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11/12/2019 11:45:55 AM


This space is designated for the words of Tora taught to us by the various members of our kehilla. 

Devar Tora for Perashat Re'eh

08/06/2021 01:41:09 PM


Irene Falkenstein Case

This Shabbat we bless the New Month of Elul.  Rosh Chodesh Elul starts immediately after this Shabbat ends and continues until sunset Monday.  Elul is the month that immediately precedes Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  During Elul, we make a greater effort to become closer to G-d through repentance (Teshuva), prayer (Tefila) and Tzedakah.  


Tzedakah is called “The...

Devar Tora for Va-eth`hanan

07/24/2021 10:37:59 AM


Anne Lowe

This parasha is jam-packed with admonitions and rules from Moses to the Jewish people who have been wandering in the desert for nearly 40 years. They are about to cross the Jordan River and finally reach the promised land, “flowing with milk and honey” (6: 3).  But even as Moses tells them how their lives must be conducted for generations to come, it is a bittersweet passage, for it begins with Moses pleading with the Lord,...Read more...

What is Tu BeAv? A Holiday of Hope 

07/23/2021 01:16:40 AM


Yosef Lopez

Tu BeAv, or the 15th of Av, is an odd holiday. The Shulhan Arukh, the code of Jewish Law, only records that on this day we do not recite Tahanun. Often misunderstood as the “Jewish Valentine’s Day”, Tu BeAv remains even more mysterious upon examing our Oral Tradition. 

The following Mishna is very enigmatic and is most likely the source of the misconception or comparison to Valentine’s day or day of...Read more...

Yizkor Shavuot

05/16/2021 09:40:34 AM


Irene Falkenstein Case

G-d gave the Jewish People the Festivals for gladness and joy.  Shavuot is one of the three pilgrimage festivals in the Torah.  On Shavuot we commemorate Matan Torah, the Gift of Torah from G-d.  Studying and observing the Torah is the source of our joy.  Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks, is also known in the Torah as:

Hag Hakatzir: The Festival of the Harvest, marking the...

Derasha Bemidbar 2021

05/14/2021 12:52:04 PM


Irene Stern Friedman

G-d chose to reveal the laws of the Torah in the desert. It was a desolate place where they would be willing to accept Hashem’s guidance and live according to the Torah.  And G-d spoke to Moses in the Sinai desert.   We live in a different desert, but still, a majestic place, where if we listen carefully, we can hear G-d’s words today.  Our desert isn’t barren but the majestic mountains put us in our place and show us we...Read more...

Tazria- Metzora 

04/17/2021 10:11:56 AM


Irene Stern Friedman


Tazria-Metzora tells how our ancestors dealt with a skin disease called tzara’at. They were examined by the priest and, if found to be afflicted, were isolated for a period of time, generally seven days. If the ailment spread after that, “the clothes shall be rent, the head shall be left bare, and the upper lip shall be covered over; and that person shall call out, ‘impure, impure.’ The person shall be impure as long as...Read more...


03/19/2021 12:44:39 PM


Irene Falkenstein Case

What is the meaning of the small aleph?

Devar Tora For Vayahkel-Pekudei

03/13/2021 12:03:15 PM


Anne Lowe

In today’s double parasha, Vayahkel-P’kudei, we continue to learn of the construction of the holy ark in the midbar, or wilderness. The Israelites are instructed to bring forth as donations, precious metals, jewels, fine yarns, beautiful woods, animal skins, etc. They did so in great abundance. In fact, they brought more than what was needed, so great was their fervor to give of their own material wealth.

In...

Tetzaveh. Bet Shalom Zoom, February 27, 2021

02/27/2021 10:04:16 AM


Irene Stern Friedman

Tetzaveh describes the “sacred vestments” which the Priests wore for glory and for splendor, for adornment and dignity. The priestly role requires dignity. The special clothing with sashes, breastpiece, and a headdress shows that. The priests’ clothing is beautiful and colorful --blue, purple, and crimson with golden bells and embroidery. Solemnity does not mean darkness. The sacred is not forboding, it is colorful and...Read more...

Where is God 

02/20/2021 10:26:35 AM


Jesse Davis

It’s reported that as a five-year-old, the Kotzker Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Morgenstern, came to his father with a question. “Papa,” he asked. “Where is God?” His father repeated the answer that most of us were told as children (and which many of us have repeated, as well) - “Son. God is everywhere.”


The young boy paused thoughtfully and responded. “No, Papa. I don’t think that’s quite...Read more...

Understanding Through Doing. Perashat Yitro, 5781

02/06/2021 02:29:03 PM


Rabbi Avi Alpert


It would be a miraculous occurrence for all the Children of Israel (the Jewish people) to join our voices in unison and together agree, wouldn’t it?…   נעשה ונשמע  “all that Hashem has spoken we will do and (afterward) we will understand (Ex 24:7).” It is difficult for me to imagine our “stiff-necked people” agreeing on anything, let alone unanimously deciding to follow the...Read more...

