All week I have been falling asleep and waking to the resonant song of the crickets singing me through the thick heat. And then this morning, the heat broke. According my kids this is the coldest day of the summer. They even asked if it might snow. And isn't this exactly what the crickets have been trying to tell us.
In the words of Charlotte's Web, "The crickets sang in the grasses. They sang the song of summer's ending, a sad, monotonous song. 'Summer is over and gone,' they sang. 'Over and gone, over and gone. Summer is dying, dying.' The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last forever. Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year--the days when summer is changing into fall--the crickets spread the rumor of sadness and change" (113).
In truth, it is not just the crickets singing the song of change. With summer's end, the Jewish calendar is calling us home and reminding us that change is part of every return. Next week is Rosh Hodesh Elul. We will sound the great shofar, the school year will resume, and along with it will come the intensity of increased routine and the relief of cooler days.
The crickets are not wrong. Summer is just about over and gone, which is sad, but it is also cause for celebration. According to the Hasidic masters, the most deeply honored day of all days is the day of death -- even more important than the day of birth. For them the day of death is turned into a day of celebration. So much so, that they don't typically use the term death. Rather they refer to it as the day of departure. I quite like to imagine these next two Shabbatot as a great celebration of summer's departure.
Our sacred texts are full of descriptions of the departures of tzaddikim, righteous teachers. Especially wondrous and soul-shaking is the description of the departure of Moshe Rabbeinu (Deathbed Wisdom, 5-7). In these final days of summer, as we read the Book of Deuteronomy, I invite you to hear it as the voice of a teacher who knows his final days are coming.
With summer's departure, may we create space for the sadness and the celebration, the anticipation and the excitement for what's to come. And may the crickets be our companions, reminding us we are part of something so much bigger.
Wishing you all a shabbat shalom!
Rabbi Ari Lev
Tomorrow morning, communities around the world will rise in body or spirit as the 10 Commandments are read aloud. Now you might be thinking, the 10 Commandments? Didn't that happen at Sinai, way back in Exodus after the Israelites crossed the sea? Among other things the book of Deuteronomy is a retelling of Torah, some even say it is our earliest midrash, others refer to it as the mishneh torah, the second Torah (a name most attributed to the Rambam's law code). The story reads more personally this time, most often as a firsthand account in the voice of Moses. And most notably in this week's parsha, rather than the great blasts, the chaos of thunder and lightning that accompanied the 10 Commandments in Exodus, here we have a much more intimate revelation, described in the text as a face to face encounter (Deut. 5:4).
While there are several notable differences between the renderings of the 10 Commandments, much remains consistent. Including the fact that it is very difficult to understand how one actually tallies up these mitzvot. What counts as a mitzvah? The list, which spans 13 verses, is hardly a checklist and would not fit neatly in a spreadsheet. Don't steal, don't lie, those seem more obvious. But things like "I am God" are a bit more amorphous. How many mitzvot are there anyway?
I was always taught 613. 248 positive commandments (Do!), and 365 negative (Don't do!). Now twice these lists have been uttered within the Torah itself and neither time suggests anything close to 613. Maybe someone somewhere can recite a list that long, but for the most part I see the number as mystically meaningful and spiritually aspirational. And I think that the rabbis understood that to be true.
My teacher Rabbi Benay Lappe explains it this way. The reason we have so many mitzvot is not because we are meant to fill our hearts with the guilt of inadequacy for all the mitzvot we don't do, or don't even know to do, but because they are meant to help us collectively aspire to be a community rooted in kindness and compassion. No single person is responsible for all 613 mitzvot. We are each obligated to do our part. One midrash describes the person whose sole mitzvah is Sukkot. All year long she prepares for Sukkot. Growing shakh, inviting guests, waving her lulav. She is holding down Sukkot knowing that other people in her community might not have space for a sukkah. Meanwhile, in this vision, they might be holding some other mitzvah, visiting the sick or thrice daily prayer, baking challah, attending to the needs of the community.
We are seven weeks away from Rosh Hashanah. The process of Heshbon HaNefesh, of our inner reflections, has begun. This Shabbat I invite you to consider which mitzvot are yours to observe in the coming year. Which mitzvot do you want to learn more about? And in so doing I invite you to lay down the old story, that your are not enough. As the Holy One says to Moses in this week's parsha, Rav lakh! You are sufficient just as you are (Deut. 326).
