All posts by Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld

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 →

Seventy Faces of Torah Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld

Creating Worlds with Our Words: Shabbat Shuva/Parshat Vayelech (Deteronomy 31:1-31:30)

“Every day, consciously and unconsciously, human beings scatter heaps of words to the wind . . .” — Haim Nachman Bialik We live in a world in which we are constantly pummeled with words — words of pundits and preachers, politicians and salespeople, promoters and self-promoters of every persuasion. It feels increasingly difficult to sift through all this verbiage for words that matter. It feels increasingly difficult to discern the… Read Article →

Rabbinical School Divrei Torah Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld

Humility and Hope in an Uncertain World: A Purim Teaching

This morning’s Torah reading begins with a divine call. Vayikra el Moshe vayedaber Adonai elav. Something, someone calls out to Moses, and God speaks to him. Vayikra. There are two things about the opening word of this verse and this sefer (book) that are noteworthy and that have given rise to much commentary. First, we are not initially told the subject of the verb “called”. Vayikra el Moshe. Not God… Read Article →

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The Many Faces of Purim

This sermon was originally delivered at Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, CA on March 18, 2016. As we move into Shabbat Zachor this evening, I wanted to say a little about Purim, and some of how I have come to understand the rather strange and raucous way we celebrate this narrowly averted experience of attempted genocide.  It’s not an immediately intuitive occasion on which to throw a party. The story… Read Article →

Seventy Faces of Torah Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld

Time to Teach

Parshat Mishpatim, Exodus 21:1-24:18 Last week, my daughter and three of her friends spoke to a group of aspiring rabbis and cantors about issues of mental health and spiritual wellbeing among teens. It was a rare opportunity for a roomful of adults to simply listen and learn from teenagers, who were thoughtful, reflective, and remarkably honest about their inner lives – and willing to share what they want from the adults in… Read Article →

Seventy Faces of Torah Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld

No Guarantees for the Righteous

Parshat Vayishlach, Genesis 32:3-36:43 The Torah is famously laconic about the emotional lives of its central characters. We are left to imagine what Abraham was feeling as he walked up Mount Moriah with his son Isaac at his side, or what Rachel felt when she discovered that her older sister Leah had laid with Jacob in the marital bed intended for her. It is all the more striking, then, that… Read Article →