Category Archives: Judaica

Change of Fate?

Every 3rd Saturday of the month I run the Family Learners Minyan (prayer space) & Torah study, as part of our religious school program  at Mishkon Tephilo in Venice Beach. Here parents join their 2nd-3rd grade children, and we dialogue, experience and learn prayers together, learn some Torah, then we join the community for a lovely kiddush after.

This week was parshat Vayishlakh, where we learned about Jacob having to face his brother Esau for the first time in 20 years after Jacob “stole” Esau’s birthright. First we studied the lyrics to The Song for Parshat Vayishlakh (click here to listen)

Song for Parshat Vayishlach


Yaakov returned to the promised land
With children, wives and riches grand
Yaakov’s fear of Esav was so strong
Esav was angry for so long

Chorus: Vayishlach Yaakov Malochim L’fonov
And Yaakov sent messengers to Esav

Esav was coming with four hundred men
Yaakov davened to Hashem
For milchama we must prepare
He told his family, “Have no fear.”


With Esav’s Malach, Yaakov had a fight
It lasted throughout the night
Yaakov won, the malach did fall
Yaakov’s name was changed to Yisroel

After we read through the song and translated all the Hebrew, we were ready to sing the catchy, klezmer song. What a fun way to learn about the parsha!
Then we turned to a little Talmud (Rabbinic Literature) for us all to ponder over.

And Rabbi Isaac said [further]:  Four things cancel the decree against (fate of) a person, and they are: charity, crying out [in prayer], changing one’s name, and changing one’s conduct.

Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 16b

But what ended up happening? Did Esau take revenge? Or is it possible that Jacob changed his fate? When we look back at our story, we find that Jacob not only cried at to God in prayer, but his name was changed – AND he changed his conduct (fear/no fear) – These are most of the ingredients, that according to Rabbi Isaac of the Talmud, Jacob was able to change his destiny – and in the end, his brother met him with love – and even a kiss! What a beautiful reminder that change really is possible…and that it might actually be in our own hands!
Our wonderful service concluded with a Shehekhiyau blessing, when a mother whom I had asked to open the arc to return the Torah, announced to us all that she had never done that before in her life.  It was such a profound moment, watching an orthodox-raised mother, trying to teach her own daughter Judaism in a non-traditional world – walked up proudly, open the arc (for the first time ever in her life) and cried beautiful tears of joy and awe. I stopped the entire community in our tracks and announced that this was the perfect time for a blessing over a special moment in time. Together we sang words of gratitude to our Creator for bringing this moment of time to existence.  She held the Torah as we sang Eitz Chayim He, (It is a Tree of Life), then carefully placed it back in its spot inside the arc, closing it softly. She had just been transformed, and we all were so blessed to have witnessed it.
God is a verb

BOOK: God is a Verb

What a blessed book this is!  If you have ever been interested in Mystical Judaism/Kabbalah, this is the book for you. I absolutely can not put it down….but I am taking my time with it so as to not finish it too quickly!

This book does ask for a little Judiac background, but if you have none and are interested in learning, you’ll do just fine.

Rabbi David has an incredible way of sharing in God’s love and the “faces” of God we’ve all experienced – or hope to experience.

This book is a great reminder that this world is in fact a magical and mystical place….and there is much more that we don’t know about why.


Engaging Bar/Bat Mitzvah Tutoring

Engaging & Personal


It can be an overwhelming (and exciting!) time for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah student to prepare for the big day.   I take great pride in shaping each lesson to you or your child’s specific needs, while creating a fun and supportive atmosphere to learn in.

A 6 month weekly preparation period works best.  The talmid will learn trope for both Torah and Haftorah,  all required  blessings, the week’s Torah parsha (usually 2-4 aliyahs worth) and the full Haftorah.  My goal is to help your child (or you) reach the spiritual essence of the celebration and preparation, so that this incredible transition in your life is memorable, profound and positively impactful for both the B’nai Mitzvah and family.

