Blog: Rabbi Hoffman

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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Posted by Rabbi Joshua Hoffman on August 16, 2018

A recent Pew survey revealed just how little trust there is among the millions of people who use the internet daily.  A whopping 4% indicated that they do indeed “trust the internet a lot.” That’s not a mistake. Four percent! And if I asked you the question, “Do you trust the internet?” directly, you would more than likely hold your own reservations. This seems obvious enough. The preponderance of advertisements masquerading as news, the awkward email requests from friends who claim to have lost their wallet in Nigeria, and the relentless and mind-numbing publication of privacy policies reveal just how suspicious this vital technological tool has become for us.

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Posted by Rabbi Joshua Hoffman on July 26, 2018

This poem is resonating in my consciousness these days and I want to share it with you all. We’re living in times where love and doubts are screaming and shouting for justice. I hope these words guide you as they are for me this Shabbat.

The Place Where We Are Right
by Yehuda Amicha

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Posted by Rabbi Joshua Hoffman on May 31, 2018

Have you seen this? Food engineers have created something amazing. It looks like meat, tastes like meat, and you can serve it as a cheeseburger. Best of all? It’s Kosher. Orthodox Kosher. That’s perhaps why the name of the producer is called, Impossible Foods. The meat is not meat at all. It’s plant based, completely vegan, and looks delicious!

For those shackled by the constraints of a legally bound and religiously sanctioned diet, this news is liberating. It opens the discussion for many more questions regarding the new technologies of cellular agriculture and other genetically modified food production.

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Posted by Rabbi Joshua Hoffman on April 26, 2018

Of all the ways that we can define Jewish identity, from birthright to good feelings, from pursuing justice to devoted ritual practice, being Jewish is the most elusive. I have to laugh when, over the years, I have heard many say to me, “Funny, you don’t look Jewish!” (I have blond-ish hair and blue-ish eyes. Apparently, this is not very Jew-ish.) Yes, this kind of thinking, that looking is like being, has been challenging us inside our community and sadly from the outside throughout history.

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Posted by Rabbi Joshua Hoffman on March 15, 2018

What defines Jewish art and music? Is it a creative act fashioned by a Jew? Is it a style, a sense, a shape, a quality that feels Jewish? Is there is a certain sound – whether it is the high-pitched shrill of a clarinet or the delicate dance of a violin – that when you hear it you know it is Jewish?

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Posted by Rabbi Joshua Hoffman on January 10, 2018

We’ve all seen the latest advertisements for phone gadgets allowing us to create avatars which mimic our speaking and facial expressions. They are so great! This fantastic feature is simply the next step in an ongoing evolution of artificial intelligence that in some way helps us connect and relate better with each other.

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Posted by Rabbi Joshua Hoffman on December 7, 2017

Fires this week are causing great damage to land and homes in the Southern California area. Several members of our Valley Beth Shalom community are displaced as the fire rages just a few miles from our synagogue home. Where there has been heartbreak, there is inspired heroism. Where there has been concern for the safety of the vulnerable among us, there is unflagging commitment to provide shelter, protection, and confidence that in moments of crisis we are here for each other.

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