Rabbi Weill's blog

Door Bolts and Menorahs

Mon, 12/10/2018 - 11:38pm -- Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

The Assyrian Greeks commanded the Jews, “Inscribe on the bolts of your doors, ‘I have neither portion nor heritage in the G-d of Israel!’” So the Jews pulled the bolts from their doors. They then commanded the Jews, “Write on the horns of your oxen, ‘I have neither portion nor heritage in the G-d of Israel!’” So the Jews sold their oxen.

This story – from a collection of ancient midrashim about Chanukah – celebrates how our forebears’ bravery, creativity, and faithfulness. 

Thanksgiving Thought

Wed, 11/21/2018 - 2:07pm -- Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Once again, Jacob has left the past behind. In Va'Yishlach, this week's Torah portion, twenty years after leaving Canaan for Haran, Jacob leaves Haran for Canaan, the land of his birth. On his way back home, before crossing the Jabbok River, Jacob must wrestle with a man. This man's identity is not clear to Jacob. Perhaps he believes the man is a river demon, a common motif in ancient literature. Jacob soon learns, though, that the man is divine. At this realization, Jacob insists, "I will not let you go until you bless me" (Genesis 32:27). 

Goldie At 100

Fri, 08/24/2018 - 4:58pm -- Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

The wise Abraham Joshua Heschel did not live to a ripe old age. He passed away in 1972 at 65 years old. Yet, wisdom does not necessarily depend on direct personal experience. It is born as well from a thoughtful, sensitive mind.

Heschel employed that sensitivity in his article To Grow in Wisdom. “The years of old age,” he wrote, “[are] rich in possibilities to unlearn the follies off a lifetime, to see through inbred self-deceptions, to deepen understanding and compassion, to widen the horizon of honesty.”

Haters, Stop Hating!

Tue, 07/24/2018 - 2:35pm -- Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

We have begun the month of Av. It is painful month because tradition holds that major calamities occurred on the Ninth of Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. 

The destruction of the Second Temple pains us the most. Why? Because we did it to ourselves. Yes, the Romans did the actual destroying, but our tradition is clear; our sinat chinam, our baseless hatred toward each other, really caused the Temple to fall. The Romans were merely G-d’s agents. 

May Salvation Arise For Our Leaders

Tue, 07/24/2018 - 2:28pm -- Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Aaron has died. Miriam has died. Moses too will die before his people enter the Promised Land. In Pinchas, this week's Torah portion, G-d commands Moses to stand Joshua before the entire community and instill into the younger man some of Moses’s own spiritual authority. Earlier in the portion, Moses stands before the community with Pinchas himself, who eventually would become High Priest. For the Israelite people, new leaders have arisen. 

Al Talmideihon – For Their Students

Tue, 07/03/2018 - 11:23am -- Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

In our final Land Beyond Torah class of the year, we completed the book of Second Samuel. As is customary upon the completion of a sacred text, our class of about 30 rose to recite Kaddish d’Rabbanan, the “Rabbi’s Kaddish.” 

This Kaddish – in Aramaic, like all Kaddishes– beseeches G-d to bestow blessings upon teachers of Torah and upon their students. “Al rabbanan,” we intone, “v’al talmideihon.” For our rabbis and for their students.

Men's Club Shabbat & The Ruebner Torah

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 6:55pm -- Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

We are all excited for our Men's Club to lead our Shabbat morning services this Saturday, once again on Father’s Day weekend, just as our Sisterhood so ably led last month on Mother’s Day weekend.

Removing the Torah from the Ark is, for me, the heart and highlight of our services. The Torah tells the Jewish story, part one. That dramatic story continues with the admonitions of the prophets and the wisdom of the Writings. It then moves on into the great corpus of rabbinic literature and beyond. 

No Defect? No Way!

