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Sukkot 5780 - Go the Extra Mile

10/16/2019 03:41:49 PM


Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

So, let’s be real, why are we waving a Lulav and Etrog in the air?  

Truthfully, I have always loved the ritual of arbah minim and I look forward to it with great excitement every year.  It has never bothered me at all or felt strange, but I know that not everyone feels the same way.  Some people in this room have told me that it strikes them as weird and makes them slightly uncomfortable to pick up fruits and...Read more...

Yom Kippur 5780 - Daring Greatly: The Role of Shame and Guilt in the Avodah

10/10/2019 04:10:15 PM


Maharat Ruth Friedman

As a child and young adult I struggled with the High Holiday liturgy. First, a strong rebellious streak made me resentful of authority, so the high holidays and I were like oil and water. On the three days a year that I was non-negotiably present in shul I found myself growing increasingly annoyed at having to be there. I silently rolled my eyes at unetaneh tokef - do we REALLY believe that God decrees who lives and who dies? No one can...Read more...

Yom Kippur 5780 - DC Kosher

10/10/2019 01:22:13 PM


Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

I recently had an experience which helped me think differently about keeping kosher.  

I was invited to a well-known upscale restaurant called The Inn at Little Washington.  For what its worth it’s a Michelin Three Star restaurant, which of course means nothing to me as it's not a kosher restaurant.  Still, for very important reasons, I felt it was essential for me to attend.

The organizers insisted...

Rosh Hashanah 5780 - The Futility of Hope

10/03/2019 12:54:49 PM


Maharat Ruth Friedman

"I don’t want your hope. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is." --- Greta Thunberg

This past June I completed a two year fellowship for early and mid-career rabbis. The purpose of this fellowship was to help the participants take a step back from the nitty gritty day to day of...Read more...

Rosh Hashanah 5780 - A Day to Party

10/03/2019 12:52:57 PM


Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

Two weeks ago we celebrated our new Torah scroll with a hachnasas Sefer Torah, aka, a Torah parade.

At the parade a person was watching me celebrate and without realizing who my wife was, she approached my wife and told her, “That man always looks happy, but this is the happiest I have ever seen him.”

Indeed, aside from some amazing life moments, like my wedding, births and b’nai mitzvah of our children, I don’t...Read more...

Ki Tetzei 5779 - Searching for our Spark

09/16/2019 10:45:30 AM


Rabbi Herzfeld

“Ki tetzei la milchma al oyevekhah, when one goes into battle with our enemies” (Devarim 21:10).

The baalei mussar explain that this does not only refer to a physical enemy on a battlefield, but that life is a constant struggle with our internal enemies.

The greatest enemy is not the enemy from without, but the yetzer harah that is constantly trying to lead us astray by distracting us and causing us to focus on the wrong...Read more...

Bat Mitzvah Celebrations at Ohev Sholom

09/12/2019 04:45:11 PM


Rabbi Herzfeld & Maharat Friedman


Ohev bat mitzvah celebrations are opportunities to celebrate the accomplishments of girls who grew up in our community, and we know each work super hard for this day. Their commitment is inspiring. What a blessing to be celebrating with these girls and their families!
These bat mitzvah girls will all lead Women’s Tefillah services in the main Sanctuary on the morning of their bat mitzvah. Since we are...Read more...

Tisha B'Av 5779 - Stand Up from the Ground

08/13/2019 01:47:26 PM


Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

I got a message this week that the Torah scroll that I wrote is ready to be picked up.  After writing the Torah scroll, I brought it to an expert sofer in Brooklyn who added the crowns (tagin) to the letters, sewed the Torah together, and also, reviewed my work to catch any mistakes.  He put it through a computer scan three times and proofread it twice.  

He corrected 273 mistakes.  This could be a letter...

Shelach 5779 - What We Saw in Guatemala 

07/02/2019 01:44:58 PM


Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

Some of you might have noticed my new shoes.  I bought them in Pastores, a small village in Guatemala, which specializes in making shoes.  I bought them to support the local Guatemalan economy and also to remember our trip to Guatemala.  They are a conversation starter and I want people to ask about the shoes so that I can tell them about our very special experience in Guatemala.

In total there were 30 of us in our...

Misheberach List

06/26/2019 01:23:29 PM


June 26, 2019

Dear Friends,

As you may know, Rabbi Herzfeld and I maintain a list of names of the members of our community, and the loved ones oRead more...

Bechukotai 5779 - A Private Moment on Our Front Door

06/04/2019 02:45:57 PM


Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

So I recently finished writing a Torah scroll, and I delivered the Torah to an expert sofer in Brooklyn for finishing touches.  For me it was a big project in many ways, but having finished the Torah scroll, I turned my attention to writing mezuzot.

