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Va-yetzei 5779: Stairway to Heaven

Nov 14, 2018

When we meet our ancestor Jacob at the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, Va-yetzei, he is a man on the run. Having finagled the status of firstborn from his brother and father, Jacob flees for his life and is en route to Haran, his mother’s birthplace.

One night on this journey, Jacob has his famous dream of the angelic beings going up and down a stairway to heaven. God promises Jacob that he will inherit the covenant of his father and grandfather and that God will protect him.

Isaac and Rebekah
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KTI Connections: Tol'dot 5779

Nov 07, 2018

Our Torah reading this week, Tol’dot, focuses on the life of Isaac: the birth of his children, his adventures in the land of Israel, and the struggle between his sons for his blessings.

What is striking about Isaac’s life is how similar it was to his father Abraham’s: both men travel south during a famine, both pass off their wives as their sisters, both have conflicts with their neighbors. Both have two main children, with a protracted conflict over who will inherit. And both have a wife who experiences infertility.

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Kavvanah for Tree of Life

Nov 06, 2018

As we stand here before the open ark, we are about to sing Etz Hayim Hi, it is a tree of life, and we call to mind our brothers and sisters who were murdered in their synagogue, called Tree of Life, a week ago.

עֵץ חַיִּים הִיא לַמַּחֲזִיקִים בָּהּ. וְתמְכֶיהָ מְאֻשָּׁר

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Hayyei Sarah 5779: Great American Alloy

Nov 06, 2018

US Steel was an iconic American company that flourished in Pittsburgh in its heyday as an industrial center. Its logo, which also became the logo of the Pittsburgh Steelers football team, features three diamonds: yellow for coal, orange for iron ore and blue for steel scrap—the three ingredients of steel. The diamonds represented the great power of an alloy, a combination of different things that was stronger together than any of them were on their own.

The Binding of Isaac
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Va-yera 5779: Child Sacrifice

Oct 24, 2018
This week’s Torah reading, Va-yera, contains the Torah readings for Rosh Hashannah, including the famous story of the binding of Isaac. The story has generated an enormous amount of commentary and discussion. The story raises core questions of what the purpose of this “test” was, and how it can be that a moral God would command someone to murder his own child.

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B'reishit 5779: Fallen Angels

Oct 07, 2018
Like many precocious children, I went through a phase where I was obsessed with Greek and Roman mythology. This was especially true around the time when the Disney Hercules movie came out in 1997. I had a number of books that described in detail the various gods, demigods and mythical figures that so captured the ancient imagination. There was something appealing about the stories of conflict among the gods and the exploits of super-human characters.

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Shemini Atzeret/Yizkor 5779: Unfinished Business

Oct 04, 2018
When I was a teenager, I spent my summers at Camp Ramah. One of my close friends there was named Jake. Jake was a special person. He was friendly, outgoing and kind. He had an interest in martial arts and in long philosophical conversations. I was mostly interested in the later. He, my brother and I often had long conversations about religion and politics that would go late into the evening.

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Sukkot 5779: Simple Joys

Oct 04, 2018
A few days ago, Daniel and I had the pleasure to host the staff of KTI in our sukkah for lunch. The sun was shining as we sat in the shelter of the sukkah on a crisp fall day. The food was fresh and delicious and the company enjoyable. While we do spend a lot of time together, we rarely get the opportunity just to enjoy each other’s company, celebrate our hard work and to form the bonds between us.

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