Finding Blessings in the Darkness

In this week’s Torah portion, we read about Jacob’s famous wrestling match with an angel. On the eve of the reunion with his estranged brother, Esau, Jacob can’t sleep. All night, he wrestles with a mysterious being, sustaining a hip injury. Finally, as the sun begins to rise, the mysterious stranger says: “Let me go.” “Not until you bless me,” Jacob replies. 

So many questions arise from this story: Who is the mysterious stranger who appears in the dark of night? What does it mean to ask for a blessing? And, as always, what can this story teach us about our lives today? 

Let’s start with the request for a blessing. We typically think of blessings as gifts in our lives, their timing and essence decided by God. A blessing often refers to something out of our control, not something we can ask for or even demand. Yet here Jacob is, in one of the most terrifying moments of his life, unable to sleep, yet able to demand a blessing. 

Furthermore, in response to Jacob’s demand, the angel gives him a new name: “You shall be called Yisrael, for you have struggled [yisra-] with God [El] and prevailed.”  And we, the Jewish people, get our name – Israel – from this very moment. 

In other words, to be a Jew does not mean that we must accept our circumstances, no matter how challenging. No, we are people who get to make our lives our own, even when it means struggling with the Divine – with the seemingly predestined. 

In a commentary on this story, Rabbi David Kimchi (France, 1160-1235), explains that this encounter with the mysterious stranger happened at night because “night is the time of fear.” Who among us hasn’t in their lives been afraid of the dark? Or who among us hasn’t lamented how early the winter sun sets bringing its swift fall of darkness? And who among us hasn’t been worried during a time of challenge and sadness? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you understand the fear that night can provoke. 

Our story reminds us that we don’t need to be afraid of the dark, or even if we are, that the mystical beings that appear to us in the dark don’t always need explaining. We don’t have to fully understand their essence to be changed by the experience. And the wrestling we do (emotional or spiritual) during times of darkness can lead to blessing. 

Friends, the past few weeks have been dark: literally with daylight savings, and metaphorically: in Israel and in Gaza. As we continue to pray for redemption for all the hostages, and as we refuse to lose hope for an abiding peace, we can take comfort in our Torah’s stories. The time of darkness is never the ending, always only a prelude. And as we turn toward the season of Hanukkah , of kindling lights in our homes, of reminding ourselves and others that miracles are possible- let us not be afraid to dwell in the dark. Perhaps we might even find, or seek, a blessing. 

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Sam

Who Frees the Bound

Baruch Atah Adonai Elohienu Melech Ha’Olam, Matir Asurim

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Source of Life, who Frees the Bound 

This is one of the several morning blessings, often called Nisim B’chol Yom or “Daily Miracles,” recited by many Jews upon waking each day. These blessings have a special place in my heart. I always appreciate that Jewish tradition offers us the chance to reflect upon the things for which we are grateful, first thing in the morning. The list of blessings calls our attention to the very foundations of our lives: For the ability to distinguish between day and night, for freedom, for being made in God’s image, and for having strength when we are weary, just to name a few. 

Each year around Thanksgiving—a day when the American calendar and our Jewish tradition align so beautifully—I like to teach about these morning blessings as a way to reflect on all of the gifts of our lives. 

I always understood this blessing, Matir Asurim, a prayer about “freeing the bound” to be a metaphor. Perhaps, in this prayer, we give thanks for being freed from sleep and regaining consciousness each morning. Perhaps it is about gratitude for being freed, or working toward freedom, from emotional patterns and behaviors that keep us stuck. 

But sadly, since October 7, this prayer is literal: We fervently hope and pray for the release of all those who were taken captive during Hamas’ brutal attack. 

As I write this, there is talk of a deal to pause the fighting and release many of the hostages. Last week, I was at the home of a JCP community member who hosted family members of five Israeli hostages. Their bravery was nothing short of awe-inspiring as they told their stories of trauma, loss, and fear for the safety of their loved ones who are in captivity, whose ages range from 3 to 80 years old. The hope that their family members will be released from captivity to return home is what is keeping them going and motivating them to speak to anyone who will listen to their plea, including politicians, faith leaders, and journalists. As one said: “There will be no victory in this war without the safe return of hostages.” 

