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 

Summer Series: Cycles of Life, Part 3: Healing

One of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of my rabbinic training was participating in a course called Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). During CPE, I worked as a hospital chaplain, going from room to room to listen to, pray with, and be present for patients and hospital staff alike. In addition to providing support, chaplains in CPE are guided in self-reflection in order to better understand ourselves as givers and recipients of care. Needless to say, I learned a great deal that summer—about our healthcare system, about pain and healing, and about myself. 

I was lucky enough to be taught by an incredible chaplain, Rabbi Jo Hirschmann, who was there to guide me as I went through this intense experience. She, along with another of my rabbinic  school professors, Rabbi Nancy Wiener, wrote a book that we studied that summer, entitled Maps and Meaning: Levitical Models for Contemporary Care. In it, they explore how the Torah’s handling of tzara’at, a biblical skin disease, can help us think about how we navigate illness, caregiving, and healing. Its lessons have stayed with me to this day. 

According to the Torah (Leviticus 13), tzara’at was a skin condition that necessitated a period of quarantine. Any Israelite with symptoms of tzara’at had to call out: Tamei! Tamei! – “Unclean! Unclean!” and was required to isolate outside the Israelite camp until the symptoms subsided. When the time period of the quarantine was complete, the priest (the religious leader who also served as a medical professional) examined the patient, led them in a sacrificial ritual, and brought them back into the camp, where they had to quarantine outside of their homes for an additional week. 

Since learning from Rabbis Hirschmann and Wiener, I have been struck by the brilliance of the Torah’s steps for bringing a person out of a period of quarantine and back into the camp. Instead of throwing a person right back into a routine after an experience of physical isolation and emotional disruption, the person re-enters the camp in stages. First, they mark the end of their quarantine through a ritual, giving thanks that this ordeal is behind them. Then, they can rejoin society, but they do it slowly. They take an extra week to acclimate before returning to their homes and their regular lives. 

In a recording of their book launch, Rabbi Weiner says the following: 

One of the things that we found really fascinating was that there were very clear ideas of what could help both a person who suffered from tzara’at and the priest who visited as they journeyed out and as they came back. There was no assumption that either would be able to quickly move from one place…or mental space easily and come back…We were thinking about some of the contemporary corollaries. What is it for us to have people who are spending time in hospitals or in nursing homes [or military service]?…They’re leaving the places that they know best and… where they feel most rooted…What [do] we do and what we don’t we do today to enable people to make those transitions easily.

The authors of this book could not have predicted the relevance of their work during the pandemic. Lockdown was a time when the biblical narrative of the tzara’at seemed to come to life: We all had to navigate life outside of the camp, far from the familiar routines and rhythms of our lives, and then find our way back in. And so many people in our society functioned as “priests,” leaving isolation to work in our hospitals, grocery stores, and schools, making their way into and out of the camp during a time when those transitions were truly treacherous. 

At some point in life, almost all of us find ourselves experiencing a tough time, outside the camp. In those moments, may we be inspired by the rituals in our Torah, which teach us to be gentle with ourselves as we navigate our way back toward healing and wholeness, and to serve as priests—as sacred guides—for each other. 

Summer Series: Cycles of Life, Part 2: Siyyum, Wrapping Up and Beginning Anew

For Jews, often called the “People of the Book,” it’s no surprise that we have many opportunities to celebrate milestones in our learning. The most well-known of these occasions is probably Simchat Torah, a holiday dedicated to celebrating the completion of a year of Torah reading and the beginning of a new one. It’s an opportunity to reflect on what we have learned and discovered during the previous cycle of Torah reading, and to anticipate all the wisdom that we will receive as we start anew. 

But we also celebrate whenever we conclude major periods of study or landmark moments in our learning, and this type of joyful occasion even has a formal title: Siyyum, which means “completion” in Hebrew. 