May this week's recitation of the 10 Commandments inspire within us curiosity, commandedness, and commitment to the practices which we feel personally bring greater holiness into our lives and our communities.
Rabbi Ari Lev
It is really good to be back. And it seems I came back just in time for the Gravitron ride that is the High Holiday season.
Last weekend we celebrated Rosh Hodesh Av, the new moon which comes with a tender epithet, known by the rabbis as Menachem Av, may this month bring your comfort. Who does not need a bit of solace these days? Rosh Chodesh is usually a time of joy and hope for renewal. It is in fact one of my favorite holidays. But the rabbis tell us, "Mishenichnas av mema'atin besimchah / When the month of Av arrives, we diminish our joy." This stands in strong contrast to Rosh Hodesh Adar, which calls in the season of Purim, when we are told to "marbin b'simcha / to up our joy."
Rosh Hodesh Av marks the beginning of the Nine Days, considered a period of heightened communal mourning leading up to the 9th of Av, known in Hebrew as Tisha B'Av. Considered by the rabbis to be the saddest day of the year. Think of it like Yom Kippur meets shiva. Its customs include fasting from food and water, not wearing leather footwear, not washing ourselves (washing only until the knuckle when mandated by halakhah), not applying ointments or creams, not having sex, not sitting on a normal-height chair, only studying really sad Torah, like Lamentations (seriously!), not sending gifts, or even greeting one another (you may respond to greetings), not engaging in outings, trips, or similar pleasurable activities (not a beach day!), and not wearing fine, festive clothing (typically not an issue at Kol Tzedek).
To be honest, I have never really been a fan of Tisha B'av. If I am really honest about it, it is not for some theological problem with centering the Temple in Jerusalem. That would make too much sense. It is a much more mundane aversion. I simply just love summer too much. I love swimming and ice cream and laying in a hammock in the park, fresh peaches and picking berries. In the midst of all that fun, it really feels like a spiritual buzzkill to concentrate on every bad thing that ever has, is, or will happen. I mean, can't we put Tisha B'av in January? Maybe trade it for Tu Bishevat. I can actually plant a tree in August.
But perhaps that is precisely the point.
Because in truth, who could sustain an even deeper dive into despair in the depths of winter. Perhaps the moment when the earth is in full bloom is precisely the time also to hold that the world is utterly broken, families are shattered, whole species have been lost, violence and cruelty are routine. This is precisely what Rabbi Alan Lew describes as "the great crumbling."
Somehow only this year did I realize that maybe only once the hot (and oh so humid!) summer fun has opened our pores and nourished our hearts, only then can we bear the heartbreak that is also ever present; only then can we actually let ourselves fall apart.
Tisha B'Av comes exactly seven weeks before Rosh Hashanah. It begins the process that culminates on Yom Kippur, some might even say on Simchat Torah. Tisha B'Av is the moment of turning, the moment when we turn away from denial and courageously face exile and alienation as they manifest themselves in our own lives and in our world (Lew, 41-42).
In many ways Tisha B'Av is the answer to another question I have been asked, emailed, and texted repeatedly this summer. To paraphrase, "How is one supposed to find joy, take a vacation, relax at the beach, go out dancing in the face of so much violence and cruelty?"
Which is to say, the rabbis understood that catastrophic loss has, is, and will be part of the human experience. For them, the destruction of the Temple was truly the worst-case scenario. They understood the human need to mourn and grieve, and they also understood the need to contain the grief. And so they appointed a time in which we would open to the wound of existence with discrete practices and finite time constraints. Such that we could also return.
We learn in the very beginning of Genesis, in the beginning the world was tohu va'vohu, crass and chaotic. So too now. Tisha B'Av suggests perhaps it always is. And we are once again called to journey into the chaos and construct something beautiful.
If you are able to come to services tonight, I will be sharing more about why in fact Shabbat and Tisha B'Av are equally necessary and ultimately incompatible. As a result, even though tonight begins the ninth of Av on the Hebrew calendar, we observe the fast of Tisha B'Av Saturday night and Sunday.
Wherever you are this weekend, I wish you a shabbat shalom and a gentle turning.
Rabbi Ari Lev
Another anecdote from retreat.
