make a sound. After some false starts, a high pitched shriek echoes from its tusk.  How do you feel when you hear the shofar sounded at Rosh Hashanah? On the one hand, it is joyously primal. Seeing a man or woman standing in front of a crowded sanctuary, blowing the ram’s horn, feels exciting. However, when its screech pierces the sanctuary,...

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Body, Mind & Spirit on Shabbat

Posted on Aug 1, 2017 in Rabbi's Messages

Years ago, I created an experience for us to engage in physical activity, utilize our minds, and engage our spirit as a way of enhancing Shabbat. Body, Mind, & Spirit Shabbat has become a beloved part of our Temple Beth David Saturday morning Shabbat celebration for the last three years.  We have walked through El Dorado park, Bolsa Chica Wetlands, Talbert Nature preserve, and Seal Beach. We have hiked in Peter’s Canyon, Santiago Oaks, Laguna Coast Wilderness, and Monrovia. A few of us biked along the San Gabriel Riverway. And we have done Tai chi, yoga, kayaking,...

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Camp Newman Summer

Posted on Jul 1, 2017 in Rabbi's Messages

On Monday, July 3, I’ll be driving up to Camp Newman for my third summer. For the past few years, we have been sending our youth to the Union for Reform Judaism’s California Jewish overnight camp.  I have seen first hand, the joy our kids have in making new friends, developing leadership skills, and deepening their Jewish identities.  The activities are varied and include prayer, sessions on Judaism, sports, crafts, swimming, and creative group programming. This year, we have ten youth attending from our synagogue. They are: Shane Prunty, Jessa Kleinman, Dani...

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New Model for Dues

Posted on Jun 1, 2017 in Rabbi's Messages

For over fifty years, we are a community that supports one another in times of need, celebrates the joys of life, prays, and learns within a Reform Jewish congregation.  We are fortunate to have outstanding music for Shabbat, High Holy days, and festival services. Our preschool prepares our children to excel in elementary school and beyond. Our religious school gives our students Judaic knowledge and a love for Judaism.  We have meaningful Bar/Bat Mitzvah services and dynamic youth groups for teens. For our adults, we have ongoing lectures and educational opportunities...

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Relive the Israelites trek through the wilderness!

Posted on May 1, 2017 in Rabbi's Messages

What would it be like to be an Israelite newly freed from Egypt traversing the desert? Have you ever wanted to meet Moses, Miriam, or Moses? Well, you will have this opportunity on Tuesday night, May 30, starting at 7:00 p.m. Just by showing up, you will instantly become one of the Israelites newly freed from Egypt. Crossing the sea of Reeds, you will rejoice with Miriam, Aaron, and Moses as you begin your trek through the wilderness. It will not be easy though for there will be challenges of hunger and a need to forage for food. As a descendant of the ancient Israelites, you...

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Is it Kosher for Passover?

Posted on Apr 1, 2017 in Rabbi's Messages

“And you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread; for in this same day have I brought your ranks out of the land of Egypt; therefore shall you observe this day in your generations by an ordinance forever. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty first day of the month at evening. Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses; for whoever eats that which is leavened, that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger, or born in the land. You shall...

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