There are a few reasons why I want to write mezuzot.

First and foremost, it is a mitzvah.  It says in the Torah, “u-ketavtem al mezuzot beitekhah, and you shall write...Read more...

Next Steps in our Torah Project

05/14/2019 02:40:41 PM


Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

With thanks to Hashem, on Mother’s Day, 7 Iyar 5779, I finished writing my first Torah scroll.

On 8 Iyar, I traveled to Crown Heights with my children to hand the 63 pieces of parchment of our Torah to a professional sofer, R. Gad Sebag of Oraita. This sofer will run it through a computer scan, proofread it by hand, make corrections, add crowns to the letters, and sew it together. Then the Torah scroll will be returned to us for us...Read more...

Acharon Shel Pesach 5779 - Mermaids and the Messiah

05/02/2019 11:39:09 AM


Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

This week as we were studying the daf yomi, we came across a text so shocking that when I first saw it my jaw dropped so much that it nearly hit my shtender.

We are studying tractate Bechoros and the text says:

“The dulfanin (dolphins) reproduce like humans.  What are dolphins? Rav Yehuda said: The benei yama (the people of the sea)” (8a).

This is the version of the text of the Talmud as we have it...Read more...

Chabad of Poway

04/29/2019 12:25:21 PM


April 29, 2019

Dear Friends,

I feel so close to so many Chabad shluchim because of all that they represent and all that they have done for our JeRead more...

Tazria 5779 - The Morning Shema with Zecharia Baumel

04/10/2019 12:18:20 PM


Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

This week I had the honor of writing column 213/248 in the Torah.  This passage contains the holy passage of Shema Yisrael.  As I wrote the words of Shema, my heart trembled as I thought of all the souls that had uttered these words at the most precious and perilous moments of life.  I thought of all the parents that recited these words with their children as they said good night.  I thought of all the children that...Read more...

Shemini 5779 -  Open Chassidus

04/04/2019 01:04:05 PM


Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

Our Torah portion is called Shemini.  It refers to the eighth day of the inauguration of the Temple.  According to the Talmud, this day coincided with Rosh Chodesh Nissan (Shabbat, 87).  After the Mishkan was built, it needed to be properly inaugurated before it could be used.  There were 7 days of inaugural services leading up to the first day of Nissan.  The first day of Nissan was the 8th and final day of the...Read more...

Zachor 5779 - They Tried to Kill Us, We Won, Let’s Eat! Fear, Revenge, and the American Jewish Identity

03/19/2019 12:19:10 PM


Maharat Ruth Balinsky Friedman

There is a joke that has emerged in American Jewish society in the past few decades - that every Jewish holiday can be summarized as follows “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat!” Pesach is “Pharaoh tried to destroy us, we won, let’s eat.” Chanukah is “The Greeks tried to obliterate us, we won, let’s eat.”

I’ve been thinking about this joke the past few days and I’ve realized that, while funny, it isn’t...Read more...

Pekudei 5779 - May Hashem Bless our Handiwork!

03/13/2019 04:44:58 PM


Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

There are 63 yerios in the Torah that I am writing—63 pieces of parchment.  On each yeriah there are four amudim (columns).  While working on the second amud of yeriah 41, I lost concentration for a moment, accidentally skipped a line, and wrote the name of Hashem in the wrong place, twice.  When I learned that I did this I felt nauseous.  I remember the moment very clearly.  I had woken up super early and had...Read more...

Terumah 5779

02/12/2019 04:15:08 PM


Maharat Ruth Balinsky Friedman

Many rabbis feel that Terumah is one of the toughest parshiot to speak about - our job is to take the parsha, find something that we find especially interesting, and speak about it in a way that connects to our lives. And so a parsha that contains almost exclusively information about how to build the mishkan is known affectionately as one of the more challenging parshiot, and one that in theory we may want to try to avoid. And somehow,...Read more...

Shemot 5779 - Heroic Activism

12/31/2018 01:22:02 PM


Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

This week our world sat shiva for Simcha Rotem, also known as Kazik, one of the last survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.  For a month, starting on April 19, 1943, less than one thousand Jewish fighters took on the powerful German army and resisted with every ounce in their body.  Kazik’s job was to oversee the final operation that took the remaining fighters from the ghetto and helped them escape through the sewers....Read more...

Vayechi  5779

12/26/2018 12:22:25 PM


Maharat Ruth Balinsky Friedman

When I was looking at this parsha last week and trying to decide what to teach for my parsha class - which you are all invited to! - I decided that we would study Yaakov’s last Testament to his brothers, often referred to as Yaakov’s blessings to his children (though they aren’t actually blessings). The language is some of the most obscure and difficult to understand language in the whole Torah, and everyone from the Anchor Bible...Read more...