One of the teachers described his meditation practice as tending his little plot in the world's garden. In this way, the whole of who we are is connected across time and place, and we have inherited this little plot of existence to care for. I love this image because it connects me to the fact that some of my least favorite parts of myself are not necessarily the product of my doing. They come from a wider context of which I am a part. Even more so, when I imagine my anxious mind and stiff hips as a garden plot, I really soften to my own suffering. I can begin to appreciate the many reasons why these aspects once served me. And in an effort to transform, I found myself on retreat expressing appreciation for and towards my own pain (both physical and emotional).
Recent studies by positive psychologists have unearthed a truth long understood by many religious traditions. Expressing gratitude is fundamentally beneficial to us. This is precisely what the psalter meant in Mizmor Shir L'Yom HaShabbat when it says, "Tov L'Hodot...It is good to be grateful." Whether that gratitude is directed externally to something beyond yourself - anything from the sky to a friend to the Holy One, or whether it is directed toward yourself, appreciating some part of yourself. It is good to be grateful.
Recent studies have shown that a person who keep a daily journal noting five things they are grateful for is 20% more likely to achieve their goals. When I heard that I immediately thought of Muslim prayer which happens five times daily. And then I thought of Jewish prayer, which begins each day with "Modeh Ani..." expressing gratitude for the breath and the new day. And then Amidah, which we are instructed to pray three times a day. As we say, "Modim Anachnu Lach...We offer gratitude..." If, perhaps, for no other reason than to note what we are grateful for.
It is my own experience that when I feel stuck, when I feel tense or stubborn or angry, expressing gratitude softens me, brings me back to center. Perhaps this is why my teacher Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum insists that gratitude is the beginning of prayer. I invite you to join me this summer in keeping a gratitude journal. To note down three or five things a day for which you are grateful, without any expectation.
This is my final Friday blog post before I am on vacation for the month of July. As I enter this time off, I am filled with gratitude. For each of you and the conversations we have shared. For the honor of getting to do such meaningful work. For the joy that we create together. And for the unknown of what's to come.
Earlier today I had the joy of watching a live stream of Dan Blackbserg playing music in Krakow, Poland at the Jewish Culture Festival. The person who introduced it began by saying, "We must get going, because the time is short and the most important Jewish holiday is fast approaching - Shabbat!"
So too here!
Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom and a Happy Summer!
Rabbi Ari Lev
I spent last week in the wilderness of a silent meditation retreat. Much like the Israelites, I too felt it was at once an endless, arduous journey and an extraordinary spiritual experience. I have been sitting meditation retreats for nearly 10 years, and every time, one of the central experiences is eating. Eating three meals that I don't have to prepare, on a set schedule. Eating food that I have not decided on and trusting I will be sated and cared for. One of the things I noticed last week is that in the early days of the retreat I tend to eat too much at meals, for fear that I will be hungry later when food is not available. But as the retreat went on, I was able to trust that I would have what I need, when I needed it. And that if I didn't, that too would be OK. Questions of sustenance and desire, and whether we will have what we need, when we need it, are some of the core struggles of the book of Bamidbar, and this week's parsha, Be'haalotcha, in particular.
Throughout their journey in the wilderness, the Israelites are sustained by מן / manna. For hundreds of years, commentators have been asking the exact same question that the Israelites themselves ask, "Man hu? -- What is it?" the people ask, "for they did not know what it was." To which Moses answers, "It is God's gift of bread." It is the question, and not the answer, that names the unknowable substance. This manna, this "what-stuff," remains enigmatic. Some imagine it be something akin to oily cakes soaked in honey. Others say it tastes like coriander. Some posit it is shaped like little crystals, or a thin layer of frost. Some posit it was actually a physical manifestation of light that could be consumed. My favorite is the midrash that says that it tasted like whatever each person desired. This is the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory version of manna. And it wasn't just the manna that fell; the Talmud suggests that other necessities fell with it, spices for cooking and precious stones for the mishkan, the list goes on.
Avivah Zornberg writes, "The manna is essential wilderness food, unknown, uncanny; but precisely in its unknowability it will open a new kind of knowledge: 'that a person does not live on bread alone, but on what issues from God's mouth.' The sentence communicates the mystery of the manna: it stirs up the question -- What is it that can sustain human life?" (xvii).
