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Divrei  Torah - Rabbi Toba Spitzer

These divrei torah have been delivered on High Holydays and on other occasions.

Rabbi Spitzer is also writing for ON Scripture – The Torah, a weekly Jewish scriptural commentary, produced in collaboration with Odyssey Networks and Hebrew College. Thought leaders from the United States and beyond offer their insights into the weekly Torah portion and contemporary social, political, and spiritual life. These...Read more...

This is the Fast: Isaiah's Challenge

Rabbi Toba Spitzer

Yom Kippur 5764

PDF: 5764-yk.pdf

I want to engage with you with the text that Elaine has just read for us, the section of Isaiah that was chosen by the ancient rabbis to be read every year on Yom Kippur morning.

This portion of the Book of Isaiah was most likely written in the 6th century BCE, after the destruction of the first Temple in Jerusalem and the exile of the Jewish community to Babylonia. The...Read more...

The Path of Sorrow and The Path of Joy

Rabbi Toba Spitzer

Erev Rosh Hashanah 5764

PDF: 5764-erev-rh.pdf

Rabbi Toba Spitzer

A teaching, from the early Hassidic rebbe, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev, as told by Martin Buber:

The Rebbe was asked: What is the right way, that sorrow or that of joy? And he answered: There are two kinds of sorrow and two kinds of joy. When a person broods over the misfortunes that have come upon him, when he cowers in a corner...Read more...

For The Sake of the World

Rabbi Toba Spitzer

Rosh Hashanah I 5764

PDF:  5764-rh.pdf

Where do we first hear about Rosh Hashanah? In the Torah, in the book of Leviticus, we read:

Adonai spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the Israelites, saying: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, shall be for you a day a rest, a memorial proclaimed with the blast of the shofar, a holy assembly. (23:23).

It then goes on to give instructions about...

And Jacob Sat Down--Reflections on Fear

Rabbi Toba Spitzer

Rosh Hashanah I 5763

PDF: 5763-rh.pdf

If there’s one word that seems to have captured our attention since September 11th, it’s the word “terror. It’s a dramatic word, fitting for dramatic events, for events that only a year ago would have been unimaginable. On a less dramatic level are the fears we encounter as we go about our lives, fears of pain and loss that each of us have encountered at some point in...Read more...

The Seat of Rachamim

Rabbi Toba Spitzer

Yom Kippur 5763

PDF: 5763-yk.pdf

I want to talk today with you about a topic that is difficult, in many ways, a topic that can create tension in families, divide communities, that we often want to avoid because it is so contentious. That topic is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

So. Why do I want to tackle this issue today, on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of our year?

There are at least two...


Rabbi Toba Spitzer

Kol Nidre 5763

PDF: 5763-yk.pdf

This past summer, I went on a meditation retreat at a center located in the town of Barre, Mass. At the end of the retreat, I went to a little diner and enjoyed a breakfast of eggs, homefries, and iced tea – all of which cost $2.50.

When it came time to pay the bill, I looked in my wallet, and saw that the smallest bill was a $10 bill. But here I was, after a week of silent...Read more...

Unetaneh Tokef: The Spiritual Challenge of This Moment

Rabbi Toba Spitzer

Rosh Hashanah I 5762

PDF: 5762-utaneh-tokef.pdf

It hasn’t been the easiest thing, to come up with words that match the enormity of what we have experienced this week. Sometimes it has felt that silence, or tears, or shouts of pain, are the only appropriate response. And I imagine many of us feel overwhelmed with words and images—from the TV, the radio, the newspaper.

The words I’d like to share with you...


Rabbi Toba Spitzer

Kol Nidre 5762

PDF: 5762-kol-nidre.pdf​​​​​​​

There is such a swirl about us these days, it’s hard to keep one’s head clear…Never-ending commentary on the radio and TV, projections and conjectures and musings about what’s next, and meanwhile many continue to mourn and grieve, to look for the lost, to wonder what the other shoe is and when it will drop.

In the framework...


Yom Kippur 5762

PDF: 5762-yom-kippur.pdf

Today’s haftarah, those powerful words from the prophet Isaiah, were a call and a challenge to a community that had fallen down on its obligations. To our ears Isaiah’s charge may sound radical, like a call for a new type of community or society. But in the context of the Bible, the prophet’s call was not for something new, but for a return to something old:...Read more...

Thirty-One Flavors

Rabbi Toba Spitzer

PDF: 5761-rosh-hashanah-31-flavors.pdf

There are moments, bits of conversation, that can stay with us for a long time, interactions that still echo years later. A few sentences that a friend and I said to each other nearly 20 years ago has remained with me ever since. As I prepared this talk I realized that in some ways my life of the past 10 years has been a partial answer to a conversation that was...Read more...


Rabbi Toba Spitzer

Kol Nidre 5761

PDF: 5761-kol-nidre.pdf

This week and next, we find ourselves in the final chapters of the book of Deuteronomy, Devarim.We find ourselves on the mountaintop with Moshe, standing in the plains of Moav, looking over into the promised land. God has taken Moses up to the top of Mount Nebo and says: Here, look—look across the length and breadth of this land. You may not go in, but I want you to see all...Read more...

Of Zoos, Jury Duty & Barbra Streisand:  Creating Covenantal Community

Rabbi Toba Spitzer

PDF: RH1 sermon 5760-Covenantal Community.pdf

Rosh Hashanah 5760/1999

           In today’s Torah portion, we read about the long-awaited birth of Avraham and Sarah’s son Isaac—the son who represents the fulfillment of a promise made to Avraham long ago of “countless seed,” the promise that he would become the father of a great nation.  Through the rest of the book of...Read more...

Rosh Hashanah I


PDF: RH1 sermon 5760-Covenantal Community.pdf

Of Zoos, Jury Duty & Barbra Streisand:

Creating Covenantal Community

Rabbi Toba Spitzer

Rosh Hashanah 5760/1999

            In today’s Torah portion, we read about the...

Mon, 19 August 2019