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Rabbi Sharon G. Forman


Yellow, diamond-shaped traffic sign that says OOPS!

My mother-in-law bounced our children, each in their own time, endlessly on her lap to the jaunty pulse of a cautionary German nursery rhyme, “Hoppe Hoppe, Reiter” (“Hop, Hop, Rider”), that warns of the dangers of tumbling from a horse and the need to avoid a disgraceful descent that includes a muddy ditch, a broken leg, and, ultimately, a grisly demise by murderous ravens. This bouncing, bungee-jumping game was a favorite for all three of our children. 

“Do Hoppe,” my tiny children begged me when Grandma was not around. They do not understand that my parents never learned ...

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Pink and white blossoms on tree branches

In the past few weeks, my mom has lost two of her dearest friends: her 92-year-old neighbor, Norman, with whom she attended symphony concerts, synagogue services, and weekly dinners, and a beautiful, brilliant, and unfailingly kind 98-year-old Holocaust survivor, Bronia, with whom she spoke by phone every day.

I’ve been trying to think of ways to cheer her up and bring her some measure of comfort. If I could, I’d snap my fingers and usher her into a Shabbat service sure to make her face light up: a “three-Torah Shabbat.”

Occasionally, if the Sabbath (Hebrew for Shabbat)...

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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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