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Rabbi P.J. Schwartz

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Two sets of hands/arms clasped across a lap in a gesture of support

And Hannah wept. Feelings of loneliness consumed her, and she began questioning her self-worth. “What is wrong with me?”, she asked. “Am I not good enough?”, she pondered. Struggling with infertility, Hannah fell into the deep abyss of depression. Filled with sadness, anger, and frustration, she did what no one had done before. She made an impassioned plea to God, not simply praying for a child, but praying that one day she might feel whole again.

On each Rosh HaShanah, we read the story of Hannah, and are reminded that her plea to God represents one of the first personal prayers...

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Row of books with several open books in foreground

As a rabbi, I find myself busily preparing for the High Holidays. Planning services, writing sermons, and organizing programming will fill the hours of the coming weeks to ensure that my congregants experience a meaningful and fulfilling High Holiday season.

What I had forgotten, though, is that the real preparation for the upcoming Days of Awe is the hard work I need to put into myself. In order for me to be the best model for my congregants, now and at any season, I must literally practice what I preach. I, too, am obligated to reflect and to consider, to examine the deeds of the...

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Rows of hand-knit yarmulkes with Stars of David on them

As Jews, we put our hearts, souls, and minds into the rituals and customs our tradition values. It’s important that we know the origins of these traditions, how they evolved over time, and what they look like today. Only then can we make informed choices about what meaning, if any, they have for us today.

One such custom, wearing a yarmulke (kippah), is not mandated by Jewish law, but rather is a widespread custom that, for some, is practiced in the same way as traditions that are dictated by Jewish law. The Talmud includes references to wearing a head covering and there are...

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Sign-post with these signs: questions, answers

Asking questions is an integral part of the Passover seder. This is a night of questioning. We reflect upon how our ancestors’ journey from slavery to freedom is also our own. We discover answers to our questions. Sometimes, the answers are followed by more questions.

Passover serves as a reminder that Judaism is, in fact, a religion of questioning. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel teaches that, “We are closer to God when we are asking questions than when we think we have the answers.” Our questions lead us to a greater awareness of ourselves and an understanding of others, challenge...

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Black and white cocker spaniel

After an 18-month battle with prostate cancer, my 11-year-old cocker spaniel, Teddy, died last September. Immediately before he was euthanized, my wife and I recited a prayer that I wrote. We placed our hands on his head as if he was our child, and tears flowed freely as we read the prayer.

The grief I have experienced since then is real, and some days my heart feels more broken than others. I have seen Teddy in my dreams, disappointed when I awake because I know I won’t ever again hold him or hear his collar jingle. Sometimes, his memory alone isn’t enough to comfort me.

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