All posts by Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld

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 →

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Hayom Harat Olam

This sermon was originally delivered on Rosh Hashanah 5776 at the Newton Centre Minyan.    In a little while, as we stand and hear the call of the shofar, We will recite these words. Hayom harat olam.  Translated in our machzor: “Today the world stands as at birth.” The liturgy beckons us back to the beginning of time. We are invited to imagine the world as utterly new. A pristine universe… Read Article →

Community Blog Sharon Cohen Anisfeld

While Standing on One Foot: A Compassion Practice

I have spent the last week grieving privately. Horrified — nauseated, actually — by the two murders that took place in Israel last week. The first victim: Shira Banki, a 16-year-old girl, stabbed by an ultra-Orthodox Jew at the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem last week. She succumbed to her wounds this past Sunday morning.  Five other young people were injured in the attack. The second victim: Ali Dawabsheh, an 18-month-old from a Palestinian village… Read Article →

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More Than One Thing: Purim and Reflections of the Image of God

Megillat Esther, which we read on the holiday of Purim this week, is a flamboyant, even farcical tale of good and evil. Its characters on the face of it are caricatures of human virtue and vice: Achashueras, the foolish king who sits on the throne but exercises no true leadership or authority; Haman, the sinister power behind the throne who cleverly executes his genocidal plan until he himself is executed upon… Read Article →

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Wandering and Welcoming

This week’s Torah reading begins with the command, “Lech lecha”: Go forth. Go out from your land and from your father’s house. Go. When my husband and I first met, he told me that his family had a kind of motto: “Set yourself in motion and things will happen to you.” My own family did not really have a motto, but if we did, it probably would have been something like, “Stand perfectly… Read Article →

Community Blog Noah's Ark

This Side of the Rainbow

On the day of my wedding, 22 years ago this past August, my mother – who does not distribute such compliments freely or lightly – said to my husband Shimi, “You are the best possible son-in-law I could imagine.” A few minutes later, Shimi – feeling both honored and relieved – shared the compliment with a friend. “My mother-in-law just told me that I’m her ideal son-in-law!” My mother, who… Read Article →