Blog: Rabbi Hoffman

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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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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