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Rabbi Sharon G. Forman


Scene from Shtisel, the Israeli television show

Recently, my children reveled in a long-awaited snow day. While my teenage sons occupied themselves with homework and sledding, I escaped the winter blast to watch a few episodes of the Israeli television series, Shtisel, now available on Netflix.

Rationalizing that I was also folding the laundry, I sat at the edge of my bed transfixed by the lives of members of the fictional, ultra-Orthodox Shtisel family. Although I had lived in Jerusalem intermittently in the 1980s and 1990s, I had never been particularly curious about the black-hat-wearing, anti-Zionist residents of Jerusalem’s...

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Various tallitot on display

The public address system in the temple crackled before the synagogue’s executive director announced we were about to engage in a lockdown drill. The disembodied voice emphasized the word “drill.”

In the small library where minutes earlier I’d met a new bar mitzvah student, I struggled to bolt the room’s two doors. I lowered the blinds to cover a window that overlooks a courtyard in which people often meditate. My student appeared calm and unfazed as I sat down at the table next to him. The lights were supposed to be turned off. We were supposed to find shelter under the table. We...

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Silver yad pointing to Hebrew text in Torah scroll

Facebook’s lighthearted quizzes often clog my newsfeed. Answer a few simple questions, they tease, and, voila, they will reveal which superhero, candy bar, Muppet, von Trapp Family singer, or European city best characterizes your personality.

Sometimes, I ponder creating a quiz of my own: “What Torah Trope Are You?”

Chants used for reading Torah and other sacred texts may be an unusual metaphor to assess one’s inner nature. However, the symbols that help vocalists create the chanting melodies can be quite revealing.

In a typical Torah portion, there are roughly 20...

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A cupped pair of hands palms facing upward that appears to be holding sparkling dots of light

Years ago, I enrolled our toddler son in a summer day camp at our synagogue. He had happily attended a 3’s nursery school program there, joining his new friends without any drama, so I was baffled when he clung to me, desperate and inconsolable, at camp drop- off.

I asked the counselor and camp director to help me figure out a non-traumatic way to help my son adjust to the camp environment without forcing him to “cry it out” when I left. They hatched a plan that had me sit in the back of the classroom reading a book or newspaper. Visible yet invisible, my son could see me whenever...

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Bowl of bright pink borscht garnished with hard-boiled egg and greens

When I had mononucleosis during rabbinical school, my classmates tended to me with thoughtfulness and care. They took copious notes in class and dropped by often to check in on me, change my linens, fold my laundry, and bring me food – chicken soup, chopped liver, challah, and pickles from New York City’s Second Avenue Deli, which was, at the time, just blocks from where I lived. I’m convinced that coupled with time and rest, those meals and the generous friends who brought them played a significant role in my recovery.

To me, those meals and my mom’s brisket, blintzes, and kugel...

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