Rabbi Weill's blog

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!


Tue, 03/01/2016 - 10:36am -- Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends:

We are in the midst of – brace yourselves – “Israel Apartheid Week,” a wrong-headed festival of hate and misinformation. This “week” actually takes places over the course of several weeks on college campuses in the United States, Britain, and throughout the world.

Israel Apartheid Week's main agenda is the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, or BDS, which seeks to isolate Israel economically, culturally, and in every other possible way. Some treatment for the most vigorous democracy in the Middle East!


Fri, 02/19/2016 - 1:53pm -- Rabbi Weill

Dear friends,

Praying for the health of sick friends and relatives is an integral part of our Shabbat services. The Mishebeirach, our healing prayer, means, "He who blessed...." It beseeches G-d, who blessed our ancestors, to bless as well those in need of healing.

While it is traditional to recite a Mishebeirach for cholim (sick people) at Torah services, the minhag (custom) at EHNT is to recite it as well at Shabbat evening services.

How Does G-d Say, “I AM HERE”? Through Miracles and Murmurs

Fri, 01/08/2016 - 1:31pm -- Rabbi Weill

Dear friends,

Dam, Tzifardeia, Kinim, Arov, Dever, Shichin, Barad. These are the first seven plagues upon Egypt in this week’s Torah portion, Va’Eira: blood, frogs, lice, swarms, pestilence, boils, and hail.

We often consider the plagues as punishments upon the Evil Empire of Egypt for its brutal treatment of Israel. But the plagues’ real objective was not vengeance. It was rather G-d’s assertion of exclusive sovereignty over the earth.

Find that Sacred Something

Fri, 11/20/2015 - 10:25am -- Rabbi Weill

Dear friends,

Jacob, in flight from his furious brother Esau, stops at "a makom," a non-descript place at the start of Va'Yetzei, this week's Torah portion. According to one commentary, "To Jacob...it is a profane place with no prior tradition of holiness, and he treats it with indifference" (JPS).

Our Minyan, Our Community

Thu, 11/12/2015 - 3:50pm -- Rabbi Weill

Dear friends,

One benefit we receive when we join a community is support during important moments. For many Jews, one such important moment is kaddish recitation for loved ones. We are extremely fortunate to hold daily services, which allow us to recite kaddish with the support of a minyan.

We Remember

Fri, 11/06/2015 - 1:03pm -- Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,
Remembering can be a sacred act. Sometimes we remember to mourn, sometimes to warn, and sometimes to celebrate.

Filling Empty Vessels

Fri, 10/30/2015 - 3:06pm -- Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Autumn and the natural world changes: cool air stings. Geese propel themselves southward, honking as they go, while squirrels bury and munch, munch and bury, fattening themselves. Leaves turn yellow, orange, red, brown, and then fall thick on our lawns. And on farms, the harvest is hauled in.

The Kippah

Thu, 10/22/2015 - 4:47pm -- Rabbi Weill

Dear friends,

People sometimes ask me about my kippah. How often do I wear it? (A lot!)  How many do I own? (Also, a lot!) Why do I wear it? (Because I am a Jew!) Do I wear it around the house? (Usually.) I have even been asked if I wear it when I sleep. (No!)

But wearing a kippah can be complicated, for most of us feel a bit of social squeamishness when we stand out in a crowd. I am not immune from this, perhaps because I did not start wearing a kippah (or yarmulke) regularly until I began rabbinical school in my late thirties.

End of Tishrei cycle...

Mon, 10/12/2015 - 11:36am -- Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,
With the Tishrei holiday cycle now behind us, we return to our routine. That feels good!
Our Bible study, The Land Beyond Torah, has now resumed. We meet every Thursday at 11 am. I love this class and know you will too. It offers a great way to learn and discuss and to get to know each other. Come check it out!
I am also always excited for Koleinu, our monthly musical Friday night service at 7 pm. And next month’s Koleinu – November 13 – will be preceded by a Shabbat dinner. Details will follow.

Shofar Blower

Tue, 09/01/2015 - 4:26pm -- Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

As the High Holy Days approached, the congregation needed a shofar blower. The rabbi rushed off an email to the congregation: Shofar Blower Needed! Tryouts: Monday, 5 pm.”  She had no idea if anyone would come at such short notice. But three congregants were waiting in the sanctuary at the appointed time.  The rabbi sat in the first row and said, “Please give me one tekiah gedolah and an explanation as to why you believe you should be our shofar blower.”

Who's Your Brother?

Thu, 08/13/2015 - 5:24pm -- Rabbi Weill

Dear friends,

"Do not harden your heart or shut your hand," we read in Re'eh, this week's Torah portion, "against your brother."

It's a holy injunction to help one's brother, but we need to define our terms. Who is, after all, "your brother"? According to our tradition, what does "brother" ("ach" in Hebrew) refer to? Is it one's literal sibling, or could it be someone more remote? Does it refer to another Jew, or could it be anyone?


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