I first learned about the concept of a siyyum at Jewish summer camp. There’s a stretch of nine days during the summer during which many Jews don’t eat meat (always considered a luxury) in anticipation of Tisha B’Av, a day of fasting and mourning in the Jewish calendar. But during this period, no one at camp—campers and staffers alike—wanted to skip barbeque night! There had to be some way to get around the prohibition against meat…and it turns out that there was. On barbeque night, we made a siyyum. We all gathered in the gym as one of the rabbis gave a shiur (a lesson) on a tractate of Talmud that he had just finished studying. We said the special Kaddish D’Rabbanan (Rabbis’ Kaddish), and the obligation to have a celebratory feast as part of the siyyum overrode the prohibition against eating meat. The burgers were consumed with extra gusto that evening. 

I will admit that I was skeptical at first. The siyyum felt like a loophole, almost like cheating…were we really engaging in Talmud study just so that everyone could eat a hot dog? But as I thought more about it, I realized the wisdom in this practice. The ritual of the siyyum demonstrates the elevated place of learning in Jewish tradition. The joy of learning can override times of sadness, and can help us overcome challenges and obstacles. Reaching a milestone moment in our learning is something to celebrate…so much so that it’s worth breaking a tradition or changing a custom, just a little bit, in order to honor the accomplishment. 

Over these past two weeks, we concluded another incredible school year in both the ECC and HSP. As we wrap up these periods of study, I think about a beautiful prayer that we recite upon completing a tractate of the Talmud. It’s so heartfelt that it might seem like the prayer is addressed to another person, but it is actually addressed to the material of the Talmud itself: Hadran alach, v’hadrach alan, We will return to you, and you will return to us; our mind is on you, and your mind is on us; we will not forget you, and you will not forget us – not now and not ever. 

As we make our own siyyum and say farewell to any period of study, Judaism reminds us that the wisdom we gained and the people with whom we shared our learning are always with us. The conclusion of all learning might leave us at the end of a chapter, but also places us at the cusp of new beginnings. And that is something to celebrate indeed. 

Summer Series: Cycles of Life, Part 1: Cycles of Life

Now that Memorial Day has passed, summer is here! This season offers the promise of new adventures and a chance to reset and recharge from the rigors of the school year.

It’s also a time of transition. In late spring, we celebrate as kids finish a year of school and transition to a new grade. (Growing up, my favorite day of the year was when, on the last day of say, first grade, I could declare: “I’m a second grader now!”) As I walk through the West Village in mid-May, I love seeing the purple gowns of graduating NYU students, who celebrate as they complete courses of study, earn degrees, and graduate from their programs. This is a popular season for B’nai Mitzvah ceremonies. And later in the summer, wedding season will begin. 

Any transition—from first-grader to second-grader, from student to alumnus, from child to teenager, from beloved friend to spouse—brings change and the need for realignment. No matter how joyful a given change might be, it always involves adjustment to new and unexplored realities. And of course, when we experience hardship, the changes that come with illness and loss of all kinds can be all the more challenging to face.

As the Hebrew expression goes: Kol hatchalot kashot. All beginnings are hard. Human beings innately understand that it takes time to incorporate and integrate a new aspect of our lives. That’s why all faith traditions have tools to help us navigate new realities. These tools are called rituals. Rituals, like tossing a cap in the air during graduation or standing under the wedding canopy and breaking a glass, transform us from one identity to another. But they also provide a framework to make sense of these new identities, as well as the new experiences that come with them. 

In honor of summer, this season of transition and growth, this D’var Torah series will explore moments along the Jewish life cycle and their accompanying rituals. We’ll discuss some of the more familiar ones, like a B’nai Mitzvah or a wedding, and some that might be less well known, like a siyyum, the conclusion of a period of study. But all will share key elements that help us navigate new beginnings. 

Let’s get started! 

Shavuot: What will you Receive?

