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Welcome to CyberTorah

 Torah Commentary by Rabbi David Booth

CyberTorah is a weekly commentary by Rabbi David Booth, spiritual leader of Congregation Kol Emeth in Palo Alto, California.

Rabbi Booth was educated at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles and...Read more...

Amidah Exercise and Commentaries Part 7

And God heard their cry and remembered the covenant...(Exodus 2:24).

 Exercise 1:  get in touch with a place of pain or restriction in your heart. Perhaps it is a story or experience that you have never fully worked through. Or maybe it is a current area of pain. Or it could be someone at work or home who is abusive to you. Perhaps it is pain or loss of function in your body. 

As you...Read more...

A Guide for the Passover Perplexed

 

As Passover draws near, it is time to get our homes and kitchens ready for this special Holiday.  This guide offers an overview of home preparation. For more details, go here.

Spiritual Meaning

Passover is...Read more...

Forgiveness

 

Exercise #1,  General:  Imagine that you are encountering a power so filled with love,  waiting only to be asked for forgiveness. Own your imperfections; face openly your failings and the ways you have hurt others and yourself.

Say: Forgive me, God, for I have sinned. Forgive me, not because I deserve it, but...Read more...

Prayer for Israel

I say the Prayer for Israel for three key reasons. First, I pray for Israel and its people. I want Israel to be safe and secure, a place that thrives with wealth, security and freedom for all its inhabitants. This prayer has a political dimension because it is in politics that our values get expressed in the real world. Yet unlike political lobbying, prayer is a desire to manifest in the world a true hope. We name something pure and holy and...Read more...

Turn Us Back

 

Exercise: Take a long cleansing breath. Notice the deepest part of the self, the place from which our intentions arise. Notice its clarity, its wholeness. Imagine that you possess a life point of perfect purity and awareness, a place as it were connected to the Divine. Note the way that fears, insecurities, and separation cloud and interfere with your connection to that sacred hidden inner place.

Read more...

Discernment

Practice: After entering into prayer as described in the previous emails, take a moment of awareness about awareness. Take three long breaths. Notice the gift of thought and discernment. Feel gratitude for your intelligence, that you can learn and take in new information. Take another breath. Appreciate the ability to be compassionate, that we can notice and understand with empathy the feelings of...Read more...

Holiness

Exercise: Take three deep breaths. Invite either through the traditional language or your own imagination connection to our ancestors, our family that is and that will be. Connect also with God’s power to heal, to support us, and to invite us to confront our own limited selves.

Take another breath. Now is the prayer of noticing God’s holiness....Read more...

Facing Death

Exercise: In providing practices for each section of the Amidah, there is a risk that the practice will become too extensive. Feel free to spend more or less time on each exercise as they stack up.

Begin as before. Take a few long breaths. Engage with last week’s exercise about generations and human connection, either through the words of the liturgy or your own meditation. End with the blessing, barukh atah adaoni, magan Avraham...Read more...

Standing Before God

Activity: Stand up. Take a deep breath. Take three steps backward and three steps forward. Imagine that you are entering a sacred space of immense power, calm, and compassion. Perhaps you are accompanied by parents, mentors, grandparents. All sharing a moment of connection with each other, with the Divine, with all that is.

Now, pick one of two paths. Either say the words of the first paragraph of the Amidah linked here in either...Read more...

Weekday Prayer: A Human Necessity

Rabbi Graff and I have realized that we have emphasized Shabbat prayer but far less daily prayer. This makes sense, given the amazing Shabbat community that gathers every week at Kol Emeth. This has left a gap, because Shabbat prayers, and especially the Amidah (the silent prayer), focus on gratitude and dwelling with the Divine. The idea is Shabbat is a day of rest where we leave behind our hopes, strivings, and...Read more...

After Thirty Days

Abraham goes to bury Sarah. He has seemingly been caught unaware, with no plans. He lacks even a gravesite for her and has to go to the people of the land, the Canaanites, to buy a place. His life partner, the woman with whom he changed the world, is no more. She had been such a large part of his life that even though neither of them are young he could not imagine a world without her in it. She had been healthy and well. He sits and mourns...Read more...

Achva B'Kerem

We are all looking for ways to help Israel right now. Kol Emeth has a dear friend who lives in Jerusalem, Rabbi Tamir Nir who leads Achva B’Kerem, a pluralistic Synagogue in Jerusalem. We met Tamir during the pandemic as part of our virtual tour of Israel and in person this past December. He is an amazing Rabbi who has created a pluralistic community dedicated to meaningful, soulful, Judaism.

Since October 7th, Tamir and his...Read more...

Innocent Lives

Will the Judge of all the Earth act unjustly? So Abraham challenges God. God sees the horrific behavior of Sodom and Gomorrah and decides to act. What is it that God has seen? According to the Talmud, God saw a wanton disregard for ethics and human life. The inhabitants of these cities twist and pervert justice so that workers are injured as part of their jobs, visitors are abused and even mutilated. Finally, God hears the call of one woman...Read more...

A Few Reflections

I had intended to send this right after the holidays. The crisis in Israel required a different kind of CyberTorah. However, I still feel there is a place for gratitude and appreciation. So, here is my thank you to this amazing community.

As the holidays conclude, I am filled with gratitude for the Kol Emeth community. Here are a few areas that have moved and inspired me.

Quality of Welcome. This is a time of year when new...Read more...

If You Will It, It Is No Dream

There is an odd passage in the Passover Haggadah in which we learn of Rabbi Akiva and others telling and retelling the Exodus from Egypt until the dawn breaks. Their students then come and tell them it is time to say the Sh’ma for daybreak, at which point they conclude their Seder. What does it mean that they stayed up all night?

I believe the night symbolizes the darkness of Exile. Exile is the time of the imperfect world, the...Read more...

