I usually pick the subject for my sermon, but not today! Today you picked it! I was
asked the question enough times, pressured to give my response … so here goes.
The question: Is a giraffe kosher?
Okay–the truth is, not all that many of you asked this question. The truth is, NONE of you asked this question! But I gave it some thought because a giraffe recently made news around the world.
First, is a giraffe kosher? Answer: yes! The Torah lists ten animals that are kosher …
the tenth one listed is the zemer – which is translated in the King James Version
as the “chamois.” But according to rabbinic tradition, the zemer was a giraffe. And besides, the Torah gives us two qualifying factors that every kosher animal must have; it must have split hooves and chew its cud. The giraffe has both. So, why don’t we eat the giraffe? Some think it is because we don’t know exactly where on its neck to slaughter it, but the truth is, the giraffe’s neck provides a better target than the neck of a cow! Why don’t we eat it? Well, it has something to do with cost, and it has something to do with taste, and it has something to do with catching it! You go try to catch a giraffe! They are amongst the most difficult animals to restrain.
But I know of one giraffe that would have been very happy to have been killed by a
Jewish shochet. The giraffe’s name is Marius. Marius’ slaughter in Copenhagen made news around the world last month when the Danish zookeepers decided that they didn’t need Marius anymore because they didn’t consider him genetically compatible with other zoos and wanted to prevent in-breeding. I have no idea what that means, but what I do know–and everyone around the world was shown–was that Marius
was taken and cut into pieces in front of zoo-goers, including young children. His meat was then thrown to the lions to devour. READ MORE
This Shabbat, I will speak about Kosher Giraffes and Smelling a Rat. But first, read this:
In the 1950’s there was a popular television program called “Who Do You Trust?” The emcee was a young man just starting out in television. I wonder whatever happened to him. His name was Johnny Carson! In regard to the question of “who do you trust,” today I would answer: not your rabbis! I’m not talking about me … I’m talking about other rabbis; rabbis like Rabbi Aharon Teitelbaum – more popularly known as the Satmar Rebbe – but really one of the two Satmar Rebbes. There are two leaders of this world-renowned Chasidic dynasty … brothers who do not talk to each other, who have sued each other in court, each having their own followers. It is estimated that there are 120,000 Satmar Chasidim in the world and for these 120,000 Jews, what the Rebbe says, goes! Some of Tony Soprano’s henchmen defied him, but no Satmar Chasid would defy his Rebbe! But if they ask me – which they haven’t – I would tell them: don’t trust everything your rabbi tells you! Last week the Satmar Rebbe took note of the fact that there is an increased rate of cancer amongst the women in his sect. He was obviously referring to breast cancer, but he would not use that word. What he did say is that the increasing cancer amongst Satmar women was due to their lack of modesty (Satmar women cover more of their body than most any other Jewish group in the world, but that’s beside the point). And so, as to increase the standards of modesty and lower the rate of cancer among Satmar women, he called for all use of makeup and cosmetics to stop. So, it’s the women that cause cancer. It’s the cosmetics that cause cancer. If any of the Satmar Chasidim asked me – and they haven’t and won’t – I would tell them not to trust every word their rabbi tells them. READ MORE
This morning I want to talk to you about women … four to be exact. I want to talk to you about women, because everyone always talks about women … and because in recent weeks women have become a major topic in the Jewish world … and because this week’s Torah portion told us something very important about women without even saying it.
Our Torah portion this morning, Vayakhel, told how Moshe gathered the people and how they implemented all of the commandments necessary for the building of the Mishkan – the Tabernacle that was to be the forerunner of the Temple in Jerusalem. In gathering the materials for the Tabernacle, the Torah tells us: “Vayovehu ha-anishim al hanashim – and the men came, “al” the women.” Now, normally this word, “al” means “on.” It can’t mean that here, so there are differences of opinion on how to translate the word “al” … some say, “And the men AND the women came.” Others read it: “The men accompanied the women.” Still others say it means that “the men came ALONG with the women.” READ MORE
Find out tomorrow in my sermon, “Find out tomorrow in my sermon, “Thank Heaven for Little Girls…and Big Ones, Too!” Shabbat shalom!
My sermon this Shabbat is entitled: Bibi Netanyahu and His Son; What to do when your child rejects your values.
