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The author and a friend in a Jerusalem park on Shabbat

During Shabbat in Israel, everything and everyone slows down. Very few cars are on the road, only a couple of shops are open, and Israelis take a break from their usual hurried pace to breathe. Shabbat in Israel also provides a chance for people to share space in ways that they otherwise might not.

On a recent Shabbat, I spent the afternoon with friends over a picnic in Gan Sacher, one of the largest parks in Jerusalem. We packed up a lunch of fresh fruit and cheese from the Machane...

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Side view of a standing woman holding an open prayerbook

Why pray to a silent God who is not looking down at us and waiting to hear what we want or legitimately need? Why pray to a God who does not need our prayers; who will not circumvent nature with miracles; who has charged us with the responsibility for righting the wrongs and curing the ills that we might be praying about?

Why pray?

We pray to connect with our sacred tradition, to read and speak and sing the words of ancestors who felt the presence of God and who articulated the will of God as they understood it.

We pray so that we may reverently and humbly approach...

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Young child sitting on an adults lap while looking at a laptop screen as if watching videos together

How do we prepare our children for success in a new year of learning?

The start of a new school year always brings with it both excitement and, perhaps, a bit of apprehension. New school supplies, new backpacks, new shoes, and new clothes dominate the retail environment as early as July. You might dispatch the ubiquitous supply list online or at brick-and-mortar stores. You might unlock a parenting badge for completing a mountain of forms. You might set up an Instagram-worthy first-day-of-school photograph.

But how can you, as a parent, also infuse this time with meaning...

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A group of adults eating/drinking in a restaurant or someone's home

When my preteen children and I joined Sinai Temple of Champaign–Urbana in Champaign, IL, in the early 1990s, we knew few people in the congregation of roughly 300 family and individual members. Around the same time, the congregation was organizing a new program: forming chavurah (fellowship) groups.

What I learned about chavurot (the plural of chavurah, which has about as many spellings as Hanukkah), is that they are small, informal fellowship groups comprising temple members...

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Red outline of heart shape on butcher paper; in the heart, the paper is torn back to reveal the words Love Yourself

Jet-lagged, travel-weary, and a little anxious, I caught myself smiling at my reflection in the mirror of the hotel bathroom in Jerusalem. I was serving as the rabbi for a group of 39 couples who were experiencing Israel together for the first time.

On this trip, designed specifically for couples, I found myself, ironically, without my husband for the longest stretch of time in recent memory. It bears mentioning that he and I do almost everything together; we wait to watch (most) of our favorite shows together, to eat at certain restaurants, and even try to do many of our day-to-...

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