This year, while we reflect on the blessings in our lives, the gratitude and joy of our Thanksgiving tables is diminished as so many of our Israeli siblings are being held in captivity. 

May our prayers and demands for their return very soon be answered. 

Shabbat shalom, and Happy Thanksgiving, 


Taking a Stand

This week’s Torah portion, Parashat Toldot, opens with a recurring theme in biblical literature as Rebekah, one of the our matriarchs, struggles with infertility. When she does eventually conceive twins, she experiences a very painful pregnancy. The Torah tells us: “The children struggled in her womb, and she said, “If so, why do I exist?” (Genesis 25:22). 

Many ancient Rabbis and medieval commentators have inquired about the meaning of her question. But if we read the plain text of the Hebrew, Rebekah’s words, lama zeh anochi, are very simple. “Why me?” 

These days, many of us have a similar question, a similar cry: Lamah zeh anachnu? Why us? Why are we faced with this hardship? Why are the Jewish people—who have suffered so much throughout our history—suffering yet again? After having been expelled from our homeland by the Roman Empire, Jews have lived under governments that discriminated against our people for two thousand years, always fearing for safety and longing to return to the Land of Israel. And yet, even with the achievement of the dream of a Jewish State, we continue to suffer. Though Jews in Israel have long faced challenges and violence, the attack on October 7 was unparallelled in its brutality. And now, expressions of hatred toward Israel, as well as incidents of antisemitism, continue to increase. 

Rebekah embraces her son, Jacob. During her pregnancy, God shared a prophecy that her older son (Esau) would serve the younger (Jacob). So Rebekah does all she can to ensure Jacob’s safety and well-being. She even helps Jacob steal the special blessing—reserved for the older son—from Esau, dressing him in a disguise to trick his father. 

Today, we embrace our cause and take a stand. We have stood by our Israeli siblings, supporting them with phone calls, supplies, donations, and prayers, and reminding them that they are not alone. We continue to demand the return of the hostages, and we will not stop until they are safely back home. We fight against antisemitism and anti-Zionism. We study and teach our history. We support one another in our anguish and pain. And we continue living  proudly as Jews, experiencing the rhythms of Shabbat, holidays, and learning. We have rejoiced as young people are called to the Torah as B’nai Mitzvah, ready to begin taking on the challenges of our broken world. We have celebrated wedding couples who stand under the chuppah and commit to building a bayit ne’eman b’Yisrael, a faithful and strong house within the Jewish community. In this hard time for our community, we remember what a blessing it is to be part of Am Yisrael, the People of Israel, and what a gift it is to live a joyful Jewish life. 

The story of Rebekah has more to teach us. While she supported Jacob, the pain in Rebekah’s life made her heart shrink—there was no room within it for her other child, Esau. As she sought to protect Jacob, she could not see Esau’s needs, pain, or humanity. But as Jews, we are taught that all people are created B’tzelem Elohim, in the image of the Divine. To me, living this value during such a time of devastation means mourning the loss of innocent Palestinian lives, and acknowledging and hearing the pain of civilians as their lives are upended forever. And it means speaking out against extremists in Israel, who, already emboldened before October 7, use this war as an excuse and an opportunity to dehumanize and attack Palestinians living in the West Bank. 

Why us? No one has answers to this question. I wish it were one we did not have to ask. But Jews have always responded to difficult times with action. May we continue to act in support of Israel and the Jewish people in our hour of need, and may we live up to our highest ideals, taking a stand and embracing humanity during this time of darkness. 

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Deena 

The Soul of Israel

It’s clearer than ever that our souls are hurting: Hurting with worry and sadness for the Jewish community here at home; fears about antisemitism and our own safety; hurting for our Israeli community and all the innocents caught in the war with Israel and Hamas. 

So Shabbat has arrived again, and with it, the opportunity to care for our souls. 

How is caring for our soul different from caring for our emotions? Emotions are often contrasted with reason: Reason helps us understand what is happening in the world, or, so often these days, it’s a lack of reason governing what’s going on. Emotions are how we respond to events: we become sad, or angry, or worried, or all of the above.  

So, the soul. The soul is the deeper part of us, that animates our heart, that gives meaning to the rest of the muck. Our sense that we are connected to something beyond ourselves, the Jewish community or God or both. For some of us, our souls have been crying out over the past month. For some of us, our souls have blocked out the challenge and pain, numbing ourselves to make it through. 

