I returned from Israel during the week of Vayislach, when we read the story of Jacob’s famous nocturnal wrestling match and the painful story of Dina, his daughter. The midrash, in explaining why Jacob speaks of his 11 children when in fact he has 12, tells us that Jacob locked his daughter in a chest so Esau wouldn’t see her. “And for that, Jacob was punished. … For perhaps she would have led him back to the right way.”
For the High Holy Days this year, the Jewish Journal invited three rabbis — Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple, Rabbi Laura Geller of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills and Rabbi Ed Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom — to respond to a series of questions related to teshuvah, the task of making amends during the High Holy Days.
Trisha Roth completed two years of study in order to be ready for her recent bat mitzvah. When the big day came, she wore a tallit that belonged to her late brother. But something else made the experience particularly special.
Rabbi Laura Geller is well known as a woman who does not shrink from a challenge. A senior rabbi at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, she stands as a pioneer among women rabbis, the third women ordained in the Reform movement and the first to lead a major metropolitan synagogue.
This is a tough Torah portion. It's the story of Korach, the man who led a revolt against Moses. He gathers 250 of the most important leaders and challenges Moses: "You take too much upon yourself, Moses. Not just you, but all the congregation is holy, every one of us. Why do you raise yourself up above the congregation?" (Numbers 16:2-3).
My first encounter with Debbie was in 1986 at the Simchat Chockmah ritual for becoming an elder she helped create and lead for the feminist Biblical scholar, her friend, Savina Teubal. Two moments in the ritual took my breath away. The first was in the middle of the ceremony, when Savina put on a kittel, the traditional burial shroud. Without words, that robing communicated the powerful truth that everything changes, and that although this new stage of Savina’s life would someday end with her death, she could continue to be a blessing.
At Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills, a unique program is giving teenagers the opportunity to put those lessons to work by serving as board members of their own philanthropic foundation.
Thirteen is a difficult age. I know this as a parent, and I also know it as a rabbi who interacts with lots of 13-year-olds. I know this as well as a student of Torah. And now I know it as a moviegoer.
This week's Torah portion is called "Behar" because it begins "The Lord spoke to Moses behar (on Mount [Sinai]). Upon reflection, something seems out of order. We left Mount Sinai in the Book of Exodus.