Preparing a bar or bat mitzvah takes a LOT of work, patience and time.  It is never easy.  There is a foreign language involved, melodies that are unfamiliar to the ear, ancient text that can be tough to pronounce….and over all, it can be transformative time for a 12/13-year-old.

That is where I come in!


  • An initial consultation to discuss the simcha, details of the parsha and services requirements
  • A weekly one-on-one sessions (or as often as permits)
  • Easy to follow, call and response audio CDs of the Torah portion, Haftorah and the trope.
  • A timeline of goals over-viewing our process together.  This helps to ensure the student (and parents) are comfortable with the amount of work needed for fulfilling the roles of a Bar/Bat Mitzah….Lots to do!

Here’s to your successful celebration! I look forward to assisting you through this simcha with you and your family!

B’ahvah U’vratzon,


PASSOVER: 4 Sons & 4 Aspects of Self


the 4 Aspects of Self


Retell the story of Exodus from Egypt with 4 glasses of wine, 4 questions and the perspective of the 4 sons.

How do we reflect upon slavery historically and in our daily lives?

Modern Perspective:

The 4 Sons are NOT 4 types of people, but 4 aspects of our selves.

How can we experience freedom in our daily lives and community?



The traditional Haggadah speaks of “four sons”

  • The “wise son” who is able to process the story and ask deep questions about it
  • The “wicked son” who dissociates with the story and challenges the -family- or -community-
  • The “simple son” who wants to understand but doesn’t seem to grasp the depth
  • And, the ”one who does not know to ask” is given an overview in a nutshell.

Personal Inquiry:

What do these “sons” really REPRESENT?

Consider for a moment, the biggest challenge in your current life.  If you can’t think of one, something you’ve struggled with or even the story of Passover.

How do we overcome these obstacles?

  • A “wise self” can see that the current issue exists for a reason. Are we learning the lesson? Without struggle, can we really know freedom?
  • The “wicked self” must embody power, strength and courage to break through the [confines of bondage] or [current realities] to gain real freedom.  The “wicked self”  here is not actually wicked, but awake enough to make changes from oppression to redemption.  Without a fight, can we feel accomplished?  What examples of our modern history (or in your own life) showcase this?
  • However, the “simple self” has the great opportunity to come back to what matters most.  Why are we fighting the fight? Are we moving forward with good reason?
  • But what of the self that “does not know how to ask”? Challenges are so uniquely personal, almost as if they have been divinely inspired.  This is the mystical spark of life that can not be explained through words, but only experienced. For this, we are simply left in awe.

May we each experience new levels of freedom and have a truly meaningful Pesach.


Chag Semach! & Shabbat Shalom….


RAW-nakkah Latkes!

Absolutely Raw-some Latkes

Oh WOW were these latkes awesome! I even made a raw sour kream and apple sauce.  I wish I had left overs!!

2 medium sweet potatoes

1 bunch of green onions

1/2 C of flax meal

3/4 C olive oil

Salt & black pepper

1/2 TBS  Onion Powder

1/2 TBS Garlic Powder

2 tsp  Amino Acids/Nama Shoyu

Peel sweet potatoes and shred in food processor. Place into mixing bowl.  Place green onions (about 6 or 7) into food processor and blend – add to mixing bowl.  Add flax meal (holds latkes together) and olive oil (I usually eye it, so you may want more or less) Add salt, onion powder, black pepper, and a few squirts of amino acids.

Mix really well.  Should be quite moist.  Scoop into pancake shapes and place on your teflon sheets in your dehydrator.  Set on 120 for about 6 hours.

Sour Kream

1 C Cashews

1/2 C Red Onion

Dash of Garlic


1 Lime (I didn’t have any lemon, that would work well too)


Black pepper

2 cap fulls of Apple Cider Vinegar   *secret ingredient!

Blend all ingredients in blender or food processor until kreamy. Apple Cider Vin. is used to create the tang effect for the sour kream.  Play with amounts until it tastes AMAZING!

**To make apple sauce, simply place apples in blender and enjoy! **