Kishinev and Hamas

In 1903, the Jewish community of Kishinev was decimated at the hands of Russians and Ukrainians. Dozens were murdered and raped and over 1500 homes were destroyed. There had been earlier pogroms, yet this one captured international attention. Partly, wire services and new information technology meant this was a very early tragedy to receive international coverage. And also, it seemed as though modernity with all its advances should have...Read more...

Simchat Torah Memories

Simchat Torah is the day when Jews around the world conclude the cycle of reading the Torah and begin again with the book of Genesis. We dance, we sing, and we celebrate. Here are a few memories of previous Simchat Torah celebrations:

1. My first REAL Simchat Torah was in Israel. Carol and I were living in Jerusalem while I was in Rabbinical school. We went to a modern Orthodox Synagogue called Yedidya. At that time, Yedidya was the...Read more...

Joy

There is an intensity about Yom Kippur which I find invigorating, challenging, and ultimately renewing. Through the day, we imagine ourselves going through a process of change that draws us close to God and to our deepest self. Teshuvah means a response, a return. To what are we returning?

One response is to God. The soul God gave us is pure. There is an inherent connection between all that lives and the Divine. The world, with the...Read more...

A Guide to Surviving Yom Kippur - Or Seven Tips to a Meaning-Filled Days of Awe

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are overwhelming and liturgically dense. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the experience. Worse, since we do it every year, it’s easy to let it all pass over us and get bored. Here follow seven tips to having a meaningful, spiritual, experience during the Holidays.

Make the experience personal.  Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur speak directly to each one of us. What fears do you face...Read more...

General Teshuva

Sometimes, at key moments, we notice a larger need to reorient the self that we are. This can occur due to an outside stimulus, like a divorce or loss, or even something positive like a new friendship or a child. It may also result from long term addictive or destructive behaviors that are creating havoc in a person’s life. They “hit bottom” and realize they must change. Sometimes, says Rav Kook, it comes from a deep encounter with what...Read more...

Spiritual Teshuvah

The first rung of teshuvah, of finding inner wholeness, is bodily teshuvah as we care for our physical health and well-being. Next is Spiritual Teshuvah. This rung challenges us to identify a particular habit or behavior that is hurtful to others or that damages our connection to God. Once we note that behavior, we then create a plan to change.

Exercise

1. Identify an interpersonal behavior you have that is hurtful to others....Read more...

Bodily Teshuvah

One of the greatest spiritual insights of Judaism is the concept of Teshuvah. Teshuvah means we are not trapped; the scripts of our youth or broken relationships do not have to imprison us. We are capable of self-creation, meaning we are capable of writing new scripts and new ways of being in the world. Over the next few weeks I’d like to share a few different elements of Teshuvah, each time with simple exercises to practice a new way of...Read more...

It's Time for a Plan

“Let the wicked abandon their way, and the person of iniquity their thoughts and return to God. God will have mercy upon him for God is great in forgiveness...”

Maimonides, in his laws of repentance, identifies a five step process through which we can change. It is based upon the above verse and imagines a means by which people can free themselves from the scripts and damaging behavior of their past and current selves. It is...Read more...

Meaning is a Choice

Meaning is a choice. As moderns, we have looked into the abyss and seen the potential of darkness and emptiness there. Part of this comes from the Western approach to reason and meaning. Our first mode is to look for underlying measurable causes to things. We take on a mode where we look only at the mechanisms of things and ask: is there really deep meaning?

The greater part arises from humanity’s behavior over the last 120 years....Read more...

The Obligations of Love

To feel love is to feel responsibility. When I love someone, I am invested in their well being and thriving. I feel a responsibility to help and support them, to be present in loss and in joy. Put another way, I thought being a parent was an eighteen year responsibility. But I forgot that a parent falls in love with their children. The love never abates, it only grows and enriches as one’s children uncover their fullest...Read more...

Love Is in the Air

Jewish holidays tend to be either fairly intense (see Yom Kippur) or sad (see Tisha B’av). And then we have Tu B’av, a festival of love and romance that was almost totally forgotten. According to the Mishnah:

There were no happier days for the people of Israel than the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur, since on these days the daughters of Israel/Jerusalem go out dressed in white and dance in the vineyards. What were they saying?...Read more...

Love and Courage

As many of you know, Israel is engaged in inner political turmoil the likes of which we have never seen before. There has been political violence, street protests shutting down transportation and roads, and even threats of a reservist pull back. Any one of these challenges can rip the country apart. All of them together are terrifying. The military has said that readiness is at issue so real existential harm is closer to hand than...Read more...

I Love Kol Emeth

I love Kol Emeth. I love the kindness and welcome in our community. I have watched bar and bat mitzvah students come up to speak. Maybe they have a stutter, or they speak too fast. I wonder: will the community have the patience to accept this person as they are? The answer is always yes. I have watched people make sure someone in a wheelchair has a spot to sit. I see people offering hugs and welcome when others arrive to Kol Emeth for a...Read more...

Revelation at Sunrise

Sinai didn’t happen just once. It happens all the time. The story we tell of Matan Torah, of receiving the Torah, describes Israel together experiencing the Divine, the Anokhi that is God, in their lives. The miracle was that the whole people shared in revelation. From the water drawer to the most wealthy, from the most physically inclined to the most spiritually elevated, God burst through. In that moment, the Israelites couldn’t bear...Read more...

The Origin of Ethics

The comments section on any social media is generally filled with vitriol, nastiness, and trolling. There is something about the distance created between the speaker and the listener that gives voice to some of the worst in the human soul. Warfare between nations has a similarly frightening component. Generals and political leaders may be hundreds or even thousands of miles away from the targets of their violence. They order destruction and...Read more...

Mon, April 15 2024 7 Nisan 5784