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Off the Shelf: Communities’ unwritten rules

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

Every community has unwritten rules which people live by, even if they can’t necessarily articulate exactly what they are. However, it’s always clear when a line has been crossed and punishment or ostracism is required. Children learn these rules without specif…

Off the Shelf: Love, family and finding your bashert

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

When I was growing up and my mother would talk about marriage, she would use the phrase “every pot has its lid.” That’s similar to the concept of bashert, that there is a person meant just for you. But how do you determine that? And what if the person you thi…

Off the Shelf: A community before and after disaster

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

On October 27, 2018, during Shabbat morning services, the worst mass killing of American Jews took place in the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh. Eleven people died in the shooting by a white supremacist who objected to a program or…

Off the Shelf: The spiritual side of the Mishna

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

Study is considered a spiritual practice in Judaism. Most people study either the biblical text (and the midrashic – rabbinic stories – about that text) or the Talmud. Since the Talmud includes much of the text that appears in the Mishna, fewer study the latter…

Off the Shelf: Three genres

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

Graphic novel

When I read a novel about the search for the lost Ark of the Covenant, I expect the plot to head in one of two directions: either stark realism or otherworldly mysticism. Rutu Modan’s graphic novel “Tunnels” (Drawn and Quarterly) leans toward th…