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Torah text with silver had and tallit fringes

“Bring it close!” I urge my students, reading from the prayer book familiar words from the Torah service: “It is a tree of life to those who hold fast to it.” 

They look at me with a mix of wonder, uncertainty and straight-out stress. “Do what?!”

“Write a d’var Torah– a short interpretation of Torah. Yes, really. Choose a piece of Torah that speaks to you or your life and write about it. Tell us what speaks to you personally!”

And so, the process unfolds, replete with worried looks, Google documents emailed from an octogenarian, encouragement to talk to children and...

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Kotel (Western Wall) crowded with throngs of visitors

And Israel encamped [at Sinai] as one person with one mind. -- Rashi on Exodus 19:3

Remarkable unity characterized the Jewish people in the days before receiving Torah at Sinai, an event we commemorate on Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks. As a student in Jerusalem one year, I experienced that unity powerfully on Shavuot. At the end of the traditional all-night learning session, I joined thousands of others streaming toward the Old City. We poured into the Western Wall plaza and I nestled myself in with one prayer group...

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View of Kotel and Dome of the Rock

This past Monday, the U.S. opened its embassy in Jerusalem. On that same fateful day, more than 60 Palestinians lost their lives on the border with Gaza. In response to these divergent events, people experienced a range of  emotions. 

This confusing, difficult day took place right before Jews around the world will gather to celebrate the festival of Shavuot. Although originally conceived of as a harvest holiday, after the destruction of the Temple, Shavuot transformed into a day celebrating the receiving of Torah at...

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Closeup of a child looking down on a container of blueberry ice cream on a picnic table

Growing up, Shavuot wasn’t really part of my Jewish experience. It fell just outside of the religious school season, and much of the “cheesecake holiday” remained a mystery to me until my adulthood.

My children, however, will know Shavuot. In fact, they’ll look forward to it all year. This is because we’ve created a family tradition that they’re excited about. Of course, it involves dairy and, most appropriately for a festival set to...

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Three blintzes on a plate garnished with peach slices and a dollop of sour cream

When you marry someone, you not only get a spouse, you also get another family. When I married my husband, Rabbi Donald Goor, I inherited his mother and father, his siblings, their children. I even inherited his grandmother: Jeannette Multer. Jeannette wasn’t “Nana” or “Bubbie” or “Safta” or “Gramma.” She was “Grandmother.” Grandmother. And the properness of “Grandmother” embodied who she was: exacting, precise, and at times a bit rigid.

But Grandmother was also a voracious reader (she had once owned a bookstore), an astute student of politics and world affairs, a lifelong,...

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