All posts by Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld

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Speaking Torah: “Betzalel came and healed the wound.”

Last week’s parsha, Ki Tisa, recounts what is quite possibly the lowest moment in the relationship between God and the people of Israel in the entire Torah. Last week, when Moshe and God became aware of the chasm between what was happening on top of the mountain and what was happening down below, it was devastating. Whatever made the people build that golden calf—whether it was lack of imagination, or… Read Article →

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Speaking Torah: Mi Yodea. Who knows?

I have come to believe that the most important verse in the entire megillah—the verse that represents the pivotal turning point in the Purim story – comes near the end of chapter four, when Mordechai sends a message to Esther, urging her to reveal her identity to King Achashverosh and plead on behalf of the Jewish people.  Remarkably, Mordechai’s message to Esther hinges on two simple words – two words… Read Article →

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Speaking Torah: The Capacity to Understand

The command—not to oppress the stranger—is rooted in our own experience of strangeness.  It is repeated no fewer than 36 times in the Torah, but, in this week’s parasha, I imagine how it must have sounded to the ears of those newly freed slaves who stood trembling at the base of the mountain—exhausted, elevated, and called to radical empathy. Remember all that you have been through, and then translate it… Read Article →

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Speaking Torah: Shabbat Shirah

It is tempting to see this week’s Torah portion as the hinge on which the entire story of the Exodus swings. The process that began with a Cry—the deep, inarticulate cry of slaves so beaten down that they could not muster a protest or even a prayer—now culminates in Song. It is tempting to see this as the Big Turning Point—when we finally leave Egypt behind and step gratefully into… Read Article →

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Rabbi Daniel Judson Named New Rabbinical School Dean

A Letter from President-Elect Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld Dear friends, I am delighted to announce the appointment of Rabbi Daniel Judson as the new Dean of the Hebrew College Rabbinical School. Rabbi Arthur Green (founding Dean and Rector of the Rabbinical School) and I have asked Dan to assume this role. We are confident that he is the right person to carry the program forward, working closely with both of us as we… Read Article →

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Speaking Torah: Some say…

“To act in the image of the God of Exodus is to reach  out to each other  with our own  strong  hands and outstretched arms.” As we open our calendars to the start of the secular New Year this week, we open the Torah scroll to the beginning of Sefer Shemot, the first chapters of the Exodus story. It is difficult to say exactly where the journey out of Egypt begins. Some… Read Article →

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Speaking Torah: With Strong Hands and Outstretched Arms

Parashat Shemot (Exodus 1:1-6:1) The story of our departure from Egypt begins with a cry—the deep, inarticulate cry of pain and longing that rises up from the bellies of the Israelite slaves and ascends to heaven. It is their cry, in this week’s Torah portion, that—after generations of slavery—finally evokes a response from God, and sets the process of liberation in motion. “The Israelites were groaning under their bondage and… Read Article →

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Speaking Torah: “Just as one candle ignites another, may we ignite each other’s spirits”

For a long time, my mother has had two photographs hanging on her dining room wall. The first is a photograph of an empty city street at night, with one small light illuminating a darkened storefront. The second is photograph of a vast frozen field of snow, with a family of four bundled up in their winter coats and huddled together in the foreground. My mother, an amateur photographer herself,… Read Article →

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Gratitude Abounds: Remarks from Hebrew College’s President-Elect

This summer I spent a lot of time with an article called The Gift Must Always Move By the translator and poet Lewis Hyde. It is about gratitude, And about cultures of gratitude. It’s about living with an awareness of the gifts we have received And are constantly receiving – And the generosity that flows from that awareness. To know how much one has been given By other people By… Read Article →

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Speaking Torah: “We must choose life in the world we’ve got, and plant our gardens on this side of the rainbow”

An ancient rabbinic midrash tells us that God created and destroyed many worlds before bringing this one into being. The tale speaks, I believe, to an impulse that is all too familiar. The impulse—when confronted with profound disappointment—to destroy in order to begin again. This is the impulse that overtakes God, as it were, at the very end of last week’s Torah portion. “The Lord saw how great was man’s… Read Article →