So too on retreat. The meals themselves, more than a means of sustenance, are an opportunity for me to see more clearly my own relationship to desire. In the words of one of the teachers, to see how desire is in some sense a micro-aggression against the present moment. To try to imagine how much trust it would require for the Israelites to go to sleep each night in the barren wilderness and trust that in the morning the miracle of manna would once again fall from the sky so they could collect a day's worth of food. Here I was, knowing with certainty that there would be oatmeal at 6am, and I still worried.
What is it that sustains human life?
There is more to interrogate about the source of that worry and the reality of food scarcity in this world. For now I will say that I left retreat with a tender appreciation for every moment of calm that I have worked hard to experience and for the deep web of relationships that sustain our community.
Wishing you all a happy solstice and shabbat shalom,
Rabbi Ari Lev
Saturday night begins the Holiday of Shavuot. This festival, which is counted among the Shalosh Regalim, the three pilgrimage festivals, along with Sukkot and Passover, is unique in many ways. Most interesting to me personally, coming on the 6th of the Hebrew month of Sivan, means that it is not linked to either the full or the new moon (which would be aligned with the 1st or 15th of any Hebrew month). In the Torah, Shavuot is known by many names which say something of its origins. It is called the Festival of Weeks (חג השבועות, Ḥag ha-Shavuot), Festival of Reaping (חג הקציר, Ḥag ha-Katsir), and Day of the First Fruits (יום הבכורים, Yom ha-Bikkurim).
Shavuot, the plural of a word meaning "week" or "seven," alludes to the fact that this festival happens exactly seven weeks (i.e. "a week of weeks") after Passover. So perhaps one could argue it is most closely tethered to the full moon of Nissan, as one begins counting the 49 days of the Omer on the 2nd night of Passover concluding with this harvest festival. But it still feels rather strange to mark such a significant moment on the rather anticlimactic 6th day.
Upon further reflection, I realized that rather than being connected to a prominent lunar cycle, it is connected to a significant moment in our Torah cycle. Every year we begin the 4th book of the Torah, known in Hebrew as Bamidbar and in English as Numbers, the Shabbat before Shavuot. In her new book, Avivah Zornberg explains,
"The Hebrew name for the book of Numbers is Sefer Bamidbar, the Book of (lit.) In-the-Wilderness. Although the Israelite wilderness experience begins in Exodus and concludes in Deuteronomy, the book of Numbers claims the interior of this world of wilderness as its peculiar territory. It evokes not only geographical terrain, but also an inner landscape, an 'inscape' as it were--a world of imaginative being" (xi).
Every year, beginning this book calls our attention to the fact that Torah was given in the wilderness. And every year it leads me back to the same question, why in the wilderness? This is a question that the rabbis have been asking for hundreds of years. And it is perhaps the only question where every possible answer is resonant. Perhaps my favorite midrash, which many of you have heard me teach, is that Torah was given in the wilderness so that no one could say it was theirs and in this way Torah would belong to everyone.
This year, I am captivated by a powerful midrash that teaches "...Wilderness [midbar] is, in essence, language [dibbur]. [Ein midbar ela dibbur.]" (Shemot Rabbah 2:5). And it is not just any language, but the Aseret HaDibbrot, the 10 Utterances of Sinai, known as the 10 Commandments. Which begin with the silent, ineffable aleph of "Anochi - I am." So say that from this place of vast uncertainty we call ourselves into existence. This is what it means to experience revelation. Lest we think our deepest teachings are in our control, Torah was given to us in the wilderness. Torah itself is a wilderness.
May we have the courage to journey to the wilderness this Shabbat and Shavuot, whether the landscape or the inscape. And to listen for the still small voice that is eager to reveal to us the Torah that is uniquely ours.
Shabbat Shalom and Hag Sameach,
Rabbi Ari Lev
Tomorrow morning, Sadie Parker will not only become a Bat Mitzavh, but she will be chanting the final words of the book of Leviticus. And after she does so, all of us present will have the opportunity to observe the Ashkenazic custom and respond to her finishing this book of Torah with the words, "Hizki hizki v'nithazek!" (Note the feminine rendering of "Hazak hazak" since Sadie will be reading). These words resist translation, but might best be rendered as, "Be strong, be strong and we will strengthen one another." The "hazak" declaration is a closure ritual, a performative parallel to the graphic demarcation in the Torah scroll in which after the conclusion of each book we see four blank lines. The largest consecutive white spaces in all of Torah. This is the deep exhale of completion.
