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Rabbi David Wirtschafter


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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A brunette woman from the back with her hair up and her hands on her neck as she looks out over a body of water

God of dignity and decency, Creator of man and woman, Source of Wisdom Who calls on us to demonstrate respect and practice restraint…

Many of us come to you this Sabbath full of embarrassment, shame, humiliation, guilt, outrage, anxiety, and disgust.

Too many men have spoken basely and behaved horribly.

Too many women have been subjected to sexual harassment, abuse, and assault.

May the “Me Too” campaign of this week be blessed with the staying power to live well beyond the news cycle.

May we seize the opportunity for meaningful action so that...

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Closeup of the upper half of the Statue of Liberty against a blue sky with clouds

Like parents of most American teenagers these day, I’ve been listening to the soundtrack of Hamilton a lot. I’m not an expert on this musical, but I know it well enough to embarrass my kids whenever I try to sing it.

The other night, I sat down with my daughter to write a parody based on one of its songs, “You’ll Be Back,” for the bar mitzvah of a family friend. Back in April, two students at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (in Philadelphia, of course) made their Hamilton-themed Haggadah available just in time for Passover. And perhaps it’s got nothing to do with the...

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