Shabbat Shalom ~ Vayishlach 2023

Dear WJC Family,

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayishlach, we read about Jacob, about to cross back into Canaan and face the misdeeds of his past, engaging in a wrestling match with a supernatural being. He finds himself alone in the night when he is set upon by the mysterious and bellicose stranger. There are varied commentaries on just who or what Jacob is fighting, but several modern interpreters have posited that Jacob is fighting himself, that his battle is with his conscience and whether or not he can forgive himself for his checkered past. According to this line of interpretation, the battle is a mental health struggle.

Earlier this week I took a much needed few days off – a mental health break, you might say. It has been a pretty grueling run from the High Holidays right into October 7th and the ensuing war. The emotional highs and lows are difficult to navigate and the news is hard to turn off. So, I wanted to write, tell you that I had needed a break, and encourage you to consider taking one too. If you can’t get away for a few days, perhaps  take one day or make special plans for a few hours over the weekend, but do something for yourself. Especially with the days getting shorter and darker, now is a time to be careful about our mental health. If you want or need to talk, or would just like an understanding ear, please send me an email and we’ll find a time soon.

Mental health is the topic highlighted in the January edition of our new “Beyond the Bimah series.” My guest on January 10th will be WJC’s own Dr. Sam Glazer, a noted mental health expert whose work was featured in the Wall Street Journal this summer. Before that though, next week on Wednesday December 6, I’ll be sitting down with Shachar Liran-Hanan, the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Senior Shlicha to Westchester for an intimate conversation, “REFLECTIONS ON ISRAEL: THEN AND NOW. We will talk about the current situation in Israel and what it has been like representing Israel to our Westchester community over the last year, a year marked first by internal turmoil and now by war. To learn more about the program, click here.

I also want to mention that planning for our WJC Israel Solidarity Mission from January 21st to January 26th is continuing apace. We have had 23 people express interest and the details were sent to all of them this morning. Because of the short timeline for putting the trip together, the registration period will be extremely short, so if you are interested in joining us, please let me know, the sooner the better. This will not be like any Israel trip you’ve experienced before – the itinerary will be very similar to the trip I did in October – volunteering, meeting those directly affected, learning, witnessing, and processing together, as well as discussing with strategic experts about what the “day after” may bring. If you are interested in joining, please email me right away at

And believe it or not, next Thursday night is the first candle of Hanukkah. We have some great holiday plans (get out your calendar and mark it now) including a Community Hanukkah Celebration Sunday the 10th from 4-6, a Friday night Rhythm and Ruach with author and master storyteller Steve Zeitlin on Friday evening the 8th, followed by our 3rd annual Chocolate Oneg and (this just in) a candle lighting event on Zoom at noon on Tuesday December 12th.

Why are we lighting candles at noon you ask? Because the event is actually in Jerusalem with the Masorti congregation Moreshet Avraham. They will be lighting candles and learning together and we will be Zooming in to join them. I hope you will join us, as we are trying to forge an ongoing partnership with Moreshet Avraham and their excellent rabbis Amirit Rosen and David Goodman. As a matter of fact, we are hoping that the two congregations will be able to volunteer together during the January mission! If you might be interested in helping with the ongoing event planning with Moreshet Avraham, please let me know.

This Shabbat we will be welcoming back our Rabbinic Intern Claire Shoyer and it should be a lovely, peaceful time for gathering in prayer and fellowship. I will see you here.

See you in shul,

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