Tonight, the countdown is complete. Since the night of the 2nd Seder, we have counted the Omer, the period of seven weeks between Passover and Shavout. During this time period of reflection and introspection, we have explored seven (out of ten) Divine attributes, which, according to Jewish mystical tradition, can actually be physically mapped in relation to each other:


Now, we experience the culmination of these attributes as we celebrate receiving the Torah during the holiday of Shavuot. Tonight, many Jews will stay up all night studying Torah and will eat dairy foods, two special customs of this holiday.

The Torah describes the dramatic scene of its own revelation:

On the third day, as morning dawned, there was thunder, and lightning, and a dense cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud blast of the horn; and all the people who were in the camp trembled…Mount Sinai was all in smoke, for יהוה had come down upon it in fire; the smoke rose like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled violently. The blare of the horn grew louder and louder. As Moses spoke, God answered him in thunder” (Exodus 19:16-19).  

It’s fun to imagine the drama of that scene, and some—like Cecil B. DeMille, director of the 1956 film The Ten Commandments—have even tried to capture it on screen. We learn that the experience of receiving the Torah directly from God was so overwhelming for the Israelites that they asked Moses, instead of God, to share the remainder of its contents. 

But the ancient Israelites who physically stood at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah weren’t the only ones who were present at the scene. Later in the Torah, Moses says: “I make this covenant…not with you alone, but both with those who are standing here with us this day before our God יהוה and with those who are not with us here this day” (Deuteronomy 29:13-14). 

Upon first read, it’s not quite clear what this means. Who exactly are the people who are “not with us here this day”? The medieval commentators answer emphatically: These are the future generations, as “[This covenant is made] with you and with those who come after you, namely, your children and your children’s children” (Ibn Ezra). 

Some take this claim even further and state that all Jews, even those who were not yet born, stood at Sinai and received the Torah together. In Midrash Tanuchma, a narrative interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, the ancient Rabbis teach: “The generations that have yet to come were also there at that time…all the souls were there, [even] when [their] bodies had still not been created.” 

It’s a powerful statement: No matter where we come from, when we were born, or how we practice, Jewish tradition asserts that we are all witnesses to revelation at Mount Sinai. The Torah wasn’t given to a small group of people millennia ago; we were also there, receiving it alongside our ancestors. This teaches us that the Torah belongs to all of us, and we are all responsible for it. 

As Shavuot coincides with the end of the school year—months of stimulation, growth, and learning—this is a perfect time to ask: What is the Torah that I have received this year? What new knowledge, new wisdom, and new insight have I gained? And what will I be ready to receive in the months to come? 

May we all find the Torah we are searching for as we (re)visit Mount Sinai this Shavuot. 

Shabbat shalom, and Chag Sameach, 

Rabbi Deena 

Counting the Omer: Malchut, Majesty

Even for those who don’t feel any connection to the British monarchy, or who recognize its many challenges, there was something powerful about witnessing the pageantry and ceremony of the coronation of King Charles III: the elaborate garments, the grand processions, the blasts of the trumpets, the majestic crown. The drama of special rituals reminds us of the human capacity for beauty, nobility, and greatness. Moments like these can be so powerful because they allow us to transcend our individual selves and feel part of something grand. 

In this final week before Shavuot, we reflect on the attribute of Malchut, or “Majesty.” Like the coronation of a monarch, Jewish rituals are also deeply powerful and moving. Just as the coronation transformed Charles from Prince to King, so too do Jewish rituals transform us from one state of being to another

Last week, I had the privilege to witness as Rabbi Jacob underwent two exciting Jewish rituals: his rabbinic ordination and his wedding! In the Torah, Moses transfers his leadership to his successor, Joshua. To transmit authority to Joshua, Moses lays his hands upon Joshua’s head (Numbers 27:18-20). The same ritual of laying of hands takes place during many rabbinic ordinations today. Before the open ark at Temple Emanu-El, Provost Rabbi Andrea Weiss places her hands on the heads on each ordinee, investing them with rabbinic authority and transforming them into Rabbis in the Community of Israel. And at every Jewish wedding, two friends stand underneath the chuppah, and through the exchange of rings, the recitation of blessings, and the breaking of a glass, they become family. These are just two examples of many beautiful and transformative rituals within Jewish tradition.

