Sam Berrin Shonkoff

Sam Shonkoff

Sam Berrin Shonkoff is currently the Jewish student life coordinator at Stanford Hillel. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Religious Studies from Brown University and has also studied in Jerusalem at Hebrew University, Pardes Institute and The Conservative Yeshiva. Sam's passions include backpacking, meditation, friends and family, writing, dancing and social action. He believes that mindful engagement with Torah can be a way for us to encounter ourselves and others more intimately. Sam can be reached at samshonkoff@gmail.com.

Lech Lecha

Parashat Lech Lecha chronicles Avram’s development and maturation into the role that God designates for him: to be the seed of a new people whose values are rooted in justice and righteousness. God tells Avram to “be a blessing,” a cryptic phrase for the nascent leader and for us. What does it mean to “be a blessing?” As the parashah unfolds, we can trace Avram’s development into this role. His growth shows us what it means to embody justice and righteousness; to be a blessing.

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Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

This week’s Dvar Tzedek was originally published in 2009. Acharei Mot, Kedoshim. After Death, Holy. The mysterious yet evocative sound of the titles of this double parshah uttered together hints at the relationship between darkness and luminescence. It reveals a tension between two dimensions of the human experience: our potential for fallibility and distance from …Read More

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Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

This week’s Dvar Tzedek was originally published in 2009. Acharei Mot, Kedoshim. After Death, Holy. The mysterious yet evocative sound of the titles of this double parshah uttered together hints at the relationship between darkness and luminescence. It reveals a tension between two dimensions of the human experience: our potential for fallibility and distance from …Read More

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Yitro

This week’s Dvar Tzedek was originally published in 2009. Experiences and behaviors that we define as “spiritual” tend to be of a specifically inward nature. We generally associate spirituality—admittedly, an opaque term—more with thought, soul and self than with action, materiality and society. In other words, we are more likely to identify a reclusive monk …Read More

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Shoftim

On the surface, capital punishment looks like a perfect embodiment of justice. What could be a more fair and logical consequence for people who take others’ lives? The Torah seems to unequivocally support the death penalty. Deuteronomy teaches, “Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”[1] Moreover, numerous …Read More

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Matot-Masei

The child in me wants to hide parshiyot Matot and Masei in a dusty attic somewhere; so many of their words are disillusioning, disturbing and embarrassing. Parshat Matot begins with sexism: all men must keep their promises, yet women’s promises may be nullified by disapproving husbands and fathers.[1] It continues with genocide: in a spirit …Read More

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Matot-Masei

The child in me wants to hide parshiyot Matot and Masei in a dusty attic somewhere; so many of their words are disillusioning, disturbing and embarrassing. Parshat Matot begins with sexism: all men must keep their promises, yet women’s promises may be nullified by disapproving husbands and fathers.[1] It continues with genocide: in a spirit …Read More

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Beha’alotcha

In a just nation, power is distributed among all people. To achieve this ideal, leaders need the humility to empower their own citizens, and grassroots communities need the audacity to actively shape society. In Parshat Beha’alotcha, we see that Moses understands this need for power-sharing. Near the end of the parshah, Miriam and Aaron pose …Read More

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Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

Acharei Mot, Kedoshim. After Death, Holy. The mysterious yet evocative sound of the titles of this double parshah uttered together hints at the relationship between darkness and luminescence. It reveals a tension between two dimensions of the human experience: our potential for fallibility and distance from divinity, and our potential for virtue and closeness to …Read More

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Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

Acharei Mot, Kedoshim. After Death, Holy. The mysterious yet evocative sound of the titles of this double parshah uttered together hints at the relationship between darkness and luminescence. It reveals a tension between two dimensions of the human experience: our potential for fallibility and distance from divinity, and our potential for virtue and closeness to …Read More

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