I wish I were a more spiritual person. I really do! If I were, I think I’d be able to make more sense out of the terrible massacre that took place this week in the Har Nof section of Jerusalem where two Palestinians entered a synagogue with guns, knives and axes and brutally murdered four Torah scholars while they were praying in their tallit and tefillin, and then killed a Druze policeman who gave his life trying to protect the other worshippers. It was horrible, disgusting … but there were some people – spiritual kind of people – who are able to find some positive lesson, some moral purpose, out of all this:
- Rabbi Chaim Kenievsky, one of the great sages of the generation, said the attack showed that we are living in the ikvasa d’mishicha – the beginning of the coming of the Messiah. I wish I could see it that way! I really do.
- Rabbi Avrohom Schorr, a renowned Torah scholar in Brooklyn, said that the fact that these rabbis were killed while wearing tallit and tefillin is a call from God to tell us to wear our tallit and tefillin for the whole davening, and to watch every word we say when we are wearing tallit
and tefillin, and not to walk out of davening into the halls while wearing tallit and tefillin. Four people who dedicated their lives all day to learning Torah were axed and shot to death to teach us these lessons? I wish I believed that.
- In the Har Nof neighborhood, signs immediately went up proclaiming: “In light of the tragedy let us turn inward and to teshuvah – repent.” That’s a very typical Jewish response but I’m enough of a cynic to ask: Repent for what? What did we do wrong? READ MORE
Recently one of the most important figures of the 20th century passed away, and although her death was noted in some newspapers, very few people paid any attention to it. I’ll tell you her name and I can almost guarantee that you won’t know who she is, but the fact remains: she changed the course of history! Her name was Joan Quigley and she was Nancy Reagan’s astrologer.
According to Nancy Reagan herself, after the attempted assassination on Ronald Reagan, she said: “I’m scared every time he leaves the house.” And she looked for guidance from Ms. Quigley. During seven years of Reagan’s presidency, Ms. Quigley told the Reagans when he should have press conferences, election debates, negotiations with foreign governments, fly on Air Force One and when Ronald Reagan should have his cancer surgery … all depending on the alignment of the stars! When the word got out about the Reagan’s astrologer, Mrs. Reagan started to downplay her importance after she heard a joke which suggested that a Cabinet post should be created to be in charge of “voodoo.” READ MORE
This Shabbat, my sermon is, “It’s All in the Stars? A Tale of Two Rabbis,” where I discuss astrology, and two rabbis in the news right now, for very different reasons: Rabbi Barry Freundel and Rabbi Yehuda Glick.
New this week…I am introducing my new Suggested Reading for Shabbat!
• The Temple Mount: In Whose Hands?, Mosaic Magazine
• Modern Orthodoxy: A model for the great American Jewish dream?, The Times of Israel
• Now the World Fiddles as Gaza Cries, The Algemeiner
• The Kindness of Strangers, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
Let me tell you about my good, old buddy, Larry Hogan. I’ve known him for nearly two months now. Until then I really didn’t know who he was. But then I got a call from one of our congregants who said he would like to bring Mr. Hogan to my office to meet with me. So we got together, sat down and talked. I have to say we really hit it off. He came well prepared to meet me. I knew that when he asked if he could borrow my new car, and I told him it was his on any Friday night of the year. I liked him! I told him I would try to be of help. I called some people to meet with him and to give him some support. I helped arrange a meeting between him and the Orthodox rabbis in our community. And I voted for him … not really thinking that he had much of a chance of winning. But truth to tell, one of the major reasons I voted for him was not only because of him, but also because of the candidate who was running against him! Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown lost my vote because I never knew what he stood for; I only knew what he was against! He was against Larry Hogan … and hardly a day went by that I did not get Brown campaign literature that didn’t attack Larry Hogan. Ok, Mr. Brown, you told me what would be wrong with having Larry Hogan as governor, but you forgot to tell me what was right about
having Anthony Brown as governor! It turns out that a lot of people in Maryland felt the same way as I did! And it turns out that lots of people in the U.S. felt that way as well. READ MORE
Some years back, Monmouth College in New Jersey awarded an honorary degree to the famous baseball player, Yogi Berra. Mr. Berra addressed the graduates and offered them this pearl of wisdom … he said: “As you embark on the path of life, when you come to a fork in the road, take it!”
Today marks a milestone in the path of my life. Today I turn 70 and I have come to a “fork in the road.” I have to decide which path to take. Turning 70 is a milestone … no getting away from it. Billy Crystal, in a scene in the movie “City Slickers,” captured this feeling so well when addressing the kids in his child’s class, he said: “Value this time in your life, kids. It goes by so fast. When you’re a teenager, you think you can do anything, and you do. Your 20’s are a blur. 30’s–you raise a family, you make a little money, you think to yourself, “What happened to my 20’s?” 40’s–you grow a little pot belly, you grow another chin. The music starts to get
too loud. One of your old girlfriends from high school becomes a grandmother. 50’s–you have minor surgery. You call it a “procedure” but it’s surgery. 60’s–you have major surgery. The music is still loud but it doesn’t matter because you can’t hear it anyway. 70’s–you and the wife retire to Ft. Lauderdale. You start eating dinner at two o’clock in the afternoon. You have
lunch around ten… breakfast the night before. Spend most of your time wandering around malls looking for the urinal and muttering, “How come the kids don’t call? How come the kids don’t call? READ MORE
Of all the Biblical figures, I have always found Noach–or Noah–the most enigmatic. And I don’t say that lightly because I’m not sure what “enigmatic” means! In Brooklyn we never called anyone “enigmatic” … either you were a bum, or you weren’t! So I looked up the meaning of this word “enigmatic” and it is defined as: “difficult to interpret or understand,” “puzzling,” “baffling,” “perplexing.” So, now I can say with full authority: of all the Biblical figures I’ve always found Noach to be the most enigmatic. READ MORE
It has long been said that “things go better with Coke!” But that is not the way things are these days. For the past 10 years sales of Coca Cola have been on the decline. The name Coca Cola and Coke may be amongst the world’s most famous, but it has not been helping to sell the soda. But this year Coca Cola came up with a new campaign called “Share a Coke”… a campaign that has reversed the decade long decline in U.S. Coca Cola drinking. What did Coca Cola do? It started putting “names” on their bottles: Adam and Eve and Michael and Shawn and Charles … hundreds of different names. And people went out looking to buy a bottle with their own name on it. If they couldn’t find one, they would go to Ebay where a bottle of Coke with their name on the label might sell for as much as $50! The Coke P.R. people are astounded at the success of this merchandising gimmick. But it reminds them – and all of us – how much we connect with our own names, and how important those names are to us. READ MORE