Hot Off The Shtender: The Plurality of Mourning

by Rabbi Lauren Tuchman, SVARA Fellow Nachamu Nachamu ami, “comfort, comfort my people,”— the opening words of the Haftorah from the book of Isaiah, which we will read this Shabbat, ring particularly poignant this year. What does it mean for us to move from a period of mourning, fasting, and solemnity into a prolonged period […]

Hot Off the Shtender: A Tapestry of Individual Actions & Collective Power

by Elaina Marshalek, SVARA Fellow Origin stories are powerful. They give names to our ancestors. They lift up voices, honor the courage and power of individual actions, and let us find heroes in our past. In the blur of what movements sometimes can look like, I find power and feel endless gratitude for identifying the […]


by Laynie Soloman What counts as Torah? Who decides? What makes it into the canon, and what remains on the outside, seen as merely a “folk tradition”? These are the questions at the heart of Pirkei Avot, the tractate of the mishnah that we’ve been moving through in the Mishnah Collective’s daily learning.  As a […]


by Rabbi Bronwen Mullin, SVARA Fellow When I became the rabbi of a small congregation in Jersey City’s Greenville neighborhood I thought this would be a transition job in a small city outside of NYC. Truthfully I was feeling disillusioned about being a rabbi at all—I had been forced out of my previous rabbinic position […]

HOT OFF THE SHTENDER: The Revolution Will Not Be Translated

The Revolution Will Not Be Translated by R’ Benay Lappe Last week I watched the Netflix film Disclosure. I’m never going to be the same.  It’s a documentary about trans representation in film and media. Only trans people appear on screen—which is revolutionary in and of itself—but as I watched it, and listened to each […]

Hot Off the Shtender: The Radical Lineage of the Tanna’im

by Laynie Soloman and Rabbi Mónica Gomery At SVARA we often say, “The Talmud  is never really talking about what it says it’s talking about.” We focus on the text as formative rather than normative—the tradition is here to shape us, not necessarily by what it says, but by how it says what it says.  […]

Say Little. Do Much.

by Rabbi Benay Lappe, Ayana Morse, Rabbi Becky Silverstein, and Laynie Soloman …שַׁמַּאי אוֹמֵר עֲשֵׂה תוֹרָתְךָ קֶבַע אֱמֹר מְעַט וַעֲשֵׂה הַרְבֵּה Shammai used to say: Make your learning fixed. Speak little, do much… (Masechet Avot 1:15) Last Friday, SVARA’s Daily Mishnah Collective celebrated the completion (for now!) of our learning of Chapter 1 of Masechet […]

There Is No Torah Except the Torah of Freedom

by Rabbi Mónica Gomery As I imagine many of you have, I’ve spent the week in alternating states of heartbreak, anger, and deep inspiration, as we live through a national uprising in support of the Movement for Black Lives. This past weekend, SVARA participated in Up All Night: Torah for Liberation and Revelation, a nation-wide […]

Hot Off the Shtender: A Kiss from the Sages

by Laynie Soloman  There is no feeling like being in a full bet midrash. In the bet midrash I hear and feel the low hum of folks studying around me, and time is punctuated by the sound of chevruta high-fives and dictionary pages flipping. Surrounded by fellow seekers, tables of books, and unending snacks, pouring […]

Hot Off the Shtender: Sheltering in Mishnah

by Rabbi Mónica Gomery A couple of weeks ago, I attended a poetry reading called Shelter in Poems, hosted by the Academy of American Poets. About 15,000 people were in attendance over an online streaming platform, as 25 writers and public figures each read aloud a favorite poem that has accompanied them throughout this time […]