• What Sets You Apart?

    In the wilderness, the Children of Israel were given what is known as the Holiness Code: in addition to the Ten Commandments, these were ways in which we were instructed to dress, behave, eat and act differently from the surrounding peoples. One reason for this...

  • Dinah Rising

    Dinah, daughter of Leah and Jacob, has long been a source of speculation, angst, misplaced blame, and a defiant reminder of the ills of the patriar...
  • Darkest before the Dawn

    People often use the phrase, "It is always darkest before the dawn," as an attempt to comfort others when they can't find anything else to say. I h...
  • Put on your Thinking Cap...

    Did you know that a kosher kippah only needs to be big enough to cover one's fist? Rabbi Susan Grossman of Columbia, MD shared that teaching with m...
  • On the Fringe

    Being "on the fringe" can mean the outer periphery of a place, ideas that are quite far from the accepted norm, even land that is on the far flung ...
  • The Great Redemption

    The Great Redemption

    Redemption and renewal, after a cataclysmic upheaval : sound familiar in the year 2022? The prophetic reading for the last Sabbath of Pesach this year contains all these themes and more...

  • Rachel and Leah : Frenemies

    Were Leah and Rachel enemies or, as sisters can sometimes be, "frenemies"?

    Before the Covid Era, if I might call it that, there were details of my daily routine which I did not even notice, let alone appreciate, as I busily rushed from one errand to another. I did not take the time to stop and consider how each season contains the seeds of the next, and what a beautiful journey each day really is. In the past year and a half of enforced slowdown, I have come to appreciate the majestic artistry of the everyday, as well as to delve more into those Biblical stories which I thought I knew, such as the “baby wars “ between Leah and Rachel.

    Rachel's journey from petulant child bride to beautiful but jealous wife to cooperation with her sister and finally, to becoming the mother of Joseph and Benjamin, and the ancestor of King David -all that-  is honored in a bridal headdress style kippah I made in the past year. Based upon re-reading the Biblical narrative, the commentaries in  the Etz Chayim  Chumash and those in The Women’s Torah Commentary, edited by Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, and the extended midrash which is  The Red Tent  by Anita Diamant, I have come to a different understanding of Rachel and her relationship with her sister, Leah. If you have walked in Rachel’s footsteps, I hope you will feel her transcendent journey in the headdress kippah which I created to honor her.*

    Leah, sister-wife, friend and enemy, or “frenemy” in slang, was not necessarily less beautiful, or less of anything, for that matter. Jacob certainly had no problem in finding Leah attractive, especially when, as we read in B’reysheet, ch.30, she saunters out to greet Jacob in the field as he was returning from work. Saucily, she tells him,

    ”Come to me, for surely I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes”, and, as we are told, Jacob laid with her that night (no protest thereJ)**

    She was competing for Jacob’s heart, not his, um, attention.

    As I learned from Rabbi Howard Stecker of Temple Israel in Great Neck, she does indeed feel at one point that she has succeeded in claiming Jacob’s love, as she says,

    “This time, I will praise the Lord”.

    Leah and her sister do seem to come to terms with each other, at least in the matter of packing up the household and running away from Laban, and in the matter of the theft of his household gods. If you haven’t read, or don’t remember, that scene in The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, do  treat yourself and savor each word.

    I can personally attest to the ability of rival sisters to cooperate, and even come to appreciate each other. My own twin daughters fought continuously for what seemed like years, until they found some common interests. Perhaps this is how enmity can be laid to rest: by appreciating each other’s qualities and by participating together in an important task, or even a hobby. The longest journey, it is often said, begins with the first and hardest step, as Bilbo Baggins says in the Lord of the Rings movie,

    “It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
    ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings


    And that is the sentiment we acknowledge when we wish someone  “n’sia tova” a good journey, and more so, when they recite the  “birkat gomel” upon their safe return. As we journey through this continuing “new normal”, may we come to appreciate all the kindnesses, great and small, which are shown to us and those that we are given an opportunity to bestow upon others.







  • Rebecca 's Test

    Rebecca and Isaac were true loves, and yet there were some things she just could not tell him. She comforted Isaac after the death of his mother Sa...
  • The Story of Serach

    Sukkot, which ended recently, was an occasion to invite honored ancestral guests, such as Serach, into this outside, temporary dwelling. Never heard of Serach? For many years, neither had I...