Rabbi Samantha Natov
Rabbi Samantha Natov grew up in Dundas, Ontario. She holds a bachelor’s from McGill University and a master’s in musicology and ethnomusicology from the University of Virginia. Following her time as a cantorial soloist in Toronto, Rabbi Natov came to New York to earn her degree in sacred music from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. After working as a cantor at congregations in New Jersey and Brooklyn, she decided to become a rabbi. Rabbi Natov was ordained by HUC-JIR in 2015 and joined Stephen Wise Free Synagogue a few months later in July 2015. As associate rabbi at Stephen…
Missing Out on Joy
“In the wake of Yom Kippur, we have cleared out the clutter of regret,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. “Sukkot gives us an opportunity to tap into joy” that we should be sure not to miss out on.
Missing Out on Joy
September 17, 2021
“In the wake of Yom Kippur, we have cleared out the clutter of regret,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. “Sukkot gives us an opportunity to tap into joy” that we should be sure not to miss out on.
We Are Enough
September 6, 2021
“There is a kind of myth that we can hold onto balance for even more than a short time, but to be alive is to be in motion,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov this Erev Rosh Hashanah. “In prayer, we call to something infinite that unifies us beyond time and space. Tonight, we get to start again.”
That’s What Friends Are For
September 3, 2021
“What does a life of blessing look like? It’s easy to see that it’s the people in our lives who really matter,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. “This week’s Torah portion reminds us that we have the power to choose blessing — to let people into our lives.”
Responding to Need
August 27, 2021
In the wake of an earthquake in Haiti and the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, Rabbi Samantha Natov reflects on our duty to our fellow human beings: “We may be separated by our places of birth, and by the context of our life circumstances, but what connects us is far stronger. When we see a fellow human being suffering, and we are in a position of strength, the Jewish response is clear: we must help.” Give to our humanitarian aid fund by visiting swfs.org/aid.
August 13, 2021
“The Torah places heavy restrictions on people in positions of power to provide desperately needed checks and balances,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. “In order to really take the pursuit of justice seriously, we need to internalize the fact that we are no more important than any other person. As we approach the High Holy Days, let us be honest with ourselves and use our power wisely.”
July 30, 2021
“Why do bad things happen to good people? Or good things to bad people?” asks Rabbi Samantha Natov. “Ultimately, we are born into circumstances that are not of our making. The Torah teaches that it is only through the grace of God that we experience good things.”
Our Words Matter
July 9, 2021
“I almost never make a promise. When I do, it’s only with absolute confidence that I can keep my word,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov, reflecting on this week’s parashah, in which Moses discusses the laws governing vows. “God said, ‘Let there be light…’ Words shape our world; may we weigh them with care.”
Who Is Left Out?
July 2, 2021
“The census in week’s parasha, Pinchas, is noteworthy because it mentions the names of people who would’ve been counted, but their actions disqualified them,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. “Whom do we leave out of our stories? Whom do we name and then discount? Who is forgotten?”
June 25, 2021
“Sometimes things are right in front of us, but we don’t see them. It takes something to help us change our perspective,” says Rabbi Sam Natov. In this week’s Torah portion, an angel helps Balaam see what’s hidden from his view. “What personal ‘angel’ can we call upon for clarity, for honesty, for presence in the moment?”
Confronting Hate With Healing
May 28, 2021
“In the past days I have been hearing from people of all ages who are distraught at the barrage of ugly words written about Israel and Jews,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. “How do we not collaborate with evil? By refusing to engage in a dialogue of hate. May we react as Moses did — not confronting hate with hate, but seeing it for what it is and working towards healing.”
Ready Or Not, Here I Come!
April 30, 2021
“Pressure to be perfect is not new. It’s biblical; it’s biblical. The priests and even their sacrifices had to be perfect,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. With all that pressure, “there are aspects of ourselves we learn to tuck away. But sometimes we need to stop hiding — and be found.”
Living With Uncertainty
April 16, 2021
This week’s Torah portion deals with leprosy — “and the quest to understand why people became afflicted,” says Rabbi Sam Natov. “In the face of uncertainty, how can we gain a sense of control? But a much better question is: what will do now that we know that we can be struck at any moment — how will we live?”
Working On Ourselves
April 3, 2021
“What would you need to move forward from mitzrayim — which means ‘narrowness,’ and is our word for Egypt?” asks Rabbi Samantha Natov on this Shabbat and the last day of Passover. “Working on ourselves means we’ll be able to put our very best out into the world.”
April 2, 2021
As we live through Passover in a plague of our own, Rabbi Samantha Natov says: “I think it’s more important than ever to ask the theological and existential questions we often push to the backs of our minds — and open ourselves to the wonder we ignore. May this season offer you spiritual nourishment.”