How can our sacred story, the Torah, help us make sense of this time, and help us or teach us how to care for our souls?

In this week’s parasha, Chayei Sarah, the matriarch Sarah dies. We read: “Sarah died in Kiryat Arbah, now Hevron – in the land of Canaan, and Abraham proceeded to mourn for her and bewail her.” 

The first thing Abraham does is tend to his soul – and hers. Abraham mourns, and even cries. Then, he cares for her soul by ensuring for her a proper burial spot. As we all process so much shock and loss in Israel; and the corresponding delegitimization of Jewish sadness and mourning that has proliferated so deeply online and in the streets, perhaps we still need space to tend to our souls: to express our sadness, or like Abrham, even to cry.  

What does Abraham do after tending his soul and ensuring a proper burial for his wife? He looks to the next steps of ensuring his legacy. He asks his servant, Eliezer, to go find a fitting partner for his son, Isaac. The only criteria: she must be a woman of generosity. In the story, this means a woman who sees the whole picture. The right woman will offer water to Eliezer’s camels, not only to Eliezer.  

Perhaps tending to our souls and building a legacy is about generosity, loving-kindness, and seeing the big picture. How can we offer generosity to ourselves and others in this challenging time? Perhaps it’s about spending less time on social media and more time with family and friends. Perhaps it’s about making space to do the things that have always brought us comfort: returning to ourselves. Perhaps it’s about taking action, connecting with others and Israel. 

This Shabbat, may we all create some time and space to care for our souls. 

Shabbat shalom, 

Rabbi Sam 

The Human Covenant

There are times when the stories in our sacred texts feel as though they are from a bygone era, and we struggle to make them feel relevant to our lives. And then there are times where these stories come to life, the narratives and dramas contained within them playing out before our eyes. 

That’s how I felt this week, upon reading our Torah portion, Parashat Vayera. In it, we read about impossible choices, interpersonal strife, and painful conflict. We learn that Abraham must banish one of his sons, Ishmael (an important figure in Islam), from his home, for the sake of his other son, Isaac (one of the Jewish Patriarchs). Later, when Abraham is instructed to sacrifice his son as a statement of his faith in God, the Rabbis teach that Isaac and Ishmael compete for the chance to meet this dreadful end. Each one wants to demonstrate the veracity of his own faith over and above that of his brother: 

“Ishmael said: ‘I am more beloved to God than you are, as I was circumcised at the age of thirteen years.’ Isaac responded: ‘I am more beloved to God than you are, as I was circumcised at eight days.’ Ishmael said to him: ‘I am more beloved because I had the ability to protest, but I did not protest.’ At that moment, Isaac said: ‘If only the Holy One would appear to me and say to me that I should sever one of my limbs [or offer myself on the altar] I would not refuse’” (Bereshit Rabbah 55:4). 

Today, as we navigate our way through the darkness of this war, it is heartbreaking to witness the perpetuation of the strife between the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael. 

As we read the agonizing stories of this Torah portion, and as we experience the pain of this challenging time, my mind goes back to the Torah portion we read a few weeks ago, Parashat Noach. After God destroys the earth through a flood, God makes a promise never to do so again. God makes this promise not to Jews, but to all humans and all living creatures. This, God decides, is what God owes to humanity—the guarantee that they won’t live in fear of annihilation at the hand of the Divine. In this light, the Rabbis of the Talmud derive seven rules—basic principles of decency—that all human beings must follow in order to live in peace with each other. These include the commandment to set up a court system, and the prohibitions against murder, robbery, and cruelty toward animals (Sanhedrin 56a). The Rabbis recognize that without some sense of shared commitments and obligations to each other, humanity would not survive. 

I think now about those basic rules, about what human beings of all faiths and ideologies owe to each other in order to inhabit this earth together. These questions are not abstract—they are urgent. 

What do Israelis and Palestinians, and their leaders, owe to their own people and to each other? Israeli hostages are still in captivity. The brutality of Hamas’ October 7 attack continues to haunt us and cause incomprehensible grief. Israel must ensure its own safety and security. But we also face the tragic reality that countless innocent Gazan civilians suffer from lack of food, water, and medicine. Thousands, including so many children, have already died in the war. 

