Rabbi Safman's Weekly Messages

Vayera- 5779

Dear Congregant,

Adonai natan,v’ Adonai lakach.  Yehi shem Adonai m’vorakh.

(“God has given, and God has taken away.  Blessed be the hallowed name of Adonai.”)

These words, traditionally recited during the kriyah (ribbon-tearing) ceremony that immediately precedes a Jewish funeral, are used to frame the ceremony through which we begin to make meaning of a life.  They also provide a pithy summary of this week’s Torah portion (Parashat Vayera).

Toledot - 5779

Nov 9, 2018 - Toledot 5779

As my younger son Sasson has reached a more assertive and articulate stage, the dynamics between him and his older brother, Yair, have shifted – not always for the better.  Many an evening, as I am trying to get dinner to the table, I hear their voices from the next room, the volume and emotion rising to a crescendo until erupting, inevitably, into a crash or sob.

Haazinu - 5779

Dear Congregant,

The other day, as I was preparing dinner in the kitchen,  I heard a shriek from the next room, where I had left my two-year old son Sasson snacking on raisins.  Suspecting the worst, I run into the room to see him grinning ear-to-ear, raisins scattered liberally over every surface.

“What happened?” I asked him, too astonished even to be angry.

“The raisins jumped!” he responded, laughing.

The raisins jumped off your plate and onto the floor and table?” I asked him incredulously.

Vayeilech - 5779

Dear Congregant,

One of my two-year old son Sasson's favorite games  is "chase".   It involves him running around the house in circles with Mommy in "hot pursuit" but invariably unable to quite catch him.  We persist at this for some time before Sasson tires, at which point he ducks into my mother's room, lies face-down on the floor and "hides" – in full view.

Nitzavim - 5778

Dear Congregant,


This week’s portion, Parashat Nitzavim, contains one of the most beautiful and inclusive images in the entirety of the Torah.  It speaks of the entire Jewish people – not just the generation then making its way from Egypt to Israel, not just those individuals born into the Jewish faith, but all Jews or would-be Jews of all generations, past, present and future – assembled as a body by the banks of the Jordan, to re-affirm their covenanted relationship with God.

Re'eh - 5778

Dear Congregant,

As the parent of two young boys, I would very much like to be able to embrace the world view painted by the opening verses of this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Re’eh.  The portion begins by asserting, essentially:  Make good choices in life, act well and you’ll be treated kindly.  Life will be good.  But that message rings especially hollow this year on the first anniversary of the Charlottesville demonstrations. 

Shofetim - 5778

Dear Congregant,  

The Wall Street Journal prides itself on being one of this nation’s “papers of record,” a news source so authoritative that the stories it reports gain credibility by association with its name.  But whatever weight the WSJ’s reporting has in other areas, its articles on popular culture rarely get cited – or perhaps even read – even by their own subscribers.  It was thus surprising to see the front page of this morning’s WSJ prominently adorned with a striking image of the recently deceased soul music icon Aretha Franklin.