Rabbi Sara Mason-Barkin, Rosh Hashanah 5780
Congregation Beth Israel, Scottsdale, Arizona

I hope that many of you have had the chance to visit the celebrated Israel museum in Jerusalem. Home to famous works of art, like Robert Indiana’s Ahavah sculpture, a scale model of the temple in Jerusalem, as well as important artifacts like the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls: The collection at the museum is priceless. It represents the complicated and intriguing history of the land and people of Israel, and the promise of its future.

A few years ago a toddler visiting the museum with her family pressed her…

In recognition of Shabbat Shuvah, and in memory of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Rabbi Sara Mason-Barkin, 9.25.2020
Shabbat Shuvah
Congregation Beth Israel, Scottsdale, Arizona

My daughter, my girl, on her fourth birthday.

Dear Sela Penina, my daughter, my girl:

Tonight is Shabbat Shuva, a Shabbat of turning — a time for turning inwards, for reflection on who and how we’d like to be in the year ahead. …

In order to ‘love our neighbor,’ we need to see their pain.

Photo by Kyle Cleveland on Unsplash

“Earmuffs!” I told my daughter — our family’s shorthand way of saying to one child, I need to say something to your sibling that is not for you to hear. My older son was asking an important question.

He is rounding the corner to the end of third grade now. He is nine years old, and he has figured out by now that there is a lot about the world that we haven’t told him. He is old enough now to be ready for some difficult conversations.


Silence is not one-size fits all.

Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

I remember when I was a young teen, there was a tradition at my summer camp to ‘leave one’s mark’ with pithy quotes and song lyrics on the doors, walls and rafters of the cabin. I was as moved by the evidence of camp legacy as the administration was frustrated by the ritual defacement of our cabins. I remember one year there was sage teenage wisdom scrawled in sharpie near the door of our cabin. …

Like stars waiting patiently to emerge.

Stars at Night, Photo by Paige Weber on Unsplash

I’d like to share this poem with you. It is dated 3/11/20.
It has been a full year.

Pandemic — by Lynn Unger

What if you thought of it as the Jews consider the Sabbath — the most sacred of times? Cease from travel. Cease from buying and selling. Give up, just for now, on trying to make the world different than it is. Sing. Pray. Touch only those to whom you commit your life. Center down. And when your body has become still, reach out with your heart. Know that we are connected…

The arc bends towards justice, in the State of Israel and at home.

Reform female and male rabbis pray together at Robinson’s Arch, the Western Wall site slated for future egalitarian services, on February 25, 2016. (Y.R/Reform Movement)

Some good news:
This past Monday, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that people who convert to Judaism within the Conservative or Reform movement in Israel have a right to citizenship.

Though the ruling affects only a small number of people, it is a big deal because it symbolizes larger progress and change. …

Some straight talk with the Holy One.

I’ve got a bone to pick with You, God.

I hope You don’t mind my informality here, but it’s been a long week. A long month. A long year. And after all we’ve been through lately, I think maybe we’re beyond formalities. I think maybe we’re ready to put the niceties aside, and really address what’s been going on. No fancy language. No frilly metaphors. Just You and me in direct conversation.

Like I said, God. I’ve got a bone to pick with You.

You see, when I picked up my trusty copy…

Inspired by Amanda Gorman’s ‘The Hill We Climb’: A Reflection on Parashat Bo

Our Milo has just started saying words. As you can see, he is quite proud of himself.

One of my favorite milestones for each of my children was when they each said their first word. I’m sure many of you remember this for your own children — the delight and surprise when suddenly the lightbulb clicks on, and they connect the movement of their mouths and the sound of their voice to the world around them. That first word represents an identifying moment of individuality, a tangible step towards self-expression. Even if the word is as simple as ‘more,’ or ‘ducky,’ or ‘da-da’ —…

Summoning the heart strength we need to tell the story.

Where were you on Wednesday?

I know that you remember — and I know that you will always remember. Wednesday became one of those ‘where were you when’ days. Like the day that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Or when you first heard that Martin Luther King Jr had been assassinated. Or John F Kennedy. Or Yitzchak Rabin. You remember where you were on Wednesday, like you remember where you were when you first heard that a plane hit the Twin Towers.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021, the Assault on…

We are the makers of miracles, and our hands will heal the world.

Following every noisy meal at every Jewish summer camp, whether chicken nuggets or grilled cheese, everyone in the Chadar Ochel (the dining hall) participates in an obligatory round of Birkat HaMazon (the blessing after the meal). For those who haven’t heard it, it’s a long prayer — chanted in a leisurely way (or, in some circles, davened silently) with full bellies and happy hearts. …

Rabbi Sara Mason-Barkin

Rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel in Scottsdale, AZ.

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