Remembering Our Sacred Spaces

Remembering Our Sacred Spaces

Feb 19, 2021 By Julia Andelman | Commentary | Terumah | Shabbat Zakhor

On Shabbat Zakhor—the Shabbat of remembering—we recall the Amalekites’ vicious attack on the Israelites in the desert, in which they targeted not the fighters but the weaker members of the community (Deut. 25:17–19). This year, however, I suspect many of us will be focused instinctively on remembering something else: the anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic turning our lives upside down.

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The Value of Doubt

The Value of Doubt

Oct 4, 2019 By Julia Andelman | Commentary | Rosh Hashanah | Shabbat Shuvah | Yom Kippur

The more one invests in trying to have a meaningful and genuine High Holiday prayer experience, the more one stands to lose if the words of the mahzor fall short of one’s aspirations. The mahzor is conceptually and theologically dense. If one takes the time to meditate upon the assertions of the prayers as they go by, one is sure to eventually encounter a text that rings false, problematic, or even alienating.

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When Buildings Fall

When Buildings Fall

Sep 28, 2018 By Julia Andelman | Commentary | Sukkot

From my childhood perspective growing up in an apartment building in suburban Boston, having a sukkah was a symbol of arrival—and our family didn’t have one. Most of our friends lived in private homes, and so, with a mixture of enjoyment and jealousy, we traipsed all around town to have our yom tov meals in other people’s sukkot.

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Kashrut and Refugees

Kashrut and Refugees

Feb 9, 2018 By Julia Andelman | Commentary | Mishpatim

There’s an old joke based on the three appearances of the commandment “You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk”—the first being in this week’s parashah, Mishpatim (Exod. 23:19). The narrow prohibition against “eating the flesh of an animal together with the milk that was meant to sustain it” (Etz Hayim, 474) was expanded over time into a vast array of laws regarding the separation of all dairy and all meat.

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Lighting Up the Dark Days

Lighting Up the Dark Days

Dec 11, 2017 By Julia Andelman | Short Video | Hanukkah

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Leftover Scraps

Leftover Scraps

May 5, 2017 By Julia Andelman | Commentary | Aharei Mot | Kedoshim | Shavuot

The Torah exhorts us in this week’s parashah: “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest…you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger” (Lev. 19:9-10). This mitzvah plays out in beautiful narrative form in the Book of Ruth, read on the upcoming holiday of Shavuot. But Ruth is the exception; she is rescued from her destitute state by Boaz, the owner of the field where she gleans, who marries her. What of all those who remained gleaners—whose survival depended on the daily toil of gathering other people’s leftovers?

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The Emergence of Praise

The Emergence of Praise

Dec 9, 2016 By Julia Andelman | Commentary | Vayetzei

Our parashah begins with Jacob’s profound, life-changing encounter with divinity: his dream of the ladder; his vision of God promising that his descendants will multiply and be blessed; and his vow that “if God remains with me…the Lord shall be my God” (Gen. 28:20-21). But our parashah includes another profound, life-changing moment of connecting to God—a less famous one—experienced by Leah. After giving birth to three sons and naming each of them in accordance with aspects of her life experience, Leah gives birth again and says hapa’am odeh et Adonai (Gen. 29:35)—this time I will praise/thank/acknowledge the Lord—and names her son Judah (Yehudah, from odeh).

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Is This the Fast I Desire?

Is This the Fast I Desire?

Oct 11, 2016 By Julia Andelman | Commentary | Yom Kippur

When I was a congregational rabbi, my practice was to offer a sermon on Yom Kippur morning relating to social justice. I would raise an issue of ethical concern in the world; share my reading of what Jewish texts and tradition had to say on the matter; and suggest actions for individuals and for the community.

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Judah’s Story, Our Stories, and the Stories of Refugees

Judah’s Story, Our Stories, and the Stories of Refugees

Dec 17, 2015 By Julia Andelman | Commentary | Vayiggash

They grabbed me and led me to a van. I told them: ‘I’m an old man. I’m not a threat.’ But they didn’t listen. On our way to the prison, they kept stopping on the street and collecting more people. They blindfolded me when we arrived and they beat me very badly. Then they put me with seventy other people in a room smaller than this one. It was very cold because it was December and I was barefoot because I’d lost my slippers. 

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Conquering Our Anger

Conquering Our Anger

Aug 31, 2015 By Julia Andelman | Short Video | Rosh Hashanah | Yom Kippur

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Outside the Camp

Outside the Camp

Apr 24, 2015 By Julia Andelman | Commentary | Metzora | Tazria

The double parashah of Tazria-Metzora ranks at the top of the list of parshiyot to avoid for a bar or bat mitzvah. Its detailed lists of bodily ailments—rashes, colorations, emissions, and secretions—associated with ritual impurity are not the stuff of religious inspiration in contemporary times. I confess to having once colluded with congregants to subtly move the date of their daughter’s bat mitzvah celebration slightly further away from her Hebrew birthday, in order to provide her with a more palatable Torah reading  to chant and speak about than Tazria-Metzora. But this year—the year of #BlackLivesMatter—has caused me to read Tazria-Metzora through a new and painfully relevant lens. 

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The Blessing of a Sister

The Blessing of a Sister

Jun 27, 2014 By Julia Andelman | Commentary | Hukkat

Among the many momentous events that occur in this week’s short but action-packed parashah, we read of the deaths of both of Moses’s siblings, Miriam and Aaron.

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The Right Answers For The Wrong Questions

The Right Answers For The Wrong Questions

Apr 8, 2014 By Julia Andelman | Short Video | Pesah

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Divine Compassion

Divine Compassion

Dec 27, 2013 By Julia Andelman | Commentary | Va'era

The biblical book that we began last week—Shemot—is known in English as Exodus, a name that highlights one of the key dramatic episodes of the book.

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In Search of God

In Search of God

Oct 29, 2013 By Julia Andelman | Commentary | Toledot

Through the unexpected and serendipitous Shabbat meal invitations that often seem to come about when one is studying in Jerusalem, I found myself many years ago sitting at the festive Shabbat table of an ultra-Orthodox family one autumn Friday night.

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