For many, this question of what Israelis and Palestinians owe each other feels like an unfair one after Hamas’ gruesome attack against Israel. Yet these groups are inexorably tied together: by geographic proximity, by belief in the same God, and by painful history. Are these groups only destined for conflict, strife, and pain? Or is there any way forward that acknowledges their shared humanity? 

Here at home, Americans need to ask each other the same question: What do we—Jews, Muslims, Zionists, progressives, conservatives, students, teachers—owe to each other as this war rages on? 

We owe each other physical safety. Our streets and campuses are tense, threatening, and frightening, and we are on guard. Antisemitic rhetoric and incidents have increased at alarming rates. Islamophobia is on the rise, too. When I was an undergraduate, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (z’’l), then the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, came to visit campus. He said that whenever Jewish students want to address antisemitism on campus, the first step should be to speak with Muslim students to see how we can work in partnership to address both Islamophobia and antisemitism simultaneously. Fighting one type of hatred is powerful, he said, but fighting more than one is transformative. Today, this might seem like too difficult a task. But it is also impossible to live in a world, and in a country, filled with so much hatred. No Jew, no Muslim, and no person of any faith should walk through the streets afraid for their safety. 

We owe each other space for grief. There are many whose statements and actions we find deeply frightening and morally reprehensible. But the one thing that we all share is heartbreak. Can we find a way to hear it? And how will we tend to our own broken hearts? 

None of this is easy. But the Torah teaches us that there are certain basic decencies that we owe to one another, no matter our faiths or beliefs. And they only become more important in times of conflict. 

How will we all live together in this broken world? We owe it to each other—and to ourselves—to keep asking, and trying to answer, that question. 

Shabbat shalom, 


The Flood and the Rainbow

וַתִּשָּׁחֵ֥ת הָאָ֖רֶץ לִפְנֵ֣י הָֽאֱלֹהִ֑ים וַתִּמָּלֵ֥א הָאָ֖רֶץ חָמָֽס׃
“The earth became corrupt before God; the earth was filled with lawlessness and violence” (Genesis 6:11).

These words appear at the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Noach. Today, we are living these words as our reality. This is not an abstraction; it is literal. The Hebrew word “violence” in this verse is hamas. 

Last week, Israel was filled with Hamas, the internationally recognized terrorist organization that infiltrated its borders and wrought destruction and havoc, and with the Torah’s understanding of hamas: violence, lawlessness, devastation, and heartbreak. 

The Talmud teaches us: “To destroy one life is to destroy the entire world…to save one life is to save the entire world” (Sanhedrin 37a). Last week, when Jews were murdered in their homes, when hundreds were kidnapped, when they were humiliated, and when their communities were destroyed, so many worlds—along with the hearts of the Jewish people—were destroyed. Who could ever have thought that we would once again experience such a brutal attack, and have to feel this immense grief? I thought this type of violence against Jews was consigned to the dark pages of our history books. But today, we are living it. In the words of my colleague, Rabbi Sharon Brous, “It will take generations for us to recover from the psychic wounds we have incurred this past week.” 

The Torah tells us that God could not abide this world of violence—humanity could not recover from the wounds they were inflicting upon each other—and decided to destroy the world in a flood and begin anew. Only Noah, his family, and a few lucky pairs of animals were saved. 

As I picture Noah huddled in his ark, alone and afraid of the destruction taking place all around him, I think of my Israeli friends, hiding in their safe rooms, wondering when this nightmare will end, when it will be safe to go outside, and how they will ever begin to rebuild.

After the flood, God recognizes that destroying the earth is not a viable solution. God comes to see that there will always be incomprehensible violence and unmitigated pain caused by humans, but that there is also hope that we can do better. God says: “I will maintain My covenant with you: never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth” (Genesis 9:12). God sets a rainbow in the sky as a sign of this promise. 

As worlds are destroyed around us, and as our hearts break as we witness the devastation, it is up to us to serve as the rainbow, the goodness that God saw in the world when God promised never again to destroy it.

