Blog: Rabbi Hoffman

Posted by Rabbi Joshua Hoffman on October 16, 2019

The Jewish calendar is bunched up during this month with Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Shemini Atzeret, and finally Simchat Torah. That is a lot of time in synagogue! While we’re always happy to see our community to share the rhythms of time together, there is a kind of fatigue that comes by the end of the holidays. But the last holiday of the season is the best! We finish these holidays with one of the most joyous, raucous, and energetic events - Simchat Torah - the day we celebrate the end of the Torah reading on a weekly basis and begin reading the Torah all over again.

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Posted by Rabbi Joshua Hoffman on September 18, 2019

As parents, we try to learn from the vast wisdom of others and to teach our children to behave with care and compassion.  I remember the years, not too long ago, when we helped our young children learn the word ‘share.’ Fearing that their developing maturity would prompt long, scream-filled battles with their older siblings while claiming, “Mine!” we thought “Share” would be the best response. Much to our surprise, they took to the word beautifully, and now use the word “Share” every time they really want to say, “Mine!” 

“Share! Share! Share!”...

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Posted by Rabbi Joshua Hoffman on May 29, 2019

B.D.S., warring factions in the Knesset, the Nation-State Bill, Gaza, Muslims in Congress, antisemitism in Europe and America, hate speech on US college campuses, and on and on.  It’s difficult to hear anything else beyond the shouts and murmurs about the State of Israel and the fate of Jews in the world. These past months there have also been an abundance of celebration in Israel, from talented musical expression in the Eurovision awards, to examples of religious tolerance and pluralism, to attempts to land on the moon, and on and on too...

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Posted by Rabbi Joshua Hoffman on April 16, 2019

Someone, like my Uncle Mike, will fondly pronounce at the Seder with a snicker in his voice, “We were slaves, now we’re free. Let’s eat!” After all, it is Passover in an instant, in even less than 140 characters. What’s all this extra talk about matzah, bitter herbs, plagues, and a song about what would have been enough? “If God brought us to Mt. Sinai in the desert and didn’t bring us to the Promised Land, Dayenu - it would have been enough!” Really?! Well, we do get carried away.

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Posted by Rabbi Joshua Hoffman on March 27, 2019

This past Sunday through Tuesday, approximately 75 Valley Beth Shalom members travelled to Washington D.C. to join the gathering of some 18,000 pro-US/Israel partnership advocates at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference. It was awesome! We learned together, celebrated together, and proudly expressed our appreciation and steadfast commitment together.  We heard from the country’s most influential leadership, including top representatives of the U.S. Congress and the Israeli Knesset, and dignitaries from countries as far as Romania, Honduras, and Great Britain.

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Posted by Rabbi Joshua Hoffman on February 28, 2019

As a child, I was fearless in the ocean. Waves would come crashing down and I would leap headlong toward them to overcome their kinetic force. There were even times that I would take a floating board and sit atop the wave as it rumbled to the shore. Nothing was more fearful, however, when I would get caught under an oncoming wave and be tossed and tumbled by the crushing force, hoping to have enough breath and enough equilibrium to restore my balance on the ocean floor before the next wave crested.  The scariest moments were when wave after wave would break and I could not readily feel any return to balance. It seemed like the unsettling force would never end.

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Posted by Rabbi Joshua Hoffman on January 10, 2019

“In the Beginning!” These epic words resonate with the vibrations of Creation.  Just like “Once Upon a Time” begins our favorite tales, these words are cosmic and universal.  More than a starting point, they situate us in a grand narrative of who we are, and maybe even foretell who we might yet become.  In our day, the greatest minds are spent determining ‘the beginning’ of the universe and work to discover more truth about that moment. 

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Posted by Rabbi Joshua Hoffman on October 25, 2018

When was the last time you tried to define your understanding of friendship? Would you say that your definition, if you were able to come up with one, has changed over time? We think we know what a friend is or ought to be. We even think we know who are and are not our friends. But words won’t ever quite adequately describe what we feel when we have a friend. Perhaps that is what makes these relationships so powerfully important to us.

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Posted by Rabbi Joshua Hoffman on September 20, 2018

We celebrate a tradition that encourages us to become masters of fine souls while we stitch our broken pieces back together.

When the news broke that Leonard Cohen passed in November 2016, he had already been flown back from Los Angeles to Montreal, his childhood home, and buried according to traditional Jewish rites. There was no doubt that this musician, philosopher and poet had a very Jewish soul. His family belonged to the shul in Montreal. He belonged to the shul. And while he may have practiced Buddhism and eschewed a traditionally observant life, he was brought home when he passed and buried with his family, with his people. His gift to the world - his music and his poetry - now perpetually resonate with the minor chord, the Jewish chord.

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Posted by Rabbi Joshua Hoffman on September 12, 2018

In times of uncertainty, truth and confidence are found in a moral balance, if only we will listen.

Wanda Diaz Merced is an accomplished astrophysicist. Several years ago, though, she lost her sight due to an extended illness. Challenged by the rigors of her field, one that primarily uses sight to interpret the data collected from the vast universe, she and her team devised a method of translating information into sound, called sonification. With the lilt and timber of sounds like musical notes, the information collected about some of the most rare phenomena studied by humanity was translated and reported by Dr. Merced.  And in time, she was able to discover a supernova, the incredible death of a star, that released more energy in one instant than what our sun produces in 10 days. She discovered this all without sight. With the help of sonification, she was listening.

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