October 17, 2021 |

Rabbi Avi Heller


Jewish Literacy

This week at MJE, we kicked off our new season of classes. Most of our participants have not had a lot of exposure to Jewish learning and we try to both educate and inspire them. For true-blue beginners, we have "Conversations" or Basic Judaism classes, mostly non-textual discussions of the big...

Noach, Righteous Dude

Everyone is familiar with the "BUT" phenomenon. As in, "I think you're a really great girl...BUT we'd be better as friends." Or "This is really great lasagna...BUT I'm just not that hungry." The BUT cancels out everything that came before. Nothing else matters once you've BUT'ed it out of existence....

Three For The Road

Shmini Atzeret - "The Eighth Day" Shemini means "the eighth". "Atzeret" can mean either a festival (as in II Chronicles 7:9), a solemn gathering (as in Joel 1:14) or a lingering, from the Hebrew root "to stop" or "to pause." In the Jewish calendar, atzeret is associated with the number 8, or 7+1....

To Know and To Believe

Of all the things we have once learned, there are some that we have completely forgotten. We once new passable French or how to tie a sailor's knot, or this guy we went to elementary school with, but we no longer have access to those files in our brains. Then, there are those things that we sort of...

The Moment of Creation

Beginnings can be tricky. How do you really know what came first? Was it the chicken or the egg? If you go back enough generations, will you find the original chicken? Or the original egg? How do you know when something really began? When does a zygote become a baby, or when is a human being...

Love and Unity

Time waits for no man or woman. The sun goes down every day and rises again. It is divinely ordained that every seven days will be Shabbat since the first week of creation. All of us will grow old and eventually die. We see only the years that are allotted to us, as we say in the Rosh Hashana...

Four Reminders

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks points out that our Torah portion, Ki Tetzei, describes a "a programme for the real world." The rules and regulations of wartime conduct, family life and interpersonal relations described in the Torah do not reflect a utopian or perfect society, but a deeply flawed world, a...

Wake-up Calls

Periodically, Uriel (my 3-year old son) will bring me our shofar (usually during breakfast) and ask me to blow it. Sometimes, I refuse. Sometimes I am indulgent. If I fail to blow well and it comes out sounding like a dying goose, he laughs at me and my funny sounds. If the shofar sound comes out...

Does God Hate Us?

This week, we begin the final book of the Torah, the book of Devarim. The Rabbis often called this book Mishna Torah (not to be confused with Maimonides's work of the same name). This literally means the "reviewed teaching of the Torah" because it reiterates - albeit with some changes - many of the...

Members of the Tribe

As I was walking off a brisk run in Central Park last Sunday - wishing I had some kosher Gatorade[1] -- I noticed an old man behind a table polishing awards. The attractive glass plates were for the top finishers by gender in various age categories. The guy polishing them and placing them neatly on...


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Avi Shmidman

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Esther D. Kustanowitz

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Esther D. Kustanowitz is a writer, editor and social media consultant based in Los Angeles. She has many Dvar Torah writers in her family, and she can't wait to read contributions from Divrei Torah: The Next Generation (two nephews and a niece).

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