I am amazed and inspired by our community at JCP. We are that rainbow. We have come together in solidarity, for each other and for our Israeli siblings, who have shared that our support means so much to them. We have called our friends, given hugs, cried, held each other’s pain, shared our grief, and prayed together. We have donated to Israeli organizations that are stepping up in this time of crisis. We have protected ourselves. We have stood by Israel as so many condoned this terrorist attack, which is an attack against Jews everywhere. 

There will be challenges ahead, many of which we are already confronting. We have to witness as people question Israel’s right to defend itself. We also have to witness a painful war, and the tragedy of civilian deaths. And we have to wonder what lies ahead. 

But through it all, my hope is that we can continue to be the rainbow, the bright spot in the darkness, the goodness that keeps our broken world afloat. 

There is so much pain and sadness for us to hold. Throughout it all, may we continue to come together during this terrible time, as our people have done for centuries. 

Shabbat shalom, 


Endings, Beginnings, and Possibilities 

Sometimes you learn something that just sticks with you. On the first day of my high school Psychology class, we did a memory exercise. The teacher read a list of 40 simple words—think “cat,” “book,” “house,” and we were told to remember as many as we could without writing them down. At the end of the exercise, she asked us to share which words from the list we remembered. Very few of us remembered words from the middle of the list; most memorable were words from the beginning and the end. This exercise helped to show that our memories of beginnings and endings (of lists of words or of experiences) tend to be particularly powerful. (And I now reflect on the fact that this exercise happened on the first day of school, further demonstrating the point!) 

On Sunday, we celebrate the holiday of Simchat Torah, where the beginning and end of the Torah come into focus. On this holiday—the last of many during the Hebrew month of Tishrei!—we complete the annual Torah reading cycle and begin anew. 

As the Torah closes and we complete the book of Deuteronomy (D’varim in Hebrew), we find the Israelites on the border of Eretz Yisrael, approaching the Promised Land after so many years of journeying through the wilderness. Their longtime leader, Moses, knows that he is about to die, and he selects a successor, Joshua, who will help them reach their destination and settle into their new home. 

We then roll the Torah all the way back to the beginning, to the book of Genesis (Beresheet in Hebrew), where we encounter the famous lines narrating the creation story: 

בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ׃

וְהָאָ֗רֶץ הָיְתָ֥ה תֹ֙הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ וְחֹ֖שֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵ֣י תְה֑וֹם

In the Beginning, God created heaven and earth

the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep

(Genesis 1:1-2)

At the beginning of the Torah, nothing exists. The universe is a total void, filled with darkness. By the end of the Torah, we recall all that we have read and experienced as the story unfolded before us: natural disaster, sibling rivalry, true faith, liberation, ethical leadership, legal pronouncements, Divine revelation, long journeys, moments of devastation, moments of elation, and everything in between. We witness as a group of people form relationships with each other and with God and together try to decide what it means to be a holy community. From start to finish, the Torah takes us from the nothingness that precedes the creation of the world through the formation of robust, complex, and sacred societies. It’s quite a journey that we take each year! 

But as different as the beginning and the end of the Torah may seem, they are united by a theme of possibility. At the beginning of the Torah, we (and God) get to anticipate the kind of world that will be created. What will it look like? How will it work? God begins with a blank slate and we anticipate the masterpiece God will create. At the end of the Torah, we are left on the precipice of the Israelites’ next chapter. How will they feel when they arrive in the land of Israel after waiting so long for this moment? What kind of society will they build? Will they heed Moses’ final words of advice that he shared before his death? It’s a perfect cliffhanger as we imagine what might be in store though the next stage of the Israelite journey. 

If it’s true that we tend to remember beginnings and endings, then one central message of the Torah is this: No matter where we are in our journeys, the possibilities in front of us are endless. 

Shabbat Shalom, and Chag Sameach, 


Unity, Perseverance, and Hope

Oy, oy, oy—what a week of pain, of violence, of suffering we have just witnessed. The news and social media have been covered with intense, terrifying images. There is so much to say, so much to feel, so much support deeply needed in Israel and in our community at home. I have been grateful to gather with some of you earlier this week, providing some of that for one another.

This week, we read parashat B’reishit, the first chapters of Genesis. Sukkot and the High Holy Days are behind us; our ancient calendar tells us it is a time of new beginnings. We read in parashat B’reishit this weekend about the creation of humanity, a beautiful metaphor that teaches that all humans are created in God’s image. We learn about the first humans, who live in the garden of Eden, blissfully unaware of the complications of being human. What a beautiful story to begin our year!

