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But what can I do now?

01/14/2021 10:06:19 AM

Jan14

There’s a very famous teaching from Rabbi Hillel that goes like this:

 

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

If I am only for myself, what am I?

And if not now, when?

 

The news is disturbing and frightening, the quality of our political leadership...Read more...

Prayer for our Country

01/07/2021 09:07:36 AM

Jan7

On Yom Kippur, we offered this Prayer for our Country.  May our leaders and us hear its call and rise to this moment.

 

God of holiness, we hear Your message: Justice, Justice you shall pursue. God of freedom, we hear your charge: Proclaim liberty throughout the land. Inspire us through your teachings and commandments to love and uphold our precious democracy. Let every citizen take...Read more...

Made This Way

12/31/2020 09:01:49 AM

Dec31

My dearest Shma Koleinu,

For all of its spiritual teachings, Judaism is an extremely “this-worldly-oriented” tradition.  We certainly pray for peace and contentment, but we also pray for parnassah (a good living), achalta, v’savata uverachta (you shall eat, then you shall be satisfied and then you shall offer thanks), and for a refuah shleimah (a complete and total recovery of our bodies). 

Jewish tradition...Read more...

A Poem for Those Still Here, by Rabbi Scott Hausman-Weiss

12/24/2020 06:52:27 AM

Dec24

 

(Click HERE to Listen to this Poem.)

 

There are no acceptable casualties

Not as far as God is concerned.

There is no body count that will ever be OK.

In God’s place, you are the most important you that is.

 

The interrupted arc of any soul is not part of a greater plan

And no poetry or eulogy or elegy will suffice.

For God weeps when we, you,...Read more...

God and Moses Walk into a Bar

12/17/2020 06:59:55 AM

Dec17

Scene: A Random Bar

Characters: God and Moses

Setting: Moses initiates the first fundraising campaign, with God serving as Moses’ fundraising consultant:

 

God: Moses, you know this Tabernacle is gonna cost a few shekels.

Moses: Well, it was Your idea to make it light and portable, yet dynamic and beautiful enough to do You proud.

God: Now, don’t blame me. These people have the pyramids...Read more...

Writing our Lives

12/02/2020 05:17:17 PM

Dec2

This time of year, even and especially during this age of COVID, I find that people become a bit more nostalgic, perhaps a bit softer, reminiscing, observers of their lives. 

Ki hem chayeinu v’orech yameinu uvahem nehegeh yomam valailah.

For they are our life and the length of our days and we shall rejoice upon them each and every day and night. 

These...Read more...

"Giving Thanks this Thanksgiving"

11/25/2020 02:29:17 PM

Nov25

Dear Shma Koleinu,

Thank you.  Thank you 1000 times, thank you. You have made this possible.  You didn’t inherit this congregation from your parents or grandparents, or the many anonymous founders who came before.  Houston didn’t “need” another Reform congregation but you decided it needed something new.  We are not funded by a long accruing endowment or generational gravity.  We are the Mishkan, the...Read more...

"...so put on a happy face"

11/20/2020 11:13:36 AM

Nov20

I’m not sure that I’ve been very good company this week. I’ve been a bit prone to getting lost in a few too many hours of TV news. I put on a good face because I want no one to feel a sense of desolation, at least on my watch. But that doesn’t mean Natalie gets that good face all the time. COVID and our ever-discombobulating culture have, for the most part, presented someone like me, who generally relishes leaning into uneven ground,...Read more...

"Which Way to a Better World?"

11/18/2020 03:04:03 PM

Nov18

The Torah portion this week, called “Toldot,” revisits the story of the seeds of sibling rivalry. This oft-repeated theme in Torah and some of the greatest literature ever written, is laid out this week in a matter of verses. First, Rebecca struggles to become pregnant and even rails against the heavens over her deep distress from being unable to bring a child into the world.  Next, we no sooner learn that she is pregnant with twins...Read more...

"Memories of Jerusalem"

11/04/2020 12:44:04 PM

Nov4

I was a brand-new rabbinic student, sitting at a Jerusalem café with my professor, Rabbi Ben Hollander, z.l., who had been charged with providing me a primer on teaching prayer to high school students. It would be my job, as madrich, counselor for NFTY’s high school in Israel program, to meet daily with the students and teach and lead some version of prayer. I was an uber-novice in this area, having been inspired by visions of serving as a...Read more...

Connection - 101

10/27/2020 08:40:10 AM

Oct27

Monday, I introduced a new theme for 10@Noon, “Shame and Vulnerability.”  This is our third “theme” since we embarked on this venture of a 10-12 minute online gathering of those seeking some spiritual solace, and perhaps inspiration, on a weekday basis. 

