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Showing posts from December, 2017

The Great Storehouses of the Soul

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Parashat Vayigash 2017 Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz



The Great Storehouses of the Soul

‘Chazak, chazak v’nitchazek!’ – ‘strength, strength, may we be strengthened!’
Every time we complete the reading of a book of the Torah, we ritually chant this after the Torah reading. Isn’t it a peculiar thing to say? Of course, there is the impulse to celebrate the conclusion – the siyyum – of the reading of a book of the Torah, and it is traditional in Judaism to celebrate the things we finish as well as the things we start. Yet, we could have imagined another idiom. Maybe something that speaks to the holiness or the meaning of the text, something that touches upon the momentousness of Revelation or our covenantal relationship with our Torah. Yet, the traditional formula is ‘chazak, chazak v’nitchazek’.
There are a number of Jewish idioms that speak to strength, sometimes in unexpected ways. ‘Ometz lev’ denotes the brave heart, like that of Joshua. ‘Yasher koach’ (shkoyach, or in Dutch Ashkenazi: shkouch) …

Dreaming of All We Could Be

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Parashat Miketz 2017
Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz

Dreaming Of All We Could Be

For ten days I existed in a Jewish bubble. Not just any bubble, but a bubble totaling 7000 strong: one thousand at the USCJ (United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism) Biennial in Atlanta and 6000 at the URJ (Union for Reform Judaism) Biennial in Boston.
It is hard to describe what it feels like for 6000 of us to descend upon the Hynes Convention Center in the heart of Boston. The only true parallel that I could draw is experiencing Israel. On some level, living in a parallel, majority-Jewish space felt like being in Israel. There was something so powerful, comforting, exhilarating and inspiring to be in that setting, to be with our ‘achim v’achyot’, our brothers and sisters, to feel a visceral and primordial connection to each participant even if they were complete strangers. To feel a thick, palpable sense of Jewish Peoplehood.
This deep sense of connection manifested itself in different ways. Mingling around the ‘S…