March 26, 2021
“I think about moments in Jewish history of reemergence. The greatest of which is when the Israelites were freed from slavery,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. Going from slavery to freedom is a process, so our ancestors “had to shift their perception in order to find true liberation. All we can do is put one foot in front of the other towards that which tugs at our heart.”
The Moment of Becoming
March 12, 2021
During the Israelites’ 40-year journey through the desert “it’s the moment of becoming: of potential, of life unfolding,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. “Liminal space is where change happens. For us, perhaps this difficult time gives us an opportunity to contemplate how to create a new narrative. We can’t go back to where we were or who we were.”
November 20, 2020
“I am haunted by the moment when Esau learns of all that transpired behind his back,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. “This cry of Esau is heartbreaking. Because it is not just his cry. It’s all of us who have been taken advantage of, or are not seen,” but Jewish history teaches us about resilience when we’re faced with inequality and injustice when we act as God’s partner in tikkun olam.
What Comes Next?
October 23, 2020
“When I think about this current historical moment and these two biblical narratives of destruction, the story of the Tower of Babel feels particularly relevant,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. “So many in positions of power are spending their time aggressively building their own towers, only looking at others for what they can do for them. So what comes next?”
Happiness in the Time of COVID
October 2, 2020
“We are told that Sukkot is z’man simchateinu — the time of our joy. But in many ways, this does not feel like a joyful time… So how do we stay hopeful and maybe even find joy in this time?” Rabbi Samantha Natov investigates how our sources can shed light on finding joy, wholeness and a sense of wellbeing.
Choosing Our Path
September 25, 2020
“This Shabbat Shuva is named for the words of the prophet Hosea: ‘Return, O Israel, to Adonai your God,’” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. “Between last Yom Kippur and now, some of us have been spiritually asleep. Together, this year, may we find our inner path that aligns with our deepest truths.”
September 18, 2020
“We’d like to start fresh, but that is impossible,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. “During these High Holy Days, we can learn from our mistakes and rebuild out of regret. Our regrets give us raw material to start with as we move towards a sense of wholeness.”
Bridging Past, Present and Future
September 11, 2020
“Today marks 19 years since 9/11 and, in ways, the pandemic has brought us closer to the memories of how we felt back in 2001,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. “Above all, the Torah teaches that we are in partnership with God and God remembers us. May we use this time to forgive others, ask for forgiveness, and forgive ourselves.”
Start Counting Again
August 14, 2020
“Time takes on a boundary of before and after COVID,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. “We read in Psalm 90: ‘Teach us to number our days, that we may have a heart of wisdom.’ When we number our days, we reflect upon and absorb the significance of our experiences.”
The Stories We Tell
July 31, 2020
“How will you tell your story of this time?” asks Rabbi Samantha Natov. “Recounting our stories is no small affair. Although its general trajectory may not change, the act of retelling allows us to reshape its meaning, uncover new understandings — and look forward to the next chapter with a sense of hope.”
July 17, 2020
“Our homes have become our gyms, schools, offices, theaters, restaurants and more,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. “Judaism teaches that now, at this moment of unprecedented chaos, is when we most need to get organized. When we put our thoughts in order, we gain a sense of composure. Ultimately, this work is spiritual as well.”
July 10, 2020
“Elijah found God in a quiet moment after destruction and chaos,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. “Jewish history and Jewish beliefs compel us to not allow ourselves to become shrouded in despair. Rather, to persevere — to remain open, as our ancestors had — to walk through dark times holding up a torch of hope.”
Confronting Bias Within
June 12, 2020
In this week’s parashah, God rejects Miriam and Aaron’s bias against Moses’ dark-skinned Cushite wife. “The message is clear,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. “We are equal before God, regardless of the color of our skin. We need to recognize our own racial biases and start the work of change.
May You Bless and Be Blessed
June 7, 2020
Rabbi Natov explores how we can offer the ancient blessings of our ancestors to each other — and act upon them to help restore balance to the world in a time of chaos and violence.
Who Are We Now?
May 23, 2020
As we begin the Book of Numbers this week, Rabbi Samantha Natov explores how we redefine who we are in this liminal space and how this moment in time offers a chance for growth and renewal.
It’s Your Fault
May 2, 2020
Rabbi Samantha Natov explores Judaism’s take on blame, delving into this week’s parashah and the episode of the scapegoat, over whom Aaron confessed all the Israelites’ iniquities before casting it away into the wilderness.
Answering The Call
April 25, 2020
Rabbi Samantha Natov explores Judaism’s views on compassion: how to be there for others without becoming overwhelmed ourselves.