This ritual does not stand alone. There is a parallel invocation when one completes a chapter or masechet (volume) of Mishnah or Talmud. In those moments, it is a custom to recite, "Hadran alach v'Hadrach alan," literally "May we return to you and may you return to us." Alternately, the Aramaic word Hadran, like the Hebrew word Hadar, can mean to glorify or beautify. "May our study lift up the light of Torah and may Torah increase our own light." The essence of this double entendre is actually addressed to the sefer, the sacred text itself, and comes as the beginning to a longer concluding prayer. Those of us who completed the four-week Talmud class this past Tuesday had the opportunity to recite these words.
What strikes me about both of these rituals is the explicit mutuality and reflexivity embedded in our relationship to these sacred texts. In the case of the Torah scroll, it is the plural reflexive verb nithazek - we will draw strength. As though the ancient words, the reader, and those present are all bolstered in this intention. And in the case of the Talmudic practice, the intention that we long to return to study the text again, even more so, that the text stays with us beyond our study of it.
As Shavuot approaches and we prepare to begin the book of Numbers, I am touched by the image of Torah as sacred stories that strengthen us, make us more resilient, and call us back to them time and again.
May it be so.
Rabbi Ari Lev
In this fourth week of the Omer, we learn in the fourth chapter of Pirkei Avot, "Rabbi Nehorai says, 'Exile yourself to a place of Torah. Don't assume that Torah will follow you or that your friends will hand it to you. Don't just rely on your own perception of things.'"
In a tradition where exile is often positioned as the lesser paradigm, I am struck by the image of this teaching, which imagines exile as a place of learning and possibility. A place we might (and perhaps should) voluntarily choose. And while at first it feels like a distant image, when I stop to think about it, in fact, it is utterly resonant. Throughout my life I have had to consciously choose to make space in my life for Torah. To leave places that I loved living in order to find teachers and study companions. And while on some literal level this is the loss and isolation that Rabbi Nehorai might be referring, on a deeper level, I think he knows that in truth, we must exile ourselves, not for for the sake of learning Torah, but for the sake of becoming ourselves.
There is no greater teacher of the Torah of exile than Dr. Joy Ladin. In her most recent book, The Soul of the Stranger, she writes in excruciating detail about the exile of her own transition, as she lost the right to live with her own children, to set foot on the campus of her own university, to attend her own father's funeral. And from that place of exile, she shares the deep Torah of her life.
"The Torah speaks to transgender lives because so much of it speaks to how hard it is for humanity to recognize and embrace someone - God - who cannot fit human terms. Transgender perspectives illuminate the Torah because we, like God, know what it means to love those who cannot understand us, to dwell in the midst of communities that have no place for us, to present ourselves in human terms that cannot help but misrepresent us. Religious communities that welcome transgender people hear in our voices an echo of the loneliness that haunts the living word of God. Religious communities that treat openly transgender people, even those of us who have lived in those communities all our lives, as strangers, should recall that God repeatedly commands the Israelites to remember their own experiences of being treated as strangers in the land of Egypt: to remember that they know--because God wants communities devoted to God to know--the soul of the stranger" (122).
I am grateful for all the ways that each of us at Kol Tzedek continues to stretch to create a spiritual home for trans and non-binary folks. It, too, is water in the desert.
Rabbi Ari Lev
Every Hebrew word is somehow derived from a two or three letter root, a combination of letters that can be conjugated and transformed to expand its meaning. One of the many reasons why Jewish tradition holds that the letters themselves contain mystical powers is because they are the source of all words of Torah.
Rabbi Mó and I are currently teaching a four-week Talmud class using the SVARA method. Perhaps the most unique pedagogical innovation of SVARA is the instruction to look up every word in the text, even if you think you know what it means. The goal is to understand not just the word, but the root of every word. To understand its essence, and from there, to reimagine its meaning.
This past week, we came across the word Torah in the passage of Talmud. And as you can imagine, most of us, once we decoded it, felt pretty sure we knew what Torah meant. Torah is Torah, after all. But determining its root requires something akin to grammar archeology. And what we discovered is that the root of Torah (ירה, ירי) means to permeate, to penetrate, to throw, to shoot forth. Torah is a path, it is an arrow in motion. This is why the first earth-soaking rain of the season is called yoreh, from the same root, for it shoots forth towards the ground.
