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Showing posts from 2016

How Women Lead The Fight Against Pharaoh

The women in the Torah know something about how to respond to a repressive Pharaoh.
In the time of our slavery, the Egyptian midwives Shifra and Puah are ordered to drown all the Israelite baby boys, but they refuse to do something morally repugnant, and they ignore Pharaoh’s command. Not only do they refuse to be a part of this immoral order, but they actively work against it in order to save and protect others. They could have given up their jobs and turned over the responsibility to people more willing to follow Pharaoh’s orders, but instead they continue to act as midwives, helping the Israelite women and then lying to Pharaoh about why the population continues to grow. Their action saves lives. These are women who do not follow immoral orders; they are at the center of one of the first acts of civil disobedience.  
Pharaoh’s daughter also refuses to follow her father’s commands. When she finds Moses floating in the Nile she knows he is a Hebrew baby; she is aware of her father’s or…

Sleepless in the Sukkah

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The first year we had a home of our own our oldest daughter was only a year old and we built a sukkah in our backyard. It started small and we added a bit to it every year. When our kids were little we used to read bedtime stories in the sukkah — taking out the air mattress and pillows and blankets and cuddling up together to read before carrying the kids upstairs to bed. As soon as the kids were old enough, we tried sleeping outside in the sukkah — and it was a huge hit with the kids. The dogs were confused; they could not figure out why we would all sleep outside when there was a perfectly good house right behind us, but they curled up with the kids and waited patiently for the humans to realize that we were supposed to sleep indoors.
And so a family tradition began: every year at Sukkot we picked a weekend night to sleep outside in our Sukkah. We didn’t manage to do it every year, because some years it was just too windy and the sukkah could barely stand, and there was a year or two…

No Regrets - Kol Nidre Sermon 5777

No RegretsSermon for Kol Nidrei 5777 Rabbi Shawna Brynjegard-Bialik Temple Ahavat Shalom – Northridge, California

The Maggid of Dubnow was once passing through a town and came upon an old, abandoned barn. On the side of this barn were 100 targets. And in the center of each target, was an arrow.  100 targets, 100 bullseyes. He was amazed. Immediately he went to the town square  and asked the villagers who was the marksman that had such amazing skill. They pointed to a boy,  sitting off to the side with a bow and quiver next to him. “Young man,” he asked him,  “how is that you are so skilled to have accomplished this incredible feat with your bow and arrow?” “It’s really easy,” the boy replied, “I shoot the arrows first, and then I paint the targets around them.”
If you draw the bullseyes after you shoot the arrows, you never regret a single shot.
American culture celebrates this “No Regrets” attitude. We hear it all the time, as if living life without regrets is the secret to happiness. L…

Reshuffling Life - Erev Rosh Hashanah 5777

“Reshuffling Life” Sermon for Erev Rosh HaShanah 5777 Rabbi Shawna Brynjegard-Bialik Temple Ahavat Shalom – Northridge, California

What if you could arrange the events of your life in another way? Perhaps you wonder how different your teenage years might have been if only you had the knowledge you have now… or maybe some of us wish we still possessed the optimism and energy of our youth. We might imagine reordering entire days or years of our life.
Author David Eagleman imagines a different way to organize the events of your life. In his vision of the afterlife you relive all of your experiences, but similar activities are grouped together. He writes:
You sleep for thirty years without opening your eyes. You take all your pain at once, all twenty-seven intense hours of it. Once you make it through, it's agony-free for the rest of your afterlife. But that doesn't mean it's always pleasant. Eighteen months waiting in line.  You can't take a shower until it's your time to t…

Summer Camp Packing Tips - What I've Learned After 10 Summers of Packing For Camp

This will be our 10th summer at Camp Newman. When we started, I packed for everyone — now my kids can pack themselves. These are my tips from 10 years of packing for summer camp.
You’re going to forget something, and that’s OK There will always be something that your kids will forget or wish they packed, but don’t worry — camp is a community, and they will share clothes and shampoo and help each other find what they need... and that’s part of the fun. Don’t overpack, and don’t worry; your kids are learning how friends help take care of each other.
Just like Las Vegas — sometimes what goes to camp, stays at camp Not everything that goes to camp comes home again. Don’t send anything to camp that you would be heartbroken to lose. If you love it and can’t live without it, leave it at home. And label EVERYTHING you bring with you. 
Label everything I can’t say this enough. I have seen the inside of a cabin halfway through camp: stuff is everywhere. The kids just throw all their stuff together an…