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Where God is Depends on Us

When children ask us, “where is God?” We usually tell them that “God is everywhere.”

It’s a beautiful answer, completely true, but it doesn’t help when you are older. When we see what goes on in the world, we often ask ourselves the very same question, “Where is God?” The truth of the matter is that God’s presence in the world is hidden, difficult to perceive, yet embedded in everything.

After the Jewish people received the Torah on Sinai God instructs them in Parshat Terumah, “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” (Shemot 25:8). God instructs the Jewish people to create a vessel to experience the proximity of God.

Shabbat is another vessel for us to experience the indwelling presence of God in the world. For on Shabbat, teaches the Sfat Emet, we experience the truth that everything that we have and do exists only because of God, and we are able to recognize the sanctity of all creation.

When we gather at the table and bless the Shabbat on Friday night with our candles, wine, and meal, the Shechinah, the indwelling presence of God is with us.

When we gather as a community to sing, dance and pray especially on Shabbat- the Shechinah, the indwelling presence of God is with us.

Whenever we wonder where God is, it usually means that we’re not making a place for God. Because when we live a life full of Shabbat and community, of gratitude and giving, we cannot help but experience the proximity of God.

God’s presence in the world is truly, as the Rebbe of Kotzk taught, wherever we let God in. Our lives, and the whole world, can be a dwelling place for God. This is what the Torah is all about.

But our relationship with God depends totally on us.

Shabbat Shalom.

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Shabbat is Everything

Can’t wait for tonight.
Candlelight, a bottle of Bro-Deux from Shirah Wine, fresh challah from our French-Persian bakery with a heavy dose of sesame seeds on top, some special guests, our four children, my beautiful wife of over eighteen years, and certainly a feast befitting this auspicious time.

It’s a weekly ritual that grounds me in this world of here and now, and also elevates my soul to appreciate the oneness of Creation.

We’ll sing too. Shabbat melodies new and ancient. We’ll share stories and discuss this week’s Torah portion of Yitro, which contains the most important section of the Torah – the Ten Commandments. (A better translation would be the 10 Declarations, or Pronouncements).

This revelation includes the mitzvah of Shabbat, which in turn contains both the positive and prohibitive elements of Shabbat called shamor (guard) and zachor (remember).” We remember the Shabbat when we recite kiddush on Friday night, and we guard the Shabbat when we refrain from work.
Never before in human history has the wisdom of Shabbat been more apt that in our times. For in a life that is attached 24/7 to the umbilical chord of the data and mobile phone service, we find less time for ourselves, our families, and our communities.

Shabbat allows us the time, creates space, and contains rituals to focus on what truly matters.
The Zohar tells us that Shabbat sums up the entire Torah. I would add that Shabbat sums up all of Jewish life, history, and values. For Shabbat is about the sanctity of life, living in harmony with ourselves and others, the preciousness of the Earth, and connecting to the infinite wonder of Creation.

Can’t wait for tonight.


Join me for a Shabbat Camping Spiritual Adventure

Shabbat Tent and Pico Shul are organizing the second annual Mountain High Shabbat Spiritual Adventure for young adults in their 20s and 30s, August 22-24, in the Angeles National Forest Jackson Flats Campground.

This awesome summer camping weekend will take place from August 22-24 at Jackson Flats Campground 7,500′ high in the Angeles National Forest. Grab your backpack and camping gear, and we’ll provide the food, l’chaims, and spirituality. Space is very limited, so we need everyone to apply. Fill out this application if you are interested in this adventurous spiritual retreat. We will do our best to include all who apply, but unfortunately we cannot promise a spot to everyone this time around.

I will be leading the teaching and Shabbat programs.

Upon acceptance to the program you will have 48 hours to submit your registration fee or potentially loose your spot. Registration prior to Aug. 11th costs $75, and afterwards cost $99. Price includes camping and kosher meals from Friday dinner through Sunday brunch.

Register at

Thank you to our generous sponsors:
Allen and Deanna Alevy and Family
Barak Raviv Foundation
French-Friedman Foundation


Pico Shul: Our New Community

On Rosh Hashana Rachel and I founded Pico Shul together with a group of open-minded young adults with the common goal of creating a purposeful, welcoming Jewish community, committed to spiritual growth and living mindfully.
 We are located in the heart of LA’s Pico Robertson neighborhood, amid kosher restaurants, garages, and many other synagogues.

Our home is a converted warehouse run by Tomchei Shabbos which is used every Thursday to distribute food to hundreds of hungry Jewish families. It is also home to two lending organizations, one for wedding gowns and one with centerpieces for simchas. The karma of the place is palpable. It feels good to be amid the thousands of mitzvahs that are performed there every regularly.

World spread quickly about Pico Shul. While many factors contributed to this buzz, something about a new shul for young adults struck a chord. No longer relegated to Young Professional minyanim, young adults will populate and run Pico Shul. Hundreds attended our High Holiday, Days of Awesome services, far outnumbering the number of seats. It was cozy, inspiring, meaningful, musical, meaningful, and more.

When we launched Pico Shul it was, technically speaking, not my first shul. Once upon a time I ran the Nozyk Synagogue in Warsaw for a while between rabbis. The Chief rabbi fled Poland after pointing his finger at the Pope and the community began a worldwide search for a new Rabbi….who wanted to move to Poland and spoke Polish. Meanwhile, I carried the torch, ensuring minyanim, shchitah, mikvah, buriall and and other rabbinical duties were fulfilled with utmost care and respect. The average age at that time was 88. Sadly they are all gone, a group of men who practiced group grandparenting on me.

Pico Shul merges a passion for Judaism, Torah, social justice, music and community into one entity. We will be different in a lot of things that we do, and we will become, God willing, the spiritual and community home of many young adults. The community of people drawn to shul is already very diverse. Some have lost interest in the entire concept of synagogue. Some wander from shul to shul but have no place to call home. Some got the spirit, studied in yeshiva and have returned to LA and realized they are not Haredi. Some grew up “frum” and some grew up with minimal Jewish content in their lives. One cast off the Torah decades ago and is finding that he fits in here amid the young searching for community. Another loves the short divrei torah that we give between main sections of the service.

Nearly everything about the shul and its early beginnings are fulfillments of divine providence. That might sound outrageous, but its true. Finding a location. Finding funds to renovate the warehouse. Fixing the aging AC that everyone thought was dead. Donations of furniture and prayer books. The list goes on. We still need to get our own Torah, Aaron Ha Kodesh/Holy Ark, Bima/riser, Shulchan/Torah reading table, podiums.

More, much more, remains to be written about Pico Shul, and I will attempt to capture what I can on the pages of this blog.

We start our programming with Shabbat morning services. Starting at 9am with Torah learning about Noah and then at 9:45 with morning services / shacharit. All this is followed by a kiddush lunch made by my wife, the Rebbiztin Rachel 🙂 and a group of Shul volunteers. We hope that you can join us.

If you want to know support the community please email me at rabbi @