Monday, November 30, 2020


Rabbi Laura Geller


Ma Nishtana? How This Passover is Going to be Different From All Others

On all other Passovers, we might have celebrated with family and friends. On all other Passovers, memories of growing up around the seder table,...

Women Praying at the Kotel Is Normal

“When Adar begins, joy increases.” But not at the Kotel.  I was there for Rosh Chodesh to celebrate with Women of the Wall (WOW) on...

On Getting up From Shloshim

There is a folk saying in the Talmud: “Tzedakah saves one from death.” I always thought of it as wishful thinking or superstition. But...

Elul 5: Rabbi Laura Geller

The instructor filled an empty jar with rocks. “Is it full?” Then he poured a pitcher of pebbles into the jar. “Full now?” Next...

What is wise aging? It starts with staying engaged — And sometimes it takes a village

One of my favorite biblical verses is Psalm 118:5, “Min ha metzar Karati Ya; Anani b’merchav ya — From the narrow place I call...

A conspiracy of women

I am usually in shul on Shabbat morning. But this Shabbat will be different.

The Kotel compromise: Recognizing there is more than one way to be a Jew

Margaret Mead once said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Torah portion: A good death

Parashat Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26)

Torah portion: Remembering the journey

Many in the latest generation of women rabbis don’t think of themselves as feminists. For them, being a rabbi is a birthright; they grew up with women rabbis. They have little sense of what it took to get to this point.

Boomers looking forward to what’s next in life

The stages of a life are measured differently now from the days of Pirke Avot, a classical Jewish text from the second century.

Who counts?

For the past five weeks, the entire Jewish community has been counting … counting the days between Passover and Shavuot, the anniversary of the day we received Torah.

We can stop violence against women and girls today

Last weekend, as I listened to the reading of the Purim Megillah, I was struck by its theme of reversals.

Down-to-Earth Sinai: Parashat Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1-24:18)

I just returned from a four-day alumni retreat for rabbis and cantors who had taken part in an Institute for Jewish Spirituality program designed to deepen our own spiritual commitments.

Talking end of life with next of kin

Maybe it is thinking about the New Year that brings up the subject. Or maybe because the holiday season is a time when families come together and talk. For whatever reason, within the last few week s NPR did a story on “The Conversation Project,” and the LA Times had an Opinion piece on “The Conversation.” You know what I mean—that difficult conversation about what we want at the end of our life.

In the face of strangers: Parashat Vayera (Genesis 18:1-22:24)

This week’s Torah portion begins: “YHVH appeared to Abraham as he was sitting at the entrance of the tent … looking up, he saw: behold, three men standing opposite him.

Cracking open our hearts

Tradition tells us that the Gates of Repentance stay open until the end of Sukkot. The intensity of Yom Kippur has diminished, but we still remember the hours together, knocking on our hearts, trying to do spiritual CPR, to wake us up to the truth of our lives.

In the rabbi’s words: A difficult conversation

The conversation is supposed to begin like this: “Will you forgive me for anything I might have said or done this year that has hurt you?”

And you will be a blessing …

I was in college when I first heard the Beatles sing “When I’m Sixty-four.” The idea of getting older, losing my hair or wondering whether my partner would still need me was not my concern. But now, with Paul McCartney over 70, and me just one year away from 64, it’s a different story.

‘All That I Am I Will Not Deny’

In reflecting on the 50th anniversary of Betty Friedan’s groundbreaking “The Feminine Mystique,” Stephanie Coontz wrote in The New York Times that “readers who return to this feminist classic today are often puzzled by the absence of concrete political proposals to change the status of women. But ‘The Feminine Mystique’ has the impact it did because it focused on transforming women’s personal consciousness.”

‘The Feminine Mystique’: ‘All that I am I will not deny’

In reflecting on the 50th anniversary of Betty Friedan’s groundbreaking The Feminine Mystique, Stephanie Coontz wrote in the New York Times that “readers who return to this feminist classic today are often puzzled by the absence of concrete political proposals to change the status of women. But The Feminine Mystique has the impact it did because it focused on transforming women’s personal consciousness.”

Women praying to be heard at the Western Wall

We approached the entrance to the Kotel Plaza a little before 7 a.m. on Rosh Hodesh Tevet. In my bag was my tallit, the beautiful purple-and-blue one that was hand woven as a gift from the students and faculty at USC more than 20 years ago, when I completed my time there as the Hillel rabbi.

At 60 for Zikna

The High Holy Day liturgy includes the poignant plea: \"Do not cast me off b\'eyt zikna,\" which is usually translated as \"when I get old.\" It is a fear many of us have, but are often afraid to articulate. We live in a youth-intoxicated culture where older people are sometimes invisible.

The Torah of our lives: On writing the next chapter

“Boomers [people born between 1946 and 1964] are the first generation in human history … to reasonably anticipate living well and wholesomely into their 80s and 90s, if not beyond,” sociologist Steven Cohen writes. “But not only are Jews (as others) living longer, they are living in an age of meaning-seeking, with the interest and wherewithal to make living a life of meaning an ultimate and reasonably obtainable objective for any point in their lives.”

Blot out the memory

Purim is every child’s dream holiday; the story is like a fairy tale. Little girls dress up like Esther; little boys like Mordechai. In...

We Matter: Parashat Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27)

Last week’s Torah portion ends with a genealogy, a long list of names of who begot whom and how long they lived. It is one of many genealogies in the Torah. It used to be that when I encountered those lists, I tuned out; I found them boring. But then I read a book by Thomas Cahill called “The Gifts of the Jews” (Anchor, 1999).

Silence is consent: Parashat Matot (Numbers 30:2-32:42)

I recently received an e-mail with the subject line “The Arab Mentality.” It described a Palestinian woman who had been badly burned and successfully treated in Israel, only to be arrested later for attempting to infiltrate Israel’s borders as a suicide bomber. The sender included the names of all those who had received the posting. My name was in the middle of the list.

I’m Not Religious; I’m Spiritual

In some prayer books, the opening verses of this week’s Torah portion serve as a preparation for prayer. The verses repeat over and over again that a perpetual fire shall continue to burn on the altar. Why the focus on the need to keep the fire burning? And what does it mean to us now, after the destruction of the Temple and the end of the sacrificial system, when there is no longer a literal fire?

Following in Maimonides’ Footsteps, Pursuing His Wisdom

On a recent trip to Spain, Morocco and Israel called “In the Footsteps of Maimonides,” the members of our group from Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills were the honored guests at a reception at the residence of the American ambassador to Spain, which became the occasion for a gathering of many of Spain’s Jewish leaders.

Reading With Rashi Parashat Balak (Numbers 22:2-25:9)

“Anyone who has never read the entire Chumash with Rashi is simply not Jewishly literate,” said Rabbi David Hartman, with whom I was studying 14 years ago at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. “It doesn’t matter whether you read it in Hebrew or English, but you must go through the Five Books of Moses with Rashi’s commentary.”

Parashat Vayikra (Leviticus 1:1-5:26)

This week’s portion begins a new book of the Bible, Leviticus. It is fascinating to look at the first and last words of each of the books of the Torah: Genesis: When God began to create the heavens and the earth ... in a coffin in Egypt. Exodus: These are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt ... throughout their journeys. Leviticus: The Lord called out to Moses ... on Mount Sinai. Numbers: In the wilderness of Sinai ... on the Jordan opposite Jericho. Deuteronomy: These are the words which Moses spoke ... in the sight of all Israel.

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