A More Intimate Celebration

When I was a boy growing up in New York our family gatherings were like a scene out of the Barry Levinson movie Avalon. On Thanksgiving and Chanukah our get-togethers would involve not only our immediate family, but also an extended family of grandparents, aunts and uncles, great aunts and uncles, multiple generations of cousins, and friends.

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Russ Resnik
Our Unchanging God

Ha’azinu is a powerful, emotional poem; one that challenges all Israel for all time to respond as the nation did in the days of Moses, as it is written, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient” (Exod 24:7). Indeed, this is the purpose of parashat Ha’azinu: to teach us to be ready to turn to God as a nation at all times in our present and future.

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Russ Resnik
Helpless but Ready

Not long before my old friend Rube (Rabbi Richard Rubinstein) passed away, I had the privilege of visiting him at his home in Sacramento. He was already in bad shape from the cancer that eventually killed him, but his spirits were fine, so when he recommended a book, I paid attention. The title grabbed my attention too: This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared.

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Russ Resnik
The Real Housewives of Ephraim

Hannah is a barren woman stuck in a deeply dysfunctional marriage. Her sister-wife, Pninah, has produced many sons and daughters, and never misses an opportunity to lord it over her. Her husband, Elkanah, thinks his own mercurial affections should provide sufficient comfort to his depressed and angry wife.

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Monique Brumbach Comments
The Power to Change

As a rabbi I’ve noticed over the years some resistance when we talk about one of the great themes of our current season—teshuva or repentance. Our tradition provides lengthy prayers of remorse and confession . . . and we have to overcome inner resistance to really put our hearts into this whole practice.

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Russ Resnik
From Shame to Honor

Our haftarah presents the people of Judah metaphorically as a woman who is shamed because she has never been in labor and is therefore without children, also shamed because she has been forsaken by her husband. Then, in the verses following, this woman’s status is reversed as she has many children and as her Maker, Adonai, becomes her husband. 

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Russ Resnik
God in Exile

The ever-present God is Immanuel, God-with-us, both in our exile and wanderings and in the holiest of times on Yom Kippur. As this day approaches we can prepare for it, along with all Israel, by making straight in the desert of our chaotic lives and divided hearts a highway for our God.

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Russ Resnik
Beauty Without and Within

We’ve all heard the saying “Beauty is only skin deep”—the idea that someone’s external beauty is not as important as their inner beauty. This saying, with a little twist, reminds me of the haftarah for R’eh (Isaiah 54:11–55:5); instead of contrasting external beauty with internal beauty this passage reveals that both are to be found in rebuilt Jerusalem.

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Russ Resnik
Moshe’s Bottom Line

Two verses, Deuteronomy 10:12-13, are the centerpiece and crown of Parashat Ekev, a summary statement of what God required (and requires) of Israel. Moshe is summarizing the lessons of 40 years in the Sinai desert, and this is his tamsit, Hebrew for we’d call the “bottom line” lesson, of the experiences that the nation had just been through. 

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Russ Resnik
Comfort, Comfort My People

Nachamu, nachamu ami, amar Eloheichem …“Comfort, comfort, my people, says your God.” These five Hebrew words introduce perhaps the most eloquent portion of Scripture, the “Rhapsody of Zion Redeemed” (Isaiah 40–66), which speaks of restoration, redemption, comfort, and hope for Israel.

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Russ Resnik