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Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs

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Man holding an open Bible in the palm of his left hand

The Hebrew Bible contains 23,145 verses and if I had permission to excise only one, I have no doubt which it would be: “Happy the one who seizes and smashes your infants against the rock” (Psalm 137:9).

Psalms 137 is a stirring lament over the destruction of Judah in 586 B.C.E. and the exile of a significant percentage of its population to Babylon. The rage and humiliation of the exiles, with their “harps hung on the willows near Babylon’s rivers,” is palpable as they commit to remember their beloved Jerusalem even as Judah’s captors taunt them: “Sing us some of Zion’s songs!” (...

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Hands of a young man cutting a tomato from the vine

As the Torah begins to recount the long-ago slavery of our people in Egypt, my mind and my heart turn to tomato farmworkers in Immokalee, Florida.

Recently, I visited Immokalee for three days through a program sponsored by T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights that was led by Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster.

Ninety percent of all tomatoes that are eaten fresh in the eastern United States are grown in Immokalee. It is one of Florida’s poorest cities and life for its farm laborers is mired in poverty – even after hours of back-breaking work in the vast tomato fields day after...

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Back of the legs and feet of a person on a stationary bicycle in a gym

When I rolled into the gym this morning, I was hoping to get on my favorite recumbent bike. It allows me to do a good lower body work out without using my arms or putting any stress on my right shoulder, which is recovering from rotator cuff surgery. 

No such luck. 

Both of “my” bikes were taken.

The gym’s rules are prominently posted throughout: “30-minute limit on all machines when others are waiting.”

A young woman was toweling herself off on one of the bikes, so I asked her if she was finishing or just starting.

“Just starting,” she answered...

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Havdallah candle and silver spice set against a blue lit background

Havdalah isn’t much fun when I’m by myself, but I do it anyway.

My wife, Vickie, was in San Francisco for Thanksgiving weekend, visiting her 97-year old mother, our children, and four grandchildren who live there.

My duties as rabbi of Bat Yam Temple of the Islands in Sanibel, FL, kept me home for the holiday. We don’t like to be apart on holidays, but given the realistic possibilities, we made the best choice. It’s vital for Vickie to spend as much time with her mother as possible, and every time either of us sees our children and grandchildren, it’s a great joy.

I...

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Overlapping pads of Post-It notes with a handwritten question mark on the top page of each pad

“My mother made me a scientist without ever intending it. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school: ‘So? Did you learn anything today?’ But not my mother. She always asked me a different question. ‘Izzy,’ she would say, ‘did you ask a good question today?’ That difference – asking good questions – made me become a scientist!” -- Isidor I. Rabi, Nobel laureate

As we begin to read the Torah again each year on Simchat Torah, I am reminded of my first rabbinical assignment.

A first year student at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of...

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