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Rabbi David Wirtschafter


Two female students holding gun violence prevention signs at a march

There are lists on which teenagers belong and others on which they don’t. Teenagers dream of making the team list, cast list, recruiting list, and admissions list. If there’s one place teenagers don’t belong, though, it’s on the Mourner's Kaddish list – yet tonight marks the Sabbath before the yahrzeit for 14 youths and three adults shot to death at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, on February 14, 2018.

Among life’s painful lessons is that of accepting death. Sickness, old age, accidents, natural disasters: We can live we these deaths. We learn to accept them...

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Closeup of snowflakes

“He casts forth His ice as fragments. Who can stand before His cold.” Psalm 147:17

It’s been cold this week – so cold that where I live, the county cancelled school two days in a row. “Extreme weather days,” they are called, not “snow days.” Snow days can be fun; not so this kind of cold. It was colder in Chicago this week than it was in the North Pole.

There’s nothing like the absence of something to make us more appreciative of its presence.

Just as fasting on Yom Kippur helps us better appreciate food, being cold this week should make us more grateful for...

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Piece of broken matzah wrapped in a purple checkered cloth

The Passover ritual of the afikomen – breaking the middle matzah, declaring a portion of it to be afikomen, hiding it, sending people to find it, then re-dividing it and sharing it with everyone – is wonderfully playful and deeply profound. It was a stroke of pedagogical genius to include a ritual so physical, one that requires participants to get up and move around, to infuse a healthy dose of variety and contrast to a night that revolves around a lot of talking, listening, and staying in place.

So, too, is the progression of afikomen events consistent with the essentials of great...

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Torn red paper heart held together by a Bandaid against a white background

“God spoke to Moses, saying: Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person, whose heart so moves them.”

How painfully ironic it is that the perpetrator in this week’s school shooting in Florida chose Valentine’s Day to carry out his fatal plot. A day of love, romance, flowers, chocolate, amorous notes, and intimate poems turned into one of hate, fear, bloodshed, tragedy, and death. Cupid’s arrows were destroyed by the high-powered bullets of an automatic rifle. Our greatest gifts were gruesomely gunned down.

It is the word...

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rows of small American flags on sticks upright in the grass

As we gather this Sabbath on the eve of Veterans Day we are compelled to confess how we are failing our veterans. Last week’s shooting is yet another example of a veteran who didn’t get the full extent of mental health care he needed. Our High Holiday prayer book delineates three forms of failure that are not only harmful but sinful. Failures of Truth, Failures of Justice and Failure of Love. All three of these are applicable to how we have failed our veterans. Together we confess these failures.

We have failed to admit the painful truth, the depth and breadth of the crisis....

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