We started with two of the middot, characteristics taught by our Musar tradition: “Humility,” Anavah and “Patience,” Savlanut.  One leads into the...Read more...

The Fuse and the Match

10/19/2020 03:31:15 PM

Oct19

Patience is not my strong point, despite the numberless times my mother would admonish, “Patience is a virtue.”  “Lots of things are virtues,” I imagine my teenage self, mumbling under my breath.  Why should patience stand out so self-importantly?  Patience is for those who have to wait.  Isn’t life about going out and getting what’s yours?  Hot Potato?  Duck, duck, goose?  Monopoly? ...Read more...

On Humility

10/12/2020 01:06:36 PM

Oct12

On Rosh Hashanah, which I know seems like eons ago, I spoke about the power of Humility. I referenced a story from the Talmud that serves as an origin tale for the prayer, Avinu Malkeinu.  The “Cliff Notes” version of the story is that Rabbi Eliezer was praying for rain and try as he did, he was unsuccessful in softening the heart of the Holy One of Blessing to bring rain to a thirsty landscape and people.  Once Rabbi Eliezer...Read more...

Driveway Judaism

09/10/2020 02:46:55 PM

Sep10

Next Tuesday, September 15, from 3 pm – 6:30 pm, drop by Rabbi Scott and Natalie’s home for Driveway Judaism.  Rabbi Scott will be waiting for you in his driveway, for you and yours to get video-ed:

Chanting the Torah blessings and/or Singing the Havdalah blessings and/or Wishing our community “Shanah Tovah u’metukah” (“Happy and Sweet New Year!”  

Links to practice videos and text are...Read more...

Losses and Gains

09/03/2020 08:58:05 AM

Sep3

Rabbi Morris Joseph teaches that when faced with the passing of a loved one, we often frame it as a “loss.”  But the truth, because death is, well, 100% ubiquitous… that perhaps we should seek to reframe our loss as a “lack of the gain” we were so fortunate to have had.  That because every one of us does indeed have a “sell by” date, that is fortunately left off the “package” of our own lives, the humility of the...Read more...

Feet Up or Prayer Tablet in Hand

08/28/2020 09:34:23 AM

Aug28

It’s probably unnecessary to once again recognize the uniqueness of this moment.  But indeed it has been a very, very long time since Jews, Jewish families, and those who love them, as well as our neighbors, colleagues, and fellow strangers have found ourselves sheltering in our homes for fear of the outside.  Some are terribly frightened of the risks to their health and those whom they love.  Others are caught in the...Read more...

Rabbi Scott's Intro  to and Susan Nerlove's    Blog "Shma Koleinu  Votes 2020" 

08/19/2020 06:43:22 PM

Aug19

Intro by Rabbi Scott

"So Holly reaches out to Susan Nerlove with an offer she couldn’t refuse (in my head, I’m hearing these words a la “The Godfather.”) 

"In the really lovely blog post that follows, written by Susan, she suggests that perhaps I might possibly weigh in on the Jewish view of the right to vote and...Read more...

A Sneak Peak

08/13/2020 02:37:08 AM

Aug13

I’m a big fan of “Hamilton” the musical, however I’ve never seen it, well I’ve never seen it live in the theater.  Six years ago, I learned about “Hamilton,” downloaded it, and the soundtrack quickly became Sammy’s and my favorite school-drive soundtrack.  It rocked and it rolled, and it truly awoke in Sammy a focused interest into American history and its founders. For me too, I found myself revisiting old textbooks...Read more...

If Not Now, When?

08/06/2020 10:08:18 AM

Aug6

I don’t think I have felt this unmoored and simultaneously excited about the High Holy Days since 1994, when, as a second-year rabbinic student, I found myself planning for my first High Holy Days in Merced, California. Merced, they say is the gateway to Yosemite, but for me at that time, Merced just represented the gateway to “H” “E”, “Double Hockey Sticks.”

I remember a feeling of dread that was ironically...Read more...

Tisha B'Av in the Age of Covid

07/28/2020 11:06:36 AM

Jul28

Today is the 7th day of the month of Av.  In 2 days from now, the minor Jewish holiday, Tisha b’Av (the 9th of Av) will arrive and with it, an ancient encouragement to live our life differently that day in light of historical tragedies of the Jewish people.  It is taught that the destruction of the First and Second Temples, as well as the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, took place on this date.  It is a date that lives in...Read more...

Sat, June 19 2021 9 Tammuz 5781