Showing posts from May, 2023

Preparing for Passover

How do you prepare for Passover? Let me ask it a different way: How do you prepare for your wife’s, or husbands, or mothers birthday? They say that “whatever you put in is what you take out.” There are many ways to prepare for a birthday. You can buy a present. Invite friends to a party. Write a card. Or you could just say “happy birthday” and think of something kind on the day of the birthday. However, the more time you spend preparing ahead of time, the more special the day will be for you and your loved one. The same is with Passover. In a major way. We clean chometz from our homes (basically anything with flour or grain besides for matzah). We plan delicious meals, stock up on matzah, wine, meat, fruit and vegetables (our custom is to not eat anything processed on Passover). We teach our children to ask the four questions and as much as they can handle about the story of Passover and the seder. We spend time ourselves learning the Hagaddah (Passover Seder book) and other Jewish boo

Why hear the 10 Commandments from a Torah if I don't understand Hebrew?

Some people wonder why they should bother coming to hear the 10 Commandments from a Torah scroll on Shavuos (the holiday G-d gave us His Torah).  “I don’t understand Hebrew anyways.  What’s the point?” I think the answer is understanding the difference between personal growth and a communal experience: Every person has their own journey in life.  G-d has catered your life perfectly for you to grow into the person He wants you to be. There are two “tools” G-d gives you to grow and navigate the world:  personal growth and communal experiences. Personal growth is every person according to their life story, strengths & weaknesses.  Every person grows at their own pace.  In their journey of acquiring wisdom.  In their journey of deepening relationships with people.  In their journey of deepening their relationship with G-d.   When I study Torah it’s about how my brain works, and my capacity to understand.  It may be more than one person and less than another.  It doesn’t matter, becau

Rabbi Akiva Wagner, 55, Ob"m

This week was rough. Lag B’ Omer at the park was fun, but it was overshadowed with the untimely passing of my dear Rosh Yeshiva from Toronto, Rabbi Akiva Wagner, 55. It’s hard to explain who this giant was. I’ve had quite a few amazing teachers and mentors, and learned lots from all of them. But he was unique. When I shared the news with my father, his immediate reaction was, “I’m sorry. Rabbi Wagner really had a big part in shaping who you are today.” He was right. I called a Rov (higher pay grade rabbi than me) to ask if I should tear kriah (the rending of garments) which is normally done when one loses a parent or a “Rabbi who taught you the majority of your wisdom.” That’s who he was to me. Without him, I don’t know who I would be today. Definitely not the person you know.  It's unusual for me to go a couple weeks without quoting him. He was an extremely gifted person. Most people are gifted in one or two ways. He was gifted in many, many ways (I recently found out that he was

Major Breakthrough!

People ask me all the time, “Rabbi, is the community growing?”  It’s a very hard question for me to answer.  We don’t live in a particularly religious community so how do we measure growth?  Is it membership?  We don’t have membership!  Is it the amount of people at weekly services?  Hebrew School enrollment?  Volunteers?  High Holidays?  Current list of local Jews? There has been one metric or milestone in the back of my mind for a long time. For the past eight years, every single minyan has required me to pick up the phone, and I hate it.  I love people and I love talking with people.  But when I have to call to ask for something, it’s not comfortable (minyan is worse than fundraising because it doesn’t even pay the bills!).  And even worse is when someone commits to coming, but then forgets and everyone is down because we missed minyan . It would take between 1-3 hours of working the phones just to get a minyan for Shabbos, and so the Temecula minyan had waves of ups and downs. Afte

I'm on a Diet Again

Went to the doctor earlier this week. Cringed when I saw my weight (don’t think it’s healthy to have a scale at home…) Decided it’s time for a diet again. It’s not the first time I’ve gone on this diet. And it works every time. No need to count calories or carbs. Or make yucky smoothies. Or really change that much. After giving a long list of recommended and unrecommended foods, Maimonides wrote that “It’s better to eat the right amount of unhealthy food, than to eat  too much  healthy food.” I’ve written about this diet before. There are two parts to it: Saying blessings over the food properly - I always try to make blessings before I eat, but sometimes they become rote and I make blessings mindlessly. The proper way to make a blessing on food is: Deciding what you’re going to eat before eating - This is the key! We know what a normal portion looks like, but sometimes just keep eating and eating because it feels good. Have the end of the meal in mind at the beginning is crucial and on