A Crisis of Faith
April 11, 2020
On Shabbat morning during Passover, Rabbi Samantha Natov discussed Moses’ crisis of faith which paralleled that of the Israelites’, leading them to create the Golden Calf. “The first thing Moses says to God is: ‘Oh, please, let me behold Your presence.'” God lets Moses see His back as He passes by — a perfect metaphor for the experience of faith.
April 9, 2020
On the morning of Passover and with spring in the air, Rabbi Samantha Natov spoke about how our history and practicing gratitude for even the smallest things helps us to be resilient in tough times like these.
A Season of Renewal
February 11, 2020
“May we begin this season for renewal with the inner strength to make the changes we need to.” Rabbi Samantha Natov inspires us to direct energy from Tisha B’Av, a time of communal mourning, towards meaningful personal growth.
Let Love Lead
January 17, 2020
Rabbi Samantha Natov recounts a particularly good day made so by cheerful people around her. “Our surroundings are the context within which we operate,” she says. “Imagine how your day-to-day interactions would change if you tried to let love and compassion lead.”
How Do You Measure the Value of a Life?
November 8, 2019
“What would a magazine article say about my worth?” asks Rabbi Samantha Natov. “Are we only as valuable as the amount of money we have?”
October 25, 2019
Don’t Drop the Egg!
October 11, 2019
Rabbi Samantha Natov tells the story of a woman who imagined grandiose plans for a bright future and urges us to push ourselves to start taking the first steps toward change. “While our blueprint for change that we imagined over the High Holy Days can be a touchstone we return to for inspiration, strength and direction, we cannot simply reflect upon these plans; we need to put them into action.”
September 29, 2019
Before we are born, we contain the knowledge of everything in the world,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov this Erev Rosh Hashanah. “Life, then, is a process of remembering. The best we can do is to strive to bring holiness into this dance of life as we heed the ancient call home. Let’s take these High Holy Days to remember who we once were and who we want to be.
Keeping the Covenant
September 27, 2019
Rabbi Samantha Natov reminds us of our collective responsibility laid out in the Torah to take care of our planet for future generations. “We are visitors who inherit what is given us for a short time and then we pass it on. And, as such, we are called to be responsible wardens of the earth, which belongs to God.”
Harnessing Our Impulses
September 20, 2019
Jewish sages refer to a constant battle between the yetzer hatov and the yetzer hara – our good and bad impulses. Rabbi Samantha Natov urges us to channel our more destructive drives during this season of renewal – while the gates of repentance are open.
August 16, 2019
Rabbi Samantha Natov discusses the importance of giving love and approaching life with a generous heart. “When we let love lead, we open the potential for deepening our connections with one another. By letting love guide our actions, we bring more holiness into the world.”
The Courage To Bring Change
July 26, 2019
“Sometimes problems seem too big, and we don’t think we can make a difference,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. “But we have stories that can inspire us and guide us.” When the Israelites were approaching the Promised Land, a group of sisters challenged the system of how the land would be divided – and their efforts paid off. “They found a way to effect change, and so can we.”
An Uncluttered State of Mind
July 19, 2019
“Being surrounded by clutter and chaos is not good for us,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. “The rabbis teach that an orderly home can expand a person’s heart. When we get rid of the clutter, we make room for the holy.”
The Pursuit of Happiness
July 12, 2019
Rabbi Samantha Natov explores the human desire for happiness and fulfillment, and examines Judaism’s take on what it means to feel “spiritually whole” and “connected.” She reminds us to be mindful and present and to practice gratitude, and demonstrates how fulfilling mitzvot can give us a sense of purpose.
Rekindling Our Compassion
July 5, 2019
This week a congregant and I were talking about reports of the heart breaking situation at holding camps for migrant children. She expressed how furious she was when she first heard about the separated families. Like many of us, she expressed her outrage by signing petitions, marching in rallies, contributing to various aid organizations and writing to her local representatives. She yelled on Facebook and Twitter “How could this be happening? How in our country, in America, which holds family ties as sacred?”
The Righteous Among Us
June 28, 2019
“Because there are so few righteous individuals, God intentionally spreads them out,” explains Rabbi Samantha Natov while discussing righteous acts described in the Torah. “Miracles happen every time a small act of kindness leads others to participate in that kindness and multiply the deed – and every moment presents an opportunity to make a choice that brings goodness into the world.”
Stronger Than Death
May 2, 2019
On Friday after Memorial Day and a recent personal loss, Rabbi Samantha Natov recalled the story of Yodea, the Angel of Losses, who spends all of his time digging for what we lose in our lives. “He reminds us that we’re all still in a relationship with a loved one who is no longer with us. As we search, with the light of our souls, we find strands left behind — and bind up their memories so they may live on through us.”
