With so many deaths from London to Tel Aviv to Orlando in the last week alone, it’s important to remember that violence is never holy. In the memory of those lives lost, I thought I would include this excerpt from a chapter that I wrote about gun violence for a forthcoming volume.
Rabbi Noah Farkas's blog
Thursday, May 26, 2016: This morning I had the privilege to give the invocation at the LA County's Productivity conference. It's always inspiring to share your vision with others. Especially those who enrich the loves of so many.
Rabbi Farklas loves his PASSOVER QUIZZES! We have his quizes from 2012-2016 here for your Passover holiday enjoyment.
This week’s Torah portion brings us to the final section of the Book of Exodus. It’s a summary of a construction project that began weeks ago. God sets out a plan to build the Mishkan, a holy tent that is meant to be a gathering place for the community and central location of the ritual cult of sacrifice.
I felt a little silly last night as we drove the hills of Encino at 10:00 PM looking for homeless individuals amongst the million-dollar mansions. Yet, we had to drive those streets as part of the annual Homeless Count coordinated by the Los Angeles Homelessness Services Authority (LAHSA).
Thanksgiving thoughts from Rabbi Noah Farkas
VBS Homelessness Task Force
Rosh Hashanah Sermon, September 15, 2015
Seven Sacred Questions from Rabbi Noah Farkas for you and your family on Rosh Hashanah.
Twenty three years ago, Rabbi Schulweis took to the podium at Valley Beth Shalom on Rosh Hashanah and spoke openly and honestly about the need to include LGBT individuals into our community.
Last week, VBS held a community forum with the Command Staff of the LAPD. It was one night after the fatal shooting at Mother Emmanuel. Here is the invocation I gave:
Homelessness: May 2015
Apathy: definition: noun: absence or suppression of passion, emotion, or excitement.
There’s a town called Atri in India. It’s a remote village that, back in 1959 was about 40 miles from the closest hospital. These 40 miles circumnavigate the Gehlour mountain hills which block any direct access from one village to the next. Once, a woman named Falguni suffered a grave injury in the village and her young husband, Dashrath took her in his wagon along the treacherous path seeking help. Due to the long journey, Falguni died because of the lack of timely medical treatment.
Passover Quiz Show: April 2014 by Rabbi Noah Farkas
Game of Many Thrones: The new season is underway! One of the many commandments we celebrate on Passover is to recline while we eat. In the show, the throne is made of melted swords (not so nice for the tuchus). In the quiz below, these chairs however are great for sitting on during the seder. Read the descriptions below and have your guests guess what kind of chair it is.
What is a garden? Not many of us have thought of that question in some depth. Gardens are, for the most part, little plots of land where we can dig in the soil and plant some flowers or maybe a tomato. It’s a good place to spend a spring evening or summer morning. Gardens are much more than that. In the Torah, God is the first Gardener, making a home for the world in a garden. So here’s the big question. If God created the world, why did God need a garden for humanity and animals? The open expanse of the earth is there for God to toil, and yet a walled garden is the divine choice? Why?
We see them every time we are waiting at a stop light, getting on or off the freeway, the ones with the cardboard signs. We see them pushing shopping carts, loaded with their life’s possessions or just sitting at bus stops, not waiting for the bus. Our city is bursting with homeless people, thousands of them chronically so, some for just a short period, many veterans and too many children. They are not just on skid row or Venice Beach. They are everywhere, throughout the county, in urban and suburban areas, in Hollywood and also in the Valley. They are the homeless, and we see them.
Is the world enough; have you ever asked yourself that question? The world as it stands, with all its messy goodness and impropriety, is it enough for us? Many have answered that question with a resigned 'yes.' In light of all the intractable conflicts, violence, and greed, how could we not see the world and say this is enough because it has to be enough. Henry James, the sociologist and thinker once wrote, "Life is, in fact, a battle.