However, unlike coronation, Jewish tradition teaches that greatness is not a quality reserved solely for a monarch. Instead, a core principle of Judaism is the belief that there is inherent nobility and majesty within all humans

In the Midrash, Vayikra Rabbah (a narrative interpretation of the Hebrew Bible), the ancient Rabbis share the following story: 

Hillel the Elder, who, at the time that he was departing from his students, would walk with them. 

They said to him, “Rabbi, where are you walking to?” 

He said to them, “To fulfill a commandment!” 

They said to him, “And what commandment is this?” 

He said to them, “To bathe in the bathhouse.” 

They said to him: “But is this really a commandment?” 

He said to them, “Yes. Just as the statues of kings…are cleaned and polished…I, who was created in the image of God, how much more so!”

In other words, Hillel affirms that because we are created B’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God, each of us is essentially royal, and we should therefore treat ourselves and others with the dignity befitting a monarch. In our world, which depends so much on hierarchy and rank, this is a radical, countercultural idea. But when we live the value of seeing the Divine spark within all people, we can transform the world into a place of kindness, decency, and even majesty. 

Shabbat shalom,


Counting the Omer: Yesod, Foundation

Though Maren Morris’ hit song, The Bones, was released in 2019, it touches upon an ancient truth: a A strong foundation is the key to any physical building, any relationship, and any life well-lived. 

This week, as we explore different Divine attributes while we count the Omer, we reach the attribute of Yesod, which means “Foundation” in Hebrew. 

According to the Kabbalists, Yesod is the sum of the attributes of the previous two weeks: Netzach (perseverance) and Hod (magnificence). It’s no secret that it takes grit to pursue the things that make life meaningful, even magnificent: fulfilling work, healthy relationships, self-reflection, and righteous action, just to name a few. But without a sense of their worth, without a sense of wonder and awe in their pursuit, our perseverance won’t last very long, and it can become hard to stay motivated in the quest for meaning and joy. Our mystical wisdom says that when we combine these two attributes of perseverance and magnificence, we lay a solid foundation in our own lives, and God lays a solid spiritual foundation in our universe.   

This past Monday, hundreds of members and friends of our community gathered for our JCP 2023 Annual Benefit. We heard incredible tributes during the evening, and one sentiment was strong throughout: This community serves as a Yesod, an anchor and foundation, on our journeys through life. Through joyful moments, challenges, and everything in between, JCP surrounds us with the love and support that we need, and helps us discover the beauty of Jewish tradition and the power of community. 

JCP is a beautiful example of the strong foundation that can be built when we combine the attributes of perseverance and magnificence. When this neighborhood was devastated after 9/11, JCP’s founders had the vision and determination to create a community that could support strong and vibrant Jewish life downtown. Since then, we have done the important work of sustaining this community, thanks to the commitment and dedication of staff, leadership, and members alike. I believe this commitment stems from the inherent beauty and magnificence of what we are building. JCP is a perfect example of how Netzach and Hod come together to create a beautiful Yesod in our lives. 

The Book of Proverbs teaches: “The righteous one is an everlasting foundation” (10:25). May JCP serve as this everlasting foundation in our own lives and for generations to come. 

Shabbat shalom, 


Counting the Omer: Magnificence

I am sad to write that this is my last D’var Torah as the Rabbinic Fellow at the Jewish Community Project of Lower Manhattan after four truly magnificent years serving this community. This week’s quality that we focus on during the period between Passover and Shavuot, when we count the Omer, is “magnificence.” Hod in Hebrew, magnificence is the balancing force to the netzach, or perseverance, that we focused on last week. Whereas perseverance can be the fire that ignites us to keep going, noticing the magnificence in our lives and in the world can be the pause we need to take it all in.