Vayigash 5779 - We Will Not Live in Goshen

12/18/2018 09:48:46 AM


Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

Even though Chanukah is over I still have a Chanukah story to share.  For me one of the highlights of Chanukah is when we light the large 10-foot high menorah that is in front of our house.  Every year we announce the date and invite the whole neighborhood over for the lighting ceremony and we serve hot apple cider and sufganiyot.  This year was no different.  We had a joyous time dancing and celebrating with our lovely...Read more...

Two Nations Under God? Yaakov, Esav, and the midterm elections

11/13/2018 03:10:23 PM


Maharat Ruth Balinsky Friedman

The story of Yaakov and Esav is a tragic story of conflict. They struggle while they are still in the womb, and this struggle continues throughout their lives. We have the story of the lentil stew when they are young men, followed by Yaakov stealing the blessing from Esav, and then years later they reunite but separate again, never to reunite. It is a story of twin brothers who never appear to have a positive relationship, and it is painful...Read more...

Mourning vs. Celebration

11/06/2018 12:07:02 PM


Maharat Ruth Balinsky Friedman

Chayei Sarah 5779
6 days after the Pittsburgh shooting

I don’t even know what tone I should use to say “good shabbos” this week. Usually I exclaim “GOOD SHABBOS!” when I speak on Friday night, but that just doesn’t feel right this week with everything that happened in Pittsburgh. We are all in too much pain. But at the same time, our sages tell us that on shabbos we suspend mourning because of the collective...Read more...

Lech Lecha 5779 -  An Extraordinary Point

10/22/2018 02:54:50 PM


Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

I want to discuss an extraordinary point.  I know that sometimes I am prone to hyperbole, but in this case I promise you I am not exaggerating at all.  

I literally want to discuss an extraordinary point.

Here is how I noticed this extraordinary point in the first place.

I was writing our Torah scroll when I came to the following verse in this week’s portion:

“Vatomer sarai el avram, chamasi...

Shemini Atzeret 5779 -   How to Stop Time from Defeating Us

10/04/2018 10:06:06 AM


Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

“We have gotten used to tables, in telling time.  We reach out and take our days and weeks from them, like a buffet line.  They are well-arranged in columns and rows.  Even next year’s days may be known in advance.  Time has been foreseen and pre-prepared; we must only pick up our utensils and chow down.  

But there was a time when time knew no tables, when the year was a series of circles, and each...Read more...

Yom Kippur 5779 - Our Past Does Not Define Our Future

09/20/2018 11:44:54 AM


Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

Here is what Yom Kippur means to me: Our past should not define our future.  Just because we did something in the past –made a mistake, got into an argument, did something we weren’t proud of—that’s not who we are.  We can be different moving forward.

I am really glad that this Yom Kippur, on our holiest night of the year, we are joined by Joshua Lopez.  I am proud that he accepted my invitation to sit next to...Read more...

Yom Kippur 5779 

09/20/2018 11:44:52 AM


Maharat Ruth Balinsky Friedman

As some, if not all of you, know, I have a 15 lb shih tzu named Cocoa. We love her tremendously, in spite of the fact that she drives us insane. One of her most annoying habits is the way that she plays fetch. She’ll walk into the living room and approach her overflowing basket of toys and demand to play. Yoni will happily oblige and throw a toy, she’ll run to go get it, and then come back a minute later without it in her mouth. We...Read more...

Rosh Hashanah 5779 - Silence is Golden? A reflection on Shofar and the True Meaning of Teruah

09/12/2018 03:57:15 PM


Maharat Ruth Friedman

On one of the first days of my 9th grade biology class, our teacher walked around the room as he began the lesson. He was fairly casual so most of us didn’t think much of it until he paused for a moment and slammed the textbook he was holding closed right next to one of the girls in the class. As you can imagine, we all jumped at the noise, particularly that poor girl. Our teacher then explained that he did it to demonstrate the effects...Read more...

Rosh Hashanah 5779 - Day of Remembrance

09/12/2018 08:48:25 AM


Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld

The main theme of Rosh Hashanah is to remember. But what are we remembering?

Ve-Hashem Pakad et Sarah. 

The Torah reading for Rosh Hashanah is “and God remembered Sarah.”  Sarah had desperately been hoping for a child and on Rosh Hashanah we read that God remembered her prayers.

One reason we read this passage on Rosh Hashanah is because the day on which God remembered Sarah was, according to the Talmud,...Read more...

Fri, March 24 2023 2 Nisan 5783