From the desk of Rabbi Stacy Petersohn

Parasha: Va’eira, Exodus 6:2-9:35
Date: January 10, 2018
Parashat Va’eira encompasses a large part of the Exodus narrative. The dream team of Moses and Aaron is established early in the reading, they go to have their first meeting with Pharaoh, and plagues one through seven are rained down upon Egypt, with Moses stopping the hail at the end of the reading.

From the Desk of Rabbi Stacy Petersohn November 30, 2017

In the time of the Torah, 20 years have passed since Jacob ran away from his home after stealing his father’s blessing away from his brother Esau. So much has happened in the meantime. Jacob went to Haran, fell in love with Rachel and promised to work seven years as repayment for her hand in marriage. His uncle and now father in law, Laban, tricked him into marrying Leah as well. Through all four of his wives, Jacob has had 12 children, eleven sons and one daughter, Dinah.

From the Desk of the Rabbi November 21 2017

A lot can happen when you skip a week in the Torah reading. Last week, Isaac and Rebekah prayed to God for children, and were brought double the amount of joy with the birth of twin sons. As they grew older, both brothers started to show their differences, one preferring to go out and hunt while the other stayed closer to home. At one point, Jacob, the younger son of Isaac and Rebekah, stole the birthright and blessing from his brother, Esau.


From the desk of Rabbi Stacy Petersohn
Parasha: Va’etchanan, Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11
Date: August 3, 2017

Someone once said: If it is worth saying once, it is worth repeating. This is certainly true in this week’s Torah portion, Va’etchanan. One of the highlights in Va’etchanan is the repetition of the Aseret HaDibrot, the Ten Commandments. These statements establish the core of the law system that is to be put into place after the Israelites have crossed the Jordan River.

From the Desk of the Rabbi August 2017

I love looking up at the full moon. It fills me with a sense of wonder and hope, and even though
every month I have to say goodbye to it, I know it will return in a month.
The full moon is also a marker of time in the Jewish calendar. It notes the exact middle of a given
month, from one new moon to the next. It is even an indicator for several of our holidays. Yom
Kippur, Tu B’shvat, Purim, and Passover all occur at the full moon. And there is one more holiday,
coming up this month, which occurs at the full moon.

From the desk of Rabbi Sara Perman

When it gets cold, as it finally has, people have this romantic image of sitting near a roaring fire and warming their tootsies. When I was a child, we were always excited when my dad would make a fire in our fire place on a cold winter night, especially when he added something to the fire that would make colors gently explode.

Sadly the image of a roaring fire lately for many people has been far from a pleasant or romantic image. In November, it was shocking to watch fire after fire burst out in Israel. At one time, it was reported there were over 250 large fires across Israel and as many as 1500 fires. Some were believed to be accidental; many were believed to be started on purpose by arsonists. 60,000 residents of Haifa were evacuated. 700 homes in Haifa alone were either destroyed or damaged. But it was not just Haifa that was affected. At one point it looked as if almost all of Israel was on fire. It was not only in the Haifa area, but around Jerusalem, and even in the desert. The US, Russia, Greece, Italy, Croatia, Turkey, Cyprus, even the Palestinian Authority sent in teams to help fight the fires. Thank God there were no deaths. For a while it was only a news story, until one of my friends from the Reform Jewish community Har Halutz in the Misgav-Karmiel area reported that the fire had burned their porch. Suddenly these fires touched people I knew.

There are several ways to help. The Jewish National Fund is one agency involved. They not only plant trees but also are responsible for the firefighting equipment.

You can contribute to the JNF 42 East 69th Street, New York, NY 10021. The United Jewish Federation is collecting funds to help families who have lost their homes and/or were displaced by the fires. The address for the UJF is 234 McKee Place, Pittsburgh, PA 15213. Our movement in Israel, ARZA is also helping families that were displaced and/or had damage to their homes. Then, of course, there is working with the families who experienced the psychological trauma of the fires. Checks to ARZA can be sent to ARZA, 633 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10021. You do not need to give to all of the above. Choose one, if you can. In any case, make sure that you note in the memo line on your check it is to go to the November fire relief. I also just learned from my friend from Har Halutz that the fire that hit their community was started by arsonists, so they will get assistance from the Israeli government.

Closer to home, we also saw how destructive the fires were in and around Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Sadly, so many people had no warning and again it was arsonists who caused such destruction, in this case also with fourteen people dead, 175 people injured more than 2400 homes and buildings destroyed, plus nearly 20,000 acres of national park land scorched. Thankfully, Dolly Parton has used her name and connections to help raise funds to help the families affected by this fire.

We know from the Havdalah service with the many wicks of the Havdalah candle, that fire can both create and destroy. As you try to stay warm this winter, also stay safe, not just from fire but also from the outdoor elements.