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.