Shemot Dvar Torah 2021 Bet Shalom Zoom 

01/08/2021 04:14:14 PM


Irene Stern Friedman

This Parsha exemplifies what it takes to be a hero or a leader. A true leader is not somebody who is constantly concerned about his or her own power but is someone who cares for those around them.

After Pharaoh’s decree that all Hebrew baby boys should be cast into the Nile, Miriam convinced her father Amram who had divorced his wife that he was acting wrongly since Pharaoh had only prevented Hebrew males from growing up while...Read more...


11/20/2020 12:22:33 AM


Irene Falkenstein Case


19. Isaac's servants dug in the valley and found there a well of living water.

20. The herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac's herdsmen saying, 

"The water is ours," so he called the name of that well ESEK (strife) because they argued with him.

21. Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that also; so they called it SITNAH (causeless...Read more...

Chaye Sarah. Bet Shalom Zoom

11/14/2020 10:18:25 AM


Irene Stern Friedman

The portion called the Life of Sarah begins with her death. Presumably, it is because you cannot evaluate a person’s life until it is ended. Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to cry for her (v’livkosah). The Ba’al HaTurim notes that the word v’livkosah is written with a small ‘kaf’, indicating that Avraham did not cry as fully as he might have. Why?


While the death of a private citizen always...

Derasha for Noach

10/24/2020 01:02:46 PM


Rabbi Dr. Howard Schwartz

which arise from trying to learn from the Tower of Babel episode.

Questions can certainly be asked about this, including what sin was being committed that led to G-ds responses.

Looking over the previous Parsha, we see that we have gone from a period in which there was a great deal of evil in the world,

leading to the wholesale destruction and the flood to “now” when there was to be a restart of the...Read more...

Talk for Yom Kippur Afternoon

09/28/2020 05:53:12 PM


Helen Salvay

We are nearing the part of Yom Kippur prayers when we remember loved ones who have passed and. Jewish martyrs.  Are you thinking what I'm thinking?  I am thinking that life has been pretty intense lately.  I need things that are calming and enduring and comforting.  


Sometimes it is calming to contemplate the things around us. Here is a glass bowl (Hold up blue glass bowl)....Read more...

Introduction to Martyrology Service YK afternoon 2020.

09/28/2020 04:37:12 PM


Irene Stern Friedman

Nobody wants to be a martyr. 


Yet Jews have been martyred throughout history. When we pray “Av Harachamim,” every Shabbat we call on G-d to be merciful to us  for the sake of those “who laid down their lives for the sanctification of the divine name.” In Avinu Malkeinu, we plead for G-d’s mercy and forgiveness “for the sake of those who were killed for your holy...Read more...

Forget Your Perfect Offering

09/27/2020 05:55:31 PM


Jesse Davis

“Forget your perfect offering.

 There is a crack, a crack in everything.

 That’s how the light gets in.”


Here we are on the day of Atonement, and it’s hard to imagine a more iconic Jewish service than Kol Nidre.  The very name instantly conjures the image of a hazzan in a darkened synagogue, solemnly intoning Aramaic in melodies both haunting...Read more...

 Shabbat Shuva Drasha

09/26/2020 02:44:13 PM


Rabbi Dr. Howard Schwartz

First, I want to thank Rabbi Avi for asking that I give a drasaha on this particular Shabbat, Shabbat Shuva. Thinking historically, our Rabbis used to give only two derashot a year, on Shabbat HaGadol, just prior to Pesach, and the Shabbat between Rosh HaShanna and Yom Kippur, namely Shabbat Shuva.


The focus on Shabbat Shuva was typically on Repentance, Prayer, and Charity. And to emphasize this...Read more...

What is the meaning of HaMelekh HaQadosh and HaMelekh HaMishpat?

09/25/2020 05:47:24 PM


Yosef Lopez

During the period of time known as Asereth Yemei HaTeshuva, or the 10 days of repentance, we modify our liturgy to reflect the solemnity of the season. Although many of the modifications are customary and can vary based on locale, one modification is universal, and if not recited correctly requires the person reciting the prayer to repeat the prayer from the beginning. This is a liturgical change in the third berakha of the `Amida...Read more...

Hineni- Here I Am

09/20/2020 11:48:32 AM


Lisa Schachter-Brooks

Ahhhh, deep breath, here we are. Hinenu

Here I am- hineni 


We have finally crossed the bridge that is the new year of 5781….and boy do we need a new year! .disappointed as we are to not be together in 3D, I am counting our blessings that at least we can gather this way, still in real life, still in person but think of it as 2D rather than 3D.


 in the tradition of our Rabbi Avi, I’d like to point out that 5781 is no insignificant number!  I saw the acronym for the Hebrew letters Tav Shin Pey Alef. (Tihiye, Shana Pakhot Aiyum) That is should be a  less terrible year. May we have reached the bottom and with the merit of our gathering, our prayer, our acts of goodness, our community connections, and our resilience, may we be cycling back towards goodness, towards balance, towards resilience, or at the very least towards less terrible.Read more...

