Raise Your Voice

March 25, 2022

There is a time for silence and there is a time for screaming out in joy, agony, celebration, or suffering, and in this week’s parashah, Shemini, we read the story of the death of Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, and Aaron’s consequent “[numbing] silence.”

It is a strange micro-story with little clarity as to the specific reasons behind Aaron’s two sons’ deaths other than being told that they brought an “alien fire” to Gd for their sacrificial process. Yet, it is not this extreme consequence, which has been discussed extensively by our great rabbis and sages, rather, it is Aaron’s curious state of “yidom” (“dumbstruck silence”) following Moses’ words of consolation that draw the focus of this week’s words of Torah.

Being silent has a time and place. In fact, Pirke Avot (The Ethics of our Fathers) shares in 1:17, “All my life I have been raised among the Sages, and I have not found anything better for oneself than silence.” Of course, many of us know the modern version of these sacred words, “Better to remain silent and appear dumb, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” The Talmud, in Megillah 18a, carries this recognition of silence further and explains that “A word is valued at a sela [monetary unit], but silence is valued at two selas.”

Obviously, silence has its place and time, and even our traditions and customs around mourning teach us that when visiting the home of a mourner it is appropriate to not say anything until the mourner says something first. Very often the mourner is not interested in conversation, rather, they desire, or simply need, the company without needing to entertain. Even in the modern-day secular world, an event may begin with a “moment of silence” in honor or in memory of someone.

BUT, equally as necessary is to have one’s voice heard at the right time. Gd created humanity with the capacity to speak. We have the ability to express our thoughts, emotions, and abstract concepts. Through speech we build relationships, we agree, we disagree, and we often agree to disagree. Now, to be clear, I am not suggesting that the mute cannot “speak”, rather the mute and even those who face each other without a common language simply speak through their unique method of communication.

This brings me to the unspoken words of a Torah Academy of San Antonio (TASA) student this week. As part of TASA’s annual Purim celebrations, and in order to fulfill the mitzvah of matanot l’evyonim (gifts to the vulnerable), TASA students were asked to contribute to our local San Antonio Ukrainian crisis relief efforts. The students did an amazing job and invited me to come on behalf of the vulnerable populations we serve and the escaping refugees in crisis to receive their $801 for the relief efforts.

It was while I visited the school that I was told the story of a student, who himself is a child of a family who receives community support and assistance, who brought $20 to contribute to the effort. Unsurprisingly the school reached out to the parents to make sure that there was no misunderstanding, after which the discussion only validated that this young man took the $20 from his own personal savings to do what he could to help those in need.

This act of generosity, selflessness, acute understanding, and incredible empathy spoke so loudly that we can only pray that the angels and Gd heard this boy’s message too!

The time to speak, to cry out in heartbreak, and to make sure everyone hears about the crisis in Ukraine is now! As Aaron taught us in this week’s text, after death it is too late to raise your voice. We must be heard while our loved ones are still alive.

The Jewish Federation is incredibly proud of our Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) who led the local interfaith efforts to advocate to President Biden to accept refugees into the United States. Federation is equally excited to share that Board Chair, Michael Swanson, and I will be traveling to the Polish-Ukrainian border during the first week of April on a Jewish Federations of North America-led solidarity mission to bring as many over-the-counter medicines as we can carry, to personally witness the pain and suffering taking place at these border crossings, and provide whatever support and comfort we can in letting the refugees, the locals, and the humanitarian aid workers know that we will do everything we can to raise our voices and be heard.

Please join us in these local efforts to help. If you are not able to make a financial contribution, please drop off a sealed new package of non-liquid over-the-counter medicines (for a list of requested items click HERE.) These supplies are desperately needed, and we can only do this if we are…