I had hoped to use this d’var Torah to introduce myself, to share that I’ll be at JCP one day a week this upcoming year, and to say how much I look forward to seeing you at Shabbat, b’nai mitzvahs, and other community celebrations. 

And yet, the beginning that we face this year is not the beginning that we would have chosen. Hamas decided that it would be the beginning of terrible violence, an attack on Israel different from anything we have seen in the past 50 years. We, across the world, watched as our precious homeland was attacked by an internationally recognized military group who does not want peace. Family members and friends are called up from the army reserves. Others were forced from their homes, their streets, murdered or kidnapped. Others remain at home, trying to create a semblance of normalcy for their children, despite schools being closed and activities canceled. 

Indeed, we are far from Eden, the fertile garden where the first humans lived in blissful innocence. The Jewish state has a long and complicated road ahead. 

So what is there for us? 

The Rabbi of Kotzk, who lived in Poland from 1787-1859, was famous for saying “Jews don’t despair.” Indeed, we have thousands of years of inherited Jewish wisdom to lean on. We are storytellers: 

When the first humans had to leave the garden of Eden and learned the price of knowledge, we told the story. 

When our people was oppressed by the Pharoah, we asked God for help, supported human leaders (Moses, Aaron and Miriam), found our way out, and then told the story. 

When we experienced the destruction of our Holiest place, the Temple, we told the story and re-envisioned what Jewish life could look like. 

So, too, is our task: to support one another so that we can tell the story. A story of unity, perseverance, hope—Hatikvah, and ultimately: peace. 

Shabbat shalom, 

Rabbi Sam

The Lulav, The Etrog, and Us

After our journey through the High Holy Days, I am always excited when we reach the holiday of Sukkot. The excitement is in the name, as Sukkot is often called Z’man Simchateinu, or “The Time for our Rejoicing.” There are many customs for Sukkot: Building a Sukkah, a temporary outdoor dwelling in which we can eat, hang out, and even sleep; inviting guests to share the Sukkah; and praying for rain in the land of Israel (Sukkot marks the beginning of the rainy season there). But one of our most interesting and most puzzling customs is the shaking of the lulav, and it is the one that people ask me about the most. 

The Torah commands us to take four different types of plants: a palm branch (lulav); a myrtle branch (hadas), a willow branch (aravah), and a citron (etrog), also called the “fruit of the beautiful tree” (Leviticus 23:40). Later, the Talmud tells us to bring these different species together and shake them in every direction (Sukkot, 37b). But it doesn’t tell us why. 

Many Jews who came before us were similarly puzzled by this practice. How does shaking plants have anything to do with our religious lives? Explanations abound. Some say that the sound that the branches make when they are shaken reminds us of the sound of the rain. Some say that these beautiful plants help us to recognize the bounty of the natural landscape of Israel. But one of my favorite explanations is from a 13th century work of Jewish Law called Sefer HaChinukh, which explains all 613 commandments of Judaism. The anonymous author writes the following: 

These four species are similar to the precious limbs of a human being…The citron is similar to the heart, which is the dwelling place of the intellect…the lulav is similar to the backbone…the myrtle [leaves are] similar to the eyes…and the willow [leaves are] similar to the lips (Sefer HaChinukh, 324). 

If you look at the lulav, it is striking how each of the plants resembles these different parts of the body. The author claims that all of the parts of the human body have a role to play in praising God, and that when they are brought together, humans can reach the Divine in new ways. 

Throughout Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we spent time focusing on our goals and aspirations in the new year. On Sukkot, the lulav provides this tangible metaphor for how we can achieve those goals and turn our aspirations into reality. The upright palm branch reminds us to have integrity and to act ethically in all of our interactions. The myrtle leaves remind us to be thoughtful in how we see the world. The thin leaves of the willow remind us that the words of our lips have a great deal of power. The etrog reminds us that our hearts can always be open, ready to show each other compassion and kindness.

As we approach Sukkot and shake the lulav together, may we fulfill our hopes for this new year, and find many reasons to rejoice.

Shabbat shalom, and Chag sameach,