In Numbers 27:20, God instructs Moses to invest in Joshua the magnificence of leadership using this same word, Hod. “Invest him with some of your authority (hod), so that the whole Israelite community will listen.” This ritual process of investing hod in upcoming leaders detailed in the Book of Numbers is the source for the current ritual of ordaining rabbis and cantors as clergy for the Jewish people, a blessing that Rabbi Deena received a few years ago and one that I’m privileged to receive this Sunday. When I pause to take in the grandeur of this moment, after years of perseverance to make my way through rabbinical school, I can’t help but think of the magnificence of this community where I learned what it really means to be a rabbi. 

Below are my remarks from last Shabbat in appreciation for the Jewish Community Project of Lower Manhattan and the abundant blessings you all have given me:

How can I even begin to describe these past four years at JCP?! I started out as a b’nai mitzvah tutor. It jumped out to me right away that we had 45-minute lessons with the b’nai mitzvah learners so we had time to really get to know each other amidst learning Torah portions and prayers. That underlying priority to connect with and support each other has defined my time here at JCP. Over four years of learning, teaching, singing, planning, drashing, officiating, and more. . . . I am most grateful to have been a part of and to have come into my own as an almost rabbi in this vibrant, warm, and open-hearted community.

At the end of that tutoring year, I called Rabbi Deena to ask if there might be any more work around JCP for a rabbinical student. She asked if I played the guitar, to which I replied yes. She then asked if I sang, to which I also replied yes. Little did I know that that would be the start of three years as Student Rabbi in this community. I also didn’t know that I would have the special opportunity to learn all that I have from Rabbi Deena—who always leads by example, interacts with every person who passes through JCP with compassion and presence, and is a wellspring of Jewish knowledge that I have been so lucky to soak up—most especially officiating lifecycle moments and teaching Biblical history. From babies to adults, and everything in between, I haven’t taken your trust or the privilege of serving this community for granted.

You all have inspired me as a rabbi-to-be, and have constantly reminded me of why I wanted to be a rabbi in the first place: to pursue meaning and connection in the Jewish tradition and to share that with others. You inspired me at my first JCP bat mitzvah, when the mother of the bat mitzvah shared that hearing her daughter practice her prayers on Zoom during the height of the pandemic was the highlight of her week as those timeless words of prayer filled her home. You inspired me when a preschooler came down to Babies and Blessings and jumped in her dad’s arms. You inspired me whenever I walked through HSP for the first time and saw children excited and happy to be in Hebrew school—even requesting certain prayers in t’filah which I can say with confidence. . . does not happen everywhere. You inspired me when one of my high schoolers summoned up the courage through some nerves to be a big buddy at last year’s Passover scavenger hunt, and was an amazing big buddy to his younger mate. You inspired me when you held the tallit over the children when we gave them their Friday night blessing. While I’ve learned a lot of the practical side of how to be a rabbi here, the liveliness and love in this community has fueled my spirit.

There’s a line in this week’s (last week’s) Torah portion, that God tells Moses to tell the Israelites “kedoshim ti’hiyu ki kadosh ani Adonai Eloheichem” (Leviticus 19:2). “You shall be holy for I, your God Adonai, am holy.” The “you shall be holy” part, “kedoshim ti’hiyu,” is notably in the plural form. You ALL shall be holy. This line really stuck out to me this week. As much Torah, as much prayer, as much meaning and connection that I’ve tried to pursue through five years of rabbinical school and longer, the goal of all of this is to be holy together. Kedoshim ti’hiyu. Thank you for being a special example of how to pursue holiness together—all of the staff who support this community as well as the community itself—and for inviting me into JCP with such warmth, encouragement, and care. Wherever I go from here, I am taking all of you and your imprint with me. Thank you for these special four years, for teaching me what it means to be a rabbi, and for showing me the holiness in doing this whole enterprise of Judaism together. 

