Wendi Geffen

Rabbi Wendi Geffen

Wendi Geffen is the senior rabbi at North Shore Congregation Israel in suburban Chicago. Dedicated to social justice and its Jewish textual roots, she regularly works to empower the synagogue and her larger community to act on the Jewish imperative to pursue tzedek. Wendi can be reached at rabbigeffen@nsci.org.

Korach

When it comes to high drama, it’s hard to beat Parashat Korach. When Moses’s first cousin, Korach, challenges the leader’s authority, Moses retorts by suggesting a “spirituality duel” of sorts, charging Korach and his band to return the next morning so each party can present offerings to God. Korach’s offerings are rejected, and God renders a final sweeping judgment against the rebels by opening a chasm in the earth that swallows all of Korach’s people and their possessions.

Read More

Behar

Woodie Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” is perhaps the most celebrated love song for the varied wonders of American terrain. Although its verses reveal Guthrie’s love for the land, the song’s title and catchy refrain, “this land was made for you and me,” express how many of us relate to the land: as something we possess.

Read More

Tetzaveh

In third grade, my Hebrew School teacher took our class into the sanctuary to point out its most important fixtures. After the Ark and the Torah scroll, he directed our eyes up to the very top of the ceiling, from which hung a sphere-shaped lamp. With our necks craned to gaze up at the orb’s flickering light, he announced: “That is the Ner Tamid, the Eternal Light—it NEVER goes out!” Our oohs and ahhs abounding, we stood mystified, attributing the light’s sustained flame to Divine power. Of course, we later learned that it was fueled by the electric company, but nevertheless, at no point did we worry that the light might be extinguished, nor did we feel any responsibility to maintain the spark ourselves.

Read More

Bo

Passover doesn’t arrive until April, but Parashat Bo already has us thinking about it. In detailing the first Chag haMatzot, the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the parashah establishes perhaps the most fundamental dichotomy of Passover: chametz vs. matzah.

Read More

Ki Tisa

Seeing is believing. Such is the way of our world. With two-thirds of the population dependent upon visual information to learn, it is no surprise that images flashing on a screen or printed on a page determine our understanding of reality.

Read More

Ki Tavo

Arami oved avimy father was a fugitive Aramean. He went down to Egypt in meager numbers, but there he became a great and populous nation. The Egyptians dealt harshly with us, oppressed us, imposed heavy labor upon us… Adonai freed us from Egypt by a mighty hand, by an outstretched arm and awesome power, and by signs and portents. God brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. Wherefore I now bring the first fruits of the soil which You, Adonai, have given me.

Read More

Shlach

You likely know that our ancestors wandered the wilderness for 40 years until they entered the Promised Land. You may find it surprising, though, that the ancient Israelites actually arrived at the border of the Land of Israel only two years after the Exodus. The other 38 years of wandering weren’t a long journey to the land; they were the consequence of ill-fated events that took place during Parashat Shlach.

Read More

Ki Tavo

…Arami oved avi—my father was a fugitive Aramean. He went down to Egypt in meager numbers, but there he became a great and populous nation. The Egyptians dealt harshly with us, oppressed us, imposed heavy labor upon us… Adonai freed us from Egypt by a mighty hand, by an outstretched arm and awesome power, and …Read More

Read More

Va’etchanan

Many assert that helping non-Jews in developing countries isn’t a Jewish thing to do. They argue that while pursuing betterment for all takes nothing away from living Jewishly, such pursuits are not dictated by Jewish law. They interpret Jewish imperatives like caring for the orphan, the widow and the stranger, or loving one’s neighbor as …Read More

Read More

Korach

When it comes to high drama, it’s hard to beat Parshat Korach. When Moses’s first cousin, Korach, challenges the leader’s authority, Moses retorts by suggesting a “spirituality duel” of sorts, charging Korach and his band to return the next morning so each party can present offerings to God. Korach’s offerings are rejected, and God renders …Read More

Read More