When one digs a little deeper (in the dictionary), you can see that Torah means to point out, to direct, to teach and instruct. Which is to say, that Torah is not just any old kind of instruction. It is one that penetrates and permeates our lives, one that directs our actions.
It is a custom during the seven weeks between Passover and Shavout when we are meditating towards the revelation of Torah to study the six chapters of Pirkei Avot. Which is fitting for many reasons, not least of all because the final chapter is about Torah itself.
About the tablets that Moses received on Sinai upon which were engraved the 10 Commandments, it teaches, "Don't read the world חרות (charut, which means engraved), rather read it as חרות (cherut, which means freedom), because there is no freer person than someone who is busy studying Torah and all who study Torah will be raised up" (Pirkei Avot 6:2).
In this broken world (which contains our broken tablets), Torah is meant to be that which permeates within us a feeling of freedom, that which reconnects us to our instincts and our insights. It is from this sense of penetrating ease and purposeful direction that revelation is possible; in which we are reminded, again and again, we were all at Sinai. None of us are more or less entitled to Torah or truth.
This week in particular, as we have spent the past several weeks reading about the purity and impurity of women's bodies in the book of Leviticus, I want to direct our learning towards a world built on a foundation of reproductive justice. May we have the courage to reveal a Torah that manifests dignity and agency for all people, במהרה בימינו, speedily and in our days.
Rabbi Ari Lev
As my teacher Rabbi Art Green tells the story, two rabbis were having an argument some nineteen hundred years ago. The topic: What is Judaism's most important teaching? Rabbi Akiva, perhaps most famously, had a ready answer which just so happens to have come from this week's parsha: "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Lev. 19:18) is the basic rule of Torah. This teaching is at the core of what our tradition describes as the Holiness Code, which is read this week and again on Yom Kippur afternoon in my many synagogues.
Not surprisingly, his friend Simeon ben Azzai lovingly disagreed. "I know a more basic rule than that and he quoted from the book of Genesis, "This is the book of human generations: On the day that the Holy One created humans, they were created in the image of the Divine (b'tzelem elohim)..." (Gen. 5:1).
This debate is both ancient and ever relevant. And in truth it didn't begin with Rabbi Akiva and Ben Azzai. Almost two hundred years earlier Hillel famously taught, when asked to summarize Judaism on one foot for a potential convert, "Whatever is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. The rest is commentary; now go and learn" (B.T. Shabbat 31a). Akiva transforms Hillel's wisdom into the affirmative and roots it in biblical language.
I don't need to split hairs and choose the more righteous essence of Judaism. It is however worth noting that Ben Azzai has two worthwhile concerns. The first is about love. How can I be commanded to love someone? In these political times it does not take much imagination to conjure a person we consider so hateful that we cannot authentically muster love for them. Is that a violation of the essence of Judaism? To which Ben Azzai responds, no, love is not required as the most basic rule of Torah. But remember that they are still human beings, created in the image of God. That they are worthy of compassion and dignity. Treat them that way.
His second problem with Akiva's teaching hinges on the word "neighbor." Who does that include? Is that people with whom we live in proximity? Is that people like us? Is that only Jews? Or only Jews like us? Does Judaism not call us to extend our circles of concern to nishmat kol hai, the breath of all of creation?
Rabbi Green concludes, "The faith that every human being is created in God's image is the part of Judaism that has taken the deepest root in what may be culturally characterized as the 'Jewish soul.' Ironically it continues to exist even in Jews who are not sure if they can still use the word God or soul in any other part of their vocabulary. But they still affirm the lesson of tzelem elohim, the truth that every human life is sacred. It calls us to boundless respect for each human life, a valuing of human difference and individuality, and a commitment to fair and decent treatment for each person" (Judaisms 10 Best Ideas, p. 15).
Personally the question is still alive in my mind, what is the essence of Judaism? And I hope it always is.
Wishing you all a shabbat shalom,
Rabbi Ari Lev
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Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari brings Torat Hayyim, a living tradition, to Kol Tzedek Synagogue through thoughts about prayer, justice, and community.