Sat, 05/05/2018 - 1:08pm -- Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Not all priests of ancient Israel were created equal. If a priest was born with a defect – or if he (yes, always a “he”) developed a defect through accident or illness – he would not be permitted to function as a priest at the Temple. Note this week’s Torah portion, Emor.

כָּל־אִ֞ישׁ אֲשֶׁר־בּ֣וֹ מ֗וּם מִזֶּ֙רַע֙ אַהֲרֹ֣ן הַכֹּהֵ֔ן לֹ֣א יִגַּ֔שׁ לְהַקְרִ֖יב אֶת־אִשֵּׁ֣י יְהוָ֑ה מ֣וּם בּ֔וֹ אֵ֚ת לֶ֣חֶם אֱלֹהָ֔יו לֹ֥א יִגַּ֖שׁ לְהַקְרִֽיב׃

Filipino Koleinu

Wed, 04/18/2018 - 1:27pm -- Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Many Jews speak of being “cultural” Jews. What does that mean? Often it has much to do with food.  Bagels, lox, and cream cheese? Jewish. Chicken soup? Jewish.  Pastrami with mustard? Jewish. With mayo perhaps? Not so Jewish.

See You On Sunday

Thu, 03/08/2018 - 4:07pm -- Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

We are a rich congregation. For the sake of clarity, I mean that we are rich in spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally.  We are rich because of you and are particularly blessed with several rabbi congregants, enough to produce an Adult Education series called “Our Five Fab Rabbis.” These Sunday morning programs, occurring immediately after minyan, feature our rabbis as the fine teachers they are, teaching topics they love. 

Schools Are Sanctuaries

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 5:36pm -- Rabbi Weill

V’asu li mikdash v’shachanti b’tocham
Build for Me a Holy Place and I will dwell among them (Exodus 25: 8).


Thus says G-d to Moses in Terumah, this week’s Torah portion. In this context, “mikdash” refers to the sanctuary the Israelites carried through the desert. But in common parlance, “Mikdash” refers to the Holy Temple King Solomon built centuries later.

You're God, I'm Not

Sun, 02/04/2018 - 5:24pm -- Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

We read the Ten Commandments this Shabbat. We usually call them the Ten Commandments, but in Hebrew they are referred to as “aseret ha’dibrot,” the Ten Utterances.

While most of those “utterances” begin with a grammatical imperative (or command), the very first begins with a statement: “I am the Lord your God who took you out from the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage” (Exodus 20,2).

Making Sense of Pharaoh's Heart

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 10:28pm -- Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

We encounter the great conundrum of Pharaoh’s hardened heart. In this week’s Torah portion, Bo, Pharaoh hardened his own heart during the first few plagues. But in the last few plagues, it is G-d who hardened the despot’s heart.

How could Pharaoh have let the people go if G-d pre-programmed his heart to “no”? Why would G-d do such a thing?

On the Fifth Anniversary of Sandy Hook

Thu, 12/14/2017 - 12:00am -- Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the shooting massacre of 20 first graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. 

Do you recall that devastating day? Do you remembering the photos of parents engulfed in the searing torment of unutterable tragedy? 

You would have thought that would have been the day – that would have been the moment – for a national reckoning on gun violence in our country.

Don't Blame Dina

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 12:00am -- Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Dina, Jacob’s only daughter, “goes out” in this week’s Torah portion, Va’Yishlach. She socializes with other young women and is then raped by a Hivvite prince.

Dina is clearly a victim. After all, the text notes that the prince “va’yi’aneihah,” translated variously as “forcing her,” “humbling her,” and as “he abused her” (Genesis 34, 2).

Jacob and Esau — How To Raise Such Different Children!

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 1:31pm -- Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Jacob good, Esau bad. This is the dichotomy we place upon these twins, about whom we read in Toledot, this week’s Torah portion.

While Esau is the wild man of the fields, the hunter who consorts with Hittite women, Jacob is tam, wholehearted, and yosheiv ohalim, the one who dwells in tents and, according to our sages, anachronistically studies Torah.