Shabbat shalom,


Counting the Omer: Perseverance

In my sophomore year of high school, I struggled to get playing time on the basketball team. Although I was the first player off the bench by the end of the season, it took tremendous work, determination, and patience. My parents sat me down after the season ended and told me that they were proud of me. I can remember my dad, who has coached basketball for decades, saying “your perseverance will help you in whatever you want to do, beyond just basketball.”

This week’s sacred quality of focus during the counting of the Omer is netzach, or perseverance. In many regards, perseverance is the story of the Jewish people. The phrase “netzach Yisrael,” or “Israel’s perseverance,” from the Book of Samuel (I Samuel 15:29) has come to characterize the Jewish experience, enduring from generation to generation through time, place, and hardship. In our prayers, too, we recite the phrase “ul’netzach netzachim” to describe the infinite nature of our ongoing Jewish expression. Perseverance is an important quality for both Jewish individuals as well as the Jewish collective.

In addition to netzach capturing the determination and fortitude it takes to persist through challenging circumstances, it also represents the timelessness of Judaism and Jewish values. The pillars of Jewish practice, Torah, prayer, and acts of loving-kindness, can effectively ground and inspire us through competing values of the societies in which we live. These pillars already have persevered through countless kingdoms, civilizations, polities, and countries. As I once heard climate activist and author Daniel Sherrell say, “religion and spiritual practice are ‘boulders’ amidst the (challenges and pressures of the world).” Like a boulder, Jewish tradition perseveres.

Perseverance is essential in our own lives–during junior varsity basketball and beyond–and to Jewish tradition. The sacred quality of netzach can inspire us to go get what we want and to preserve our heritage which has endured for so long already. Perhaps Shabbat is the perfect day to do both: Do that which fills up our beings, despite competing factors on our time, and to take part in a Jewish tradition that has persevered for thousands of years.

Shabbat shalom,


Counting the Omer: Beauty

Recent JCP Bat Mitzvah Elizabeth Resnick taught about the priestly clothing described in the Book of Exodus a couple of months ago during her service. She encouraged all of us—family, friends, and officiants alike—to consider how our clothes represent our inner selves and the moment for which we’re dressing up. Elizabeth’s Torah portion, Exodus 28:2 instructs Moses to “Make sacral vestments for your brother Aaron, for dignity and adornment.” In this case, Aaron’s clothes and appearance are supposed to embody the dignity and adornment (tiferet) that define his sacred responsibility as the High Priest of the Israelites.

The word “adornment” in that verse, or tiferet in Hebrew, is the third holy characteristic upon which we reflect in the time between Passover and Shavuot. Tiferet can mean beauty or splendor in addition to adornment. Wisdom from the Jewish mystical tradition suggests that tiferet is the sum of the past two weeks’ characteristics, kindness and strength. In this tradition, Elizabeth’s teaching, and the Book of Exodus, beauty is far more than skin deep. The beauty that we can identify with our sight—sacral vestments, the ornaments on the Torah, clothes, and more–are all a manifestation of the internal beauty that flows within each of us and throughout our tradition.

There’s an idea in the Talmud that a Torah scholar’s appearance should represent their inner life. A prominent rabbi from the Talmud named Rabban Gamliel even instituted a rule that to enter his house of study, one’s “inside must be like their outside” (BT Berakhot 28a). Elsewhere, another rabbi from the Talmud named Rava says that any Torah scholar whose inside is not like their outside is not a Torah scholar at all (BT Yoma 72b). Both of these rabbis’ insistence that students of Torah must represent themselves authentically emphasizes the idea that outward appearances are ideally reflections of that which is on the inside.

The sacral vestments represent the beauty of divine service and leadership. Torah ornaments show the splendor that is found within the scrolls themselves. Our clothes, too, can manifest the sacred dignity and beauty inherent to humanity. I’ll leave you with the Jewish blessing for experiencing moments of intense beauty: Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech HaOlam, shekacha lo ba’olamo. Blessed are You God, for these things in the world.

Shabbat shalom,