All posts by Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld

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We do not make the journey to Sinai alone

Dear friends, Next week, Jewish communities around the world will gather to celebrate the holiday of Shavuot and the anniversary of the giving of the Torah. We have been preparing for seven weeks. Counting each day, from the second night of Passover to the first night of Shavuot, through 49 days of wilderness, 49 days of wandering. We offer a blessing each night before we count — a quiet reminder, if… Read Article →

Rabbinical School Divrei Torah Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld

“We are all broken vessels, infinitely precious in the eyes of God”

A midrash from Vayikra Rabbah on this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Emor, teaches: Rabbi Aba bar Yudan taught: All that God prohibited in an animal sacrifice, God accepts in a human being. What is prohibited in an offering?  When a person offers, from the herd or the flock, a sacrifice of well-being to the Lord…it must, to be acceptable, be without blemish; there must be no defect in it. Anything… Read Article →

Pluralistic Perspectives Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld

“As we count each day and bless the counting, may we be reminded to count our blessings”

Dear friends, Every day, from the second night of Passover to the festival of Shavuot, we literally count our days. The period is known as the Omer, originally rooted in the agricultural rhythms of ancient Israel, a time of both anxiety and anticipation, as farmers waited to see what the season’s first harvest would yield. Most of us are far removed from the experience of watching for signs of a… Read Article →

Pluralistic Perspectives Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld

“Questions Unite People, Answers Divide Them” (Elie Wiesel)

Dear friends, “The essential questions have no answers. You are my question, and I am yours — and then there is dialogue. The moment we have answers, there is no dialogue. Questions unite people, answers divide them.” I can’t think of a time when we have more needed to hear these wise words from our teacher Elie Wiesel, of blessed memory. We are living in a world where we are… Read Article →

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Generosity of Heart

Note: This message was originally distributed on March. 22, 2017 to the Hebrew College  community, alumni and friends. Dear friends, Generosity of heart. Nedivut halev. This is the starting place for the building of the mishkan. This is how we begin to make room for the divine presence in our midst. In this week’s Torah portion, Vayakhel-Pekudei, Moses instructs all of the generous hearted among the people to bring offerings to the Lord… Read Article →

Seventy Faces of Torah Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld

What Went Wrong, and Other Questions (Parshat Ki Tissa, Exodus 30:11-34:35)

What went wrong? That is the question that hovers over this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tissa. One moment, we are with Moses on top of Mount Sinai, silent witnesses to his intimate encounter with the Divine Presence, watching as he receives the tablets of the covenant, the perfect revelation of God’s word. This is the gift we imagine we long for: The Definitive Truth, placed into human hands. Irrefutable, immutable… Read Article →

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“You may not turn your back and say amen”

Note: This message was originally distributed on March. 8th, 2017 to the Hebrew College  community, alumni and friends. Dear friends, One of my favorite practices on Purim is the mitzvah of mishloach manot — delivering gifts of food to friends and neighbors. Rabbi David Hartman relates this mitzvah to the fact that the Book of Esther, which we read on Purim, does not mention the name of God. Purim speaks to all… Read Article →

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“And these are the laws.”

Note: This message was originally distributed on Feb. 22, 2017 to the Hebrew College community, alumni and friends. Last week’s Torah reading, Parashat Yitro, brought us back to the mysterious encounter at Sinai, where we stood — a trembling people before a trembling mountain — and listened for the commanding voice of the God who brought us out of Egypt. Parashat Mishpatim offers a striking contrast to the grandeur of… Read Article →

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“God Has Placed in My Mouth A New Song”

Note: This message was originally distributed on Feb. 10, 2017 to the Hebrew College community, alumni and friends. This coming Shabbat, two moments converge on our sacred calendar – the holiday of Tu b’Shvat, on which we celebrate the new year for trees, and Shabbat Shirah, on which we chant the Song of the Sea. These two moments call out to us with a deep and important reminder: the possibility of… Read Article →

Rabbinical School Divrei Torah Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld

Listening to the Call of the Shofar

Although it’s not Yom Kippur yet, I might as well begin with a confession. My natural tendency during this season of teshuvah, is to swing rather dramatically between the poles of self-judgment and compassion. I zealously take on the role of prosecuting attorney – enumerating my failings, flushing as I recall moments of regret and shame. (Okay, “moments” may be a bit of an understatement.) After I’ve had about as… Read Article →