Rosh Hashanah 5781

09/19/2020 11:41:02 AM


Rabbi Bennett Blum


This drash is dedicated to two people.  First, to my wife, Miriam, who celebrated her 60th birthday yesterday.  Second to my mother who was born of Rosh Hashana and died on Sukkot.  One of her favorite aphorisms was “Where there is Life, there is Hope.”  This drasha is given in her memory and l’ilui nishamat  - Chaya Feiga Dina bat Devorah v’Rachmiel.


I...

Beginning a New Year

09/18/2020 06:00:50 PM


Anne Lowe

Good Shabbos, Friends!

We are beginning the Jewish year of 5781, and we are hopefully leaving behind a year of uncertainty, of corona virus, of loss and of sadness and forest fires. We all extend our hands and our souls to a Rosh Hashanah of steadfast good health, of more peace in the Middle East for Israel and her neighbors, of environmental stability and of good drenching showers to put out fires, and to sustain...Read more...

Ki Tavo Bet Shalom Zoom September 2020

09/05/2020 10:52:15 AM


Irene Stern Friedman


Ki Tavo means “When You Come In” and the parsha is best known for its long and horrible list of curses. The Talmud tells us that the rabbis who lived at the time of Ezra the Scribe decided that this parsha would always be read before Rosh Hashana. Their reason was reflected in the phrase “may the year and its curses come to an end”. Later, another phrase was added, “may the year and its blessings...Read more...

D’rash Parashah Shoftim

08/21/2020 01:24:12 PM


Pamela Elisheva

Thank you, Rabbi Avi, for giving me the opportunity to deliver the first of my d’rashot at Congregation
Bet Shalom. While it is my first time giving a d’rash here, I have been giving d’rashot back in Bakersfield
since 2001 and I am excited to share my reflections on this week’s parashah, Shoftim.
When I begin my process of writing a d’rash, I first start out by looking at the context of the weekly
parashah....

Perashat Re'eh 5780 /2020

08/14/2020 04:52:43 PM


Irene Falkenstein Case

The Re'eh Torah portion is always read around the beginning of the Jewish month of Elul. Our High Holiday prayers state that Teshuvah, Tefillah, and Tzedakah will alleviate the evil decree. This D’var Torah is about Tzedakah based on Devarim Chapter 15 verses 4 – 12. 

The Western concept of “Charity” is not Tzedakah. Charity implies that the recipient has no right to the gift and that the donor is...Read more...

The Gift of Family and the Hebrew Concept of Bayit- Perashath Va-eth`hanan. 

07/28/2020 03:00:25 PM


Yosef Lopez

This was originally written for the festival of Shavu'oth, but I am sharing it now as it is relevant to the restatement of the Decalogue in the Perasha of Va-eth`hanan. 

Once there was a Hakham named Djoha. One day his son approached him and asked him if he could start using the family car to get around. Djoha said to his son, “I will make a deal with you. If you bring your grades up, study a little more Tora,...Read more...

Parashat Matot-Masei   Bet Shalom July 2020 Zoom

07/20/2020 10:51:06 AM


Irene Stern Friedman


This double parasha brings us to the end of the book of Bemidbar.  Wouldn’t we all like to enter the Promised Land about now, the land of milk and honey and health.

Rabbi Anne Brener wrote that The Israelites stand at the edge of the Promised Land, following Moses's last military campaign. Before the people can leave the wilderness, the soldiers must go through rituals of purification. They must stay ...Read more...

D’var Torah for Haftorah for Sh’lach Lecha 5780

06/25/2020 04:25:44 PM


Anne Lowe

In today’s Haftorah for, Sh’lach Lecha, corresponding to Joshua 2: verses 1-24, we read how the harlot, Rahab, hid and saved the spies of Israel, when they came to reconnoiter the city of Jericho for the entrance of the Israelites into the Promised Land.


In the last D’var Torah I gave to you all, at the beginning of May, last month, I said, “There is a close connection in the Torah where priests and widows and...Read more...


06/25/2020 04:19:16 PM


Anne Lowe

Boker Tov, friends! I am honored and delighted to give the D’var Torah this morning, as we gather in this new normal Zoom environment for Shabbat. Our parasha is Emor today, and I did a little personal computer research to see what I had written previously, about five years ago, on this parasha. I am going to repeat some of it, but go in a different direction as well.


Our Etz Chayim tells us that this parasha has the...Read more...

Thu, October 28 2021 22 Cheshvan 5782