By: Sara Brandes | May 08, 2019

By: Rabbi Sara Brandes

Were you to wonder if there is such a thing as Jewish mindfulness, you would need look no further than Parashat Kedoshim, which we read in Israel this Shabbat. For in it we find the claim, which might also be considered the very essence of Judaism, that holiness is created by bringing attention to the moment to moment of our lives, and that such attention is nothing short of Divine.

The Parasha opens: “Speak to the whole Israelite community and say to them: You shall be holy, for I, the LORD your God, am holy.” (Leviticus 19:1) , and later continues “You shall not render an unfair decision: do not favor the poor or show deference to the rich; judge your kinsman fairly. Do not deal basely with your countrymen. Do n...

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By: Sara Brandes | April 25, 2019

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With Pesach ending and the Counting of the Omer beginning, it might feel as though the last thing we need is for this week’s parasha to introduce another major holiday into the mix. However, the repentance ritual which is the heart of Yom Kippur, described in Parashat Acharei Mot (Leviticus 16-18) offers a powerful metaphor for how we often relate to those parts of ourselves we might prefer were otherwise.

We read there:

“When he has finished purging the Shrine, the Tent of Meeting, and the altar, the live goat shall be brought forward. Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat and confess over it all the iniquities and transgress...

By: Sara Brandes | April 19, 2019

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Each week, we’ll explore a practice theme that arises in the weekly Torah portion. This week’s parasha “Tazria" is all about life, how its made and the magic and messiness of being sensual beings.

To make sense of this weeks parasha, we need to hold two things in mind. First, when the Torah says “ki tazria v’yalda zahar” it hopes that the first chapter of the Torah will immediately come to mind for us, “esev mazriah zera etz pri asah pri limehu,” as the women is “with seed” just as the earth too was with seed at the moment life burst forth in creation. Second, we have to remember that the parasha is unfolding with in the world of Sefer Vayikra (Leviticus) which claims t...

By: Sara Brandes | April 19, 2019

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If you’re plugged into Jewish consciousness, then this week house-cleaning is on your mind, as both the weekly Torah reading (Parashat Metzora) and the Jewish calendar take the messiness that can arise in our homes as their subject. Parashat Metzora (Leviticus 14-15) offers us the mysterious dynamics of a form of leprosy that attacked the walls of the home, just when we are scrubbing kitchens to rid them of any last traces of glutenous crumbs before Passover. Both invite us to consider how our attention impacts our environment and how our environment can support or hinder our practice.

Hassidic Judaism turns the process of cleaning for Pesach inward, inv...

By: Sara Brandes | October 30, 2018

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