Shabbat shalom,



September 22 – Aseret Yemei Teshuvah


September 15 – The Power of Persistence and Learning

September 8 – All of You

September 1 – A Knowing Heart

August 25 – Commitment to Jewish Literacy

August 18 – Our Time to Self-Reflect

August 11 – Aser Te’aser

August 4 – Consequences of Not Helping Others

July 28 – The Second Comfort

July 21 – Selfless Leaders

July 14 – The Thought Doesn’t Always Count

July 7 – Responding to Our Own Anger

June 30 – There and Here

June 23 – Strength from Unity

June 16 – To Look and To See

June 9 – Our Light to the Community

June 2 – Unique Gifts

May 25 – Gemilut Hasadim

May 19 – Nurturing Growth: Fire, Water, and Land

May 12 – Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind

May 5 – Our Seven Attributes

April 28 – Holiness in Repetition

April 21 – Asking Good Questions

April 14 – Our Connection to Water

April 5 – Zissen Pesach

March 31 – Our Obligation to Assist

March 24 – Different Levels of Sacrifice

March 17 – Creating Sacred Spaces

March 10 – Not Deciding Is A Decision

March 3 – Weaving the Fabrics of Our Community

February 24 – Tzedakah vs Philanthropy

February 17 – A Holy Nation

February 10 – You Cannot Do It Alone

February 3 – One Small Act

January 27 – Pushing Back the Plague of Darkness

January 20 – Three Types of Conflict

January 13 – I am that I am

January 6 – The Journeys We Pursue

December 30 – We are Judeans

December 23 – The Light of our Existence

December 16 – Passing On Wisdom

December 9 – The Company We Keep

December 2 – The Irrelevant One

November 23 – Breaking Bread and Building Relationships

November 18 – Knowledge vs. Wisdom

November 11 – Here I Am

November 4 – A Fabric of Ideologies

October 28 – A Trip to Our Partnership Region

October 19 – Resetting the Journey

October 14 – The Chag

October 4 – Adjusting the Sails


September 30 – From Learning to Teaching

September 23 – The Meaning of LIFE & LEGACY

September 16 – An Understanding Heart

September 9 – Equity vs. Equality

September 2 – Justice and Mercy

August 26 – Open! Open Your Hand

August 19 – Making Memories for Generations

August 12 – Kavanah and Kevah

August 5 – An Ethical Will

July 31 –  Communal Responsibility

July 22 – Creating New Beauty

July 15 – Dwell Apart, Together

July 8 – Consequences of Not Listening

July 1 – Two Types of Disagreements

June 24 – Hatikvah

June 17 – Rejoicing in Your Lot

June 10 – Finding Our Peace

June 3 – The Intangible Other Half 

May 27 – Be Part of the Solution

May 20 – Attainable Summits

May 13 – Standing up to Antisemitism

May 6 – Holy Relationships

April 29 – Finding Balance and Direction

April 22 – Happy Earth Day

April 15 – Humor at the Table

April 8 – The Weight of Words

April 1 – Evaluating our Spiritual Health

March 25 – Raise Your Voice

March 18 – Learning from Failing

March 11 – Being Called Out

March 4 -Ukraine Needs Our Help

February 25 – Crisis in Ukraine

February 18 – Counting Half-Shekels

February 11 – Our Jerseys

February 4 – Giving from the Heart 

January 28 – Treating Others With Kindness

January 21 – Feeling Without Experiencing

January 14 – Taking the First Step

January 7 – Seeing in the Dark

December 30 – Change Takes Time

December 23 – To Know Someone

December 17 – Multi-Generational Lessons

December 10 – Choosing Your Attitude

December 3 – Major vs Minor

November 24 – Be an Upstander, Not a Bystander

November 19 – Leaving a Legacy

November 12 – Jacob’s Ladder

November 5 – Relationships Matter

October 29 – Setting a Higher Standard

October 22 – On Being a Jew

October 15 – Blessed vs. Blessing

October 8 – Granting Trust

October 1 – Stronger Together

September 24 – REPRINT of October 9, 2020 

September 17 – Remember the days of old

September 10 – Ten Days of Teshuvah


September 3 – Our Jewish Peoplehood

August 27 – With all thy might

August 20 – Remembering to Forget

August 13 – The Trees of the Field

August 6 – The Mission of Maintaining the Roads

July 30 – Two Ears and One Mouth

July 23 – Antisemitism From All Sides

July 16 – The Greatest Threat

July 9 – Oxymorons and Echo Chambers

July 2 – The Impact of Today’s Decisions

June 25 – Or Lagoyim: A Light Unto the Nations

June 18 – Remembering Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg z”l

June 11 – Equity, Equality, and Investing in Our Future Leaders 

June 4 – An Optimist’s Perspective

May 28 – The Gathering of Feathers

May 21 – We Must be Proactive

May 14 – Here for Israel

May 7 – Behar Behukotai

April 30 – Lessons From My Saba

April 23 – Kedushah: Rising to Holiness

April 16 – Learning Empathy from Leprosy

April 9 – Finding Our Collective Hope

April 2 – Prayer Without Action is Simply Empty Noise

March 26 – Chag Pesach…

March 19 – First They Came For…

March 12 – A Prayer for Healing

March 5 – Combatting Antisemitism

February 26 – A Story Without Supernatural Miracles

February 19 – Federation is Here

February 12 – The Three Definitions of “Shemah”

February 5 – One Nation with One Purpose

January 29 – Prayer, Action, and Perspective

January 22 – Texas Holocaust Remembrance Week

January 15- The Role of Our Tent 

January 8 – Shemot

December 31 – Chazak, chazak, v’nitchazak!

December 25 – A “Community-First” Approach

December 18 – Dreaming in Color: Dreaming & Planning for Our Community

December 11 – The Big Room

December 4 – Wrestling with Our Angels

November 25 – The People Who Give Thanks

November 20 – We are the Toldot

November 13 – Your Personal Life and Legacy

November 6 – The Value of Calm and Reflection

October 30 – We Must Come Together

October 23 – For Hope For Humanity

October 16- The Good and the Very Good 

October 9 – The True Celebration of Simhat Torah

October 2 – The Festival of Ingathering

September 25 – The Two Goats and Yom Kippur

September 18 – The 10 Days of Awe


September 11 – Be Strong and Courageous

September 4 – Acknowledging Good

August 28 – Embracing Multiple Perspectives 

August 21 – Recalibrating in the month of Elul

August 14 – A Blessing and A Curse 

August 7 – A Good Name and A Good Reputation

July 31 – Comfort, Comfort My Nation

July 24 – Words Have Power

July 17 – Our Hope and Promise for the Future

July 10 – It Shall be for You and Your Descendants After You

July 2 – The Indescribable Bond of a Community

June 26- Jewish Wisdom from Our Community and the Torah

June 19- Milk and Honey

June 12- The Next Chapter

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