Jacob becomes our patriarch, a leader of our people, a hero. He earns a new name, “Israel,” the father of the 12 tribes.

Fighting The Yetzer Day By Day

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 1:17pm -- Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

In 1845 Rabbi Mendel of Satanov (Ukraine) published a little book titled “Cheshbon ha’Nefesh,” which means an accounting of the soul. Rabbi Mendel included a parable about a strongman who bears a calf upon his shoulders for a few hours daily, beginning on the day the calf is born. As the months and years pass, the calf grows and grows until it becomes a very heavy heifer.

But the strongman can bear the burden, for he has conditioned himself, day by day, to carrying the ever bigger bovine.

Mazel Tov To Our Leaders

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 7:01pm -- Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

How nice it is to end the year with good news about two of our congregational leaders. 

President Ed Cohen has received a prestigious honor, the Bowl of Hygeia Award, from the Illinois Pharmacist Association. The award, presented to only one pharmacist annually, honors one who has compiled an “outstanding record of community service.”  Ed has been long been involved in civic service commitments, including sitting on the board of the University of Illinois. We are lucky to have him as president of EHNT and offer him hearty congratulations!

On Consolation

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 10:36am -- Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

This Shabbat morning we chant the sixth of seven haftarot of consolation that connect Tisha b’Av, which marks calamities, to Rosh Hashana, which marks hope and a new beginning.

Elul Message

Fri, 08/25/2017 - 9:54am -- Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

The spiritual leader, teacher, halakhic codifier, and prayer-leader, Rabbi Jacob ben Moshe ha’Levi Molin, known as the Maharil, died 590 years ago this month, on 22 Elul. He spent most of his adult life in Mainz, Germany.

He taught, “All the month of Elul, before eating and sleeping, let all sit, look into their souls, and search their deeds that they may make confession.”  Indeed, Elul offers us a full month of introspection and honest soul-appraisal in anticipation of the High Holy Days.

Thanksgiving and Coming Together

Thu, 11/17/2016 - 5:12pm -- Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends:

We could use some quality time together. And when I say "we," I mean, well, the American people.

Luckily, we have that opportunity! On Wednesday, November 23, 7:30 pm, the Niles Township Clergy Forum will host its annual Interfaith Service of Thanksgiving, taking place this year at Temple Beth Israel, 3601 Dempster. Rabbi Brief and I will be in attendance and participating.

May we pursue peace...

Fri, 07/15/2016 - 11:17am -- Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

“Be among the disciples of Aaron,” we read in Pirkei Avot, “loving peace and pursuing peace” (1:12).

In this week’s Torah portion, Chukat, Aaron dies.

The Israelites mourn Aaron universally. Is it any wonder? Aaron was a true rodeif shalom, a pursuer of peace. So much so, according to our Sages, that he even told little lies just to bring rivals closer together. 

Shemini - Kiddush

Thu, 03/31/2016 - 3:38pm -- Rabbi Weill

Dear friends:

This week's Torah portion, Shemini, details kosher and non-kosher animals. We are fortunate to enjoy a kosher and delightful kiddush lunch each Shabbat afternoon. It doesn't just happen!  It demands the loving preparation by the EHNTJC Kitchen Committee, composed of our friends Francine Schulman and Ken and Sandy Kaiz. Francine and the Kaizes work alongside a cadre of additional volunteers to help prepare and set up this lunch each week.

Purim and redemption in post-prophetic time

Fri, 03/18/2016 - 10:49am -- Rabbi Weill

Dear friends:

Purim is about shpiels, costumes, and frivolity. But it is much more than that as well. It is also about how we, today, understand “divine intervention.”

Redemption follows miracles in Torah. We came out from Egypt as a result of G-d’s grand miracles. Not so with the Book of Esther, the source of the Purim holiday. No miracles occur in that story. G-d’s name does not even appear – not once!


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