Last Thursday, I met two extraordinary gentlemen in the span three hours. I was invited, along with hundreds of other Jewish leaders from across the country, to Washington D.C. to gather in the “People’s House” to celebrate the conclusion of Hanukkah. My good friend and congregant, Janice Kamenir Reznik, an inspiring leader and founder of Jewish World Watch, invited me along to experience this momentous occasion because of my work inside and out of Valley Beth Shalom pushing for social change.
It’s been two months since we launched the new art gallery at VBS. The idea behind the space is to turn every inch of our building into an opportunity to teach Torah, beautify our experience, and engage our collective conscience. Our first exhibit, “Faces of Homelessness” which seeks to bring the stories of the homeless into our halls so that we might learn from them, has had a great impact on the Jewish community of the San Fernando Valley.
Every Shabbat I walk to synagogue. Sometimes I walk alone; sometimes I walk with my family. Now, it’s about a mile from my place to here. I walk down Ventura passing by the stores and under the 405 underpass. Many of you see me walking, some of you, honk at me to say hello! Some others of you even pull over, offering me a ride, and I thank you for that. But what many of you don’t see, what many of us have forgotten to see - is that in that one mile stretch there used to be two homeless men sleeping under that overpass.
Faces of Homelessness:
Painting the Unseen Among Us- A Mission Statement
By Rabbi Noah Zvi Farkas (@RabbiNoah)
Valley Beth Shalom is proud to be known as an innovative and inclusive community that offers a dynamic Judaism expressed in learning, worship, activism, and community. As part of that expression, VBS promotes artistic expressions of Jewish values. Our new initiative will transform the very wall spaces of VBS into “learning exhibitions” that further our long and respected tradition of arts engagement.
By Rabbi Noah Zvi Farkas (@RabbiNoah)
By Rabbi Noah Zvi Farkas (@RabbiNoah)
Ever hear the NPR quiz show called “Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me!”? Well, here is my second annual Passover version of it that you can enjoy at your seder. Thanks to Rabbi Rob Scheinberg for the stories this year. (If you want to read last year’s, click here).
VBS CARES – we created this newsletter for those in our community that have been touched by death to teach one simple message: “You are not alone.”
When a loved one dies the fabric of our lives tears open like an old pair of pants whose hem has become worn out. With a shriek and a cry our lives change. Just a moment before, there was a life in this world that loved and cared for us, whose very presence was gift and brought light into our lives. And now they are gone.
If you’re like me, January prompts you to reexamine a few bothersome behaviors – and make a few (or more) resolutions for the coming year. Making resolutions is a dangerous proposition, of course. A strictly goal-oriented approach gives us a flat, “all or nothing” mandate that can lead to failure. By February, our resolution has dropped off our spiritual radar, and we marinate our inertia in the guilt of giving up. As the negative emotions pile up, we risk (as the rabbis say), “begetting one sin with another”--creating a vicious cycle that leaves us in a spiritual mess.
As the American holiday season begins in earnest this Thursday with the annual ritual of eating too much and watching football, there will be some Jews who will celebrate Thanksgiving without a turkey. For vegetarians this is not a surprise; after all, turkeys are animals and if you don’t eat animals, then no turkey for you. Food activists might give up on the bird if it wasn’t raised in the proper conditions and treated properly. These ethical eaters could easily go with a heritage turkey, but they might as well eat something more sustainable or just.
This fall we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” the book that launched the modern environmentalist movement. Carson’s genius was in her ability to arrange opaque facts and smith compelling prose in order to make her case. She describes her habit of walking into the woods and listening the chorus of nature, and when on a particular morning, she noticed its absence:
My fondest memory of our Rosh Hashanah table is from even before we sat down to eat. As I was growing up, one of my chores on the Jewish New Year was to help set the table. Every year, as my mother would leave the plate of apples and honey on the table while she attended to some other kitchen task, I would sneak over and try to grab an apple slice off the pile, dip it in honey, and sneak out. The trick, of course, was making sure that pile of apple slices looked undisturbed. I had to choose my apple slice carefully, making the whole effort sort of like a fruit-base Jenga puzzle.