March 29, 2019
In this week’s parasha, the sons of Aaron, Avihu and Nadav, are killed without warning after making an offering of fire to God. “It has puzzled scholars for millennia,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. “But maybe this story is supposed to function similarly to a modern horror film and allow us to ponder the transience of life and possibility of arbitrary violence from a safe distance.”
February 15, 2019
“What does it mean for us to notice, without trying to erase or block out our imperfections?” asks Rabbi Samantha Natov, while inspiring us to embrace our most complete selves.
December 21, 2018
Ahead of 2019, Rabbi Samantha Natov encourages us to build habits to better ourselves, and use Shabbat as a way to periodically check on our spiritual progress.
The Day After Yom Kippur
September 21, 2018
In her sermon this Shabbat, Rabbi Samantha Natov reminds us to keep working towards spiritual growth after the High Holy Days:
“What happens the day after Yom Kippur? It’s as if we have a clean slate… Until a few hours, days, or weeks later. In some ways what happens between Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah is even more important. May we keep moving ahead towards our ideals with humility and compassion for ourselves and others.”
The Meaning of it All
September 14, 2018
“Think about how it feels to be in touch with our deepest truths. How does it feel to earnestly express feeling sorry, or to take in another’s heartfelt apology?” During the High Holy Days, Rabbi Samantha Natov encourages us to acknowledge our vulnerability and find meaning together as a community.
August 31, 2018
A Practice for Change
July 6, 2018
“In order to work towards meaningful change, we must be able to subdue our more destructive impulses.” Rabbi Samantha Natov explains: “Judaism teaches us to look at incorporating change into our lives as a personal practice. It is a process.”
June 8, 2018
Rabbi Samantha Natov looks to teachings from the Torah, Talmud, and midrash for to limit fear’s role in guiding important choices.
May 25, 2018
“Memory is anything but static.” As Memorial Day approaches, Rabbi Samantha Natov celebrates the Jewish practice of active remembrance.
What gets in our way?
January 12, 2018
Rabbi Samantha Natov encourages us to face our insecurities and have faith that “others will care about us and see the good in what we have to offer.”
December 22, 2017
Rabbi Samantha Natov inspires us to be more compassionate to others and ourselves this holiday season.
The Road to Change
October 13, 2017
Rabbi Samantha Natov shares lessons from Judaism on implementing lasting change in our lives. “We need to believe in the future in order to build the future.”
What Shall We Do With Our Time?
September 22, 2017
Rabbi Samantha Natov reminds us that “the High Holy Days are opportunities for renewed clarity and strength of purpose for all of the days that follow.”
August 25, 2017
The act of reflecting inwardly is woven into the very fabric of Jewish observance during this time of the year.” Rabbi Samantha Natov inspires us to look inward in the days leading up to the High Holy Days.
August 11, 2017
“Shame has more power in our lives than many of us realize,” says Rabbi Samantha Natov. When we understand shame as vulnerability, “it becomes about being brave and courageous, rather than timid and intimidated.”
July 21, 2017
Rabbi Samantha Natov asks: What do we do with a narrative that does not resonate with our values? “If we skip over what is most violent, painful, or repulsive to us, we are denying the truth of human experience.”
June 30, 2017
Rabbi Samantha Natov calls on us to “exercise hope” by embracing the Jewish values of community, positive thinking, and social justice.
Where Are You?
June 23, 2017
Rabbi Samantha Natov asks us core questions for self-reflection. “When we move from one season to another, there is an organic opportunity to look inward, recalibrate, and take stock.”
May 26, 2017
Showcasing our men’s shelter, Rabbi Samantha Natov considers the Jewish mandate to help those in need and shares comments from recent shelter volunteers, including: “It’s the easiest volunteer job ever with the most impact: all I’m doing is sleeping, and yet I am enabling the shelter to stay open.”
What Will You Do With Your Freedom?
March 2, 2017
“What privilege do we have that we can leverage on behalf of the persecuted and downtrodden?”
Rabbi Samantha Natov looks to our biblical forbearers and the comedy of Louis C.K. as she challenges our congregation to continue the Jewish tradition of doing good deeds.
February 17, 2017
“In these times of ‘alternative facts’ and fake news, we have the Torah, which offers us a pathway for ethical and moral coexistence,” Rabbi Samantha Natov says in this sermon.
Small Acts of Kindness
December 23, 2016
This Hanukkah, Rabbi Samantha Natov reminds us that we each have the potential bring light into the world.
Words of Love
August 19, 2016
Breaking the Glass Ceiling
July 29, 2016
What Elie Wiesel Taught Us
July 8, 2016
Remember Who You Are
May 27, 2016
The Power of Naming
January 1, 2016