You might find this New York Times article of interest: Book Explores Ways Faith Is Kept, or Lost, Over Generations
As I have pointed out before, Ariel Sharon when asked to explain why, as Minister of Housing Construction, he had promoted the building of thousands of homes in the Judea Samaria and Gaza Strip, and then as Prime Minister, had been behind the disengagement from Gaza and eventually the return of some land to the Palestinians … he would explain: “The view from here [the Prime Minister’s office] is different than the view from there.” During my two week visit to Israel I kept thinking of those words in my own personal context. How different the news is when you are in Israel from when you are in the U.S. While back here in the U.S. the news during those two weeks focused on Gov. Christie, the Geneva Talks, Obamacare … almost nothing was heard about those things in Israel. In Israel the two major topics of discussion were in regard to two individuals whose names I suspect most all of you don’t even know, but underscore two unique aspects of our people. READ MORE
The year 2014 is here and none too soon! I had begun to dread the end of the year. 2013, like other recent years, ended with an onslaught of the 10 Best of Everything! When I grew up the only thing that seemed to count at the end of the year was Time magazine’s “Man of the Year” – one person who had made all the difference in the world! Now, Time magazine makes no difference in the world and so it’s “Man of the Year” has been replaced by a never ending series of media and websites “Top Ten of the Year”: the top ten most influential people, top ten movies, top ten TV programs, top ten discoveries, top ten diseases, top ten news stories, top ten photographs, top ten spices … it is never-ending! Our people – the Jewish people – also have our list of “top ten” – we find them in next week’s Torah portion: the Ten Commandments – but they are not for a given year, they are for EVERY year.
But this year, amongst the top ten lists there were two that captured my attention, because they were, in fact, Jewish lists. The first was a list that came from the Simon Wiesenthal Center listing the top ten anti-Semitic/anti-Israel slurs for the year 2013. The list had the usual culprits: Iran’s Ayatollah Khameni, Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan, the leaders of the BDS –Boycott and Diversement and Sanctions Organization. But as I went through the list I couldn’t help but think: there is something sick about this. Do you think that Catholics put out a list of the ten worst anti-Catholic statements? Or Italy puts out a list of the ten worst anti-Italian statements? Why make up a list of all the people who said bad things about the Jewish people … and is there really a top ten? Shouldn’t we Jews be thinking positive as the year ends and a new one begins? Why focus on our tzores when there really is so much that is good? READ MORE
This Shabbat is one of transition … for me and for the Jewish people. In October I had announced I was going to be delivering the sermon for 10 straight Shabbatot. Well, this is it! After this Shabbat, the transition to vacation mode begins to set in. And just in time! I’ve run out of things to talk about! During this 10 week period, I have discussed Mohammad and Rabbi Ginsberg, the Redskins and Iran, the Pew Survey and Thanksgivingkah, Kristallnacht and John F. Kennedy. What’s left? If this is to be beginning of the transition period, I want to do it by
taking note of the transition we make with this week’s Torah portion.
Today we began the book of Shemot – the Book of Exodus. The book of Beresheit- of Genesis – has come to a close and with that, the story of the creation of the Jewish family has come to a close. Now, the Torah is to focus on the birth of the Jewish nation – a birth that took place in the land of Egypt. The experience of our people in Egypt forms the very core of our nation’s experience. The first of the Ten Commandments identifies God as being the one “who took us out of the land of Egypt.” One of the 613 commandments is to “remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt all the days of your life.” It is a Biblical commandment
that every day we remember the Egyptian experience. Why so? Not simply to remember the past but also to help us understand the present and future. And that’s what I want to do this morning. I want to reflect on several recent events in light of the Egyptian experience, indeed, in
light of one word that the Torah uses to describe that experience, where we are told: “Vayareu otanu ha-mitzrim.” Simple translation: “The Egyptians were bad to us.” But you should know that different commentators, at different times, saw different contexts in which to put this word, “vayareu – and they were bad.” READ MORE
I don’t know Binyomin Ginsberg … until last week I had never heard his name. But I can tell you right now that if he applied for membership to Beth Tfiloh, I would pay for his dues … for him to go to Chizuk Amuno!
Binyomin Ginsberg is a rabbi; a Jewish educator living in Minnesota. From there he has traveled on Northwest Airlines approximately 75 times a year, giving him a special place in Northwest Airline’s Frequent Flyer Program. But in the year 2008, Northwest dropped him and his Frequent Flyer points, pointing out that in the fine print of their agreement, an airline can do just that! Rabbi Ginsberg sued them … lost the case … it went to an Appellate Court where he won. Last week he found himself standing before the Supreme Court of the United States of America, appearing on national news – both on television and in newspapers including the Baltimore Sun. There are a lot of technical aspects to this case, involving airline deregulation and other issues. But why, in fact, did Northwest Airlines drop such a frequent flyer? It seems that aside from being a “frequent flyer,” Rabbi Ginsberg is also a frequent complainer! During one seven month period of time, the rabbi complained to the airline about two dozen times demanding compensation for delays, lost luggage, losing seats on overbooked flights that Northwest said the rabbi had reserved “with the purpose of being bumped.” From the questions raised by the Supreme Court Justices, it does not seem as if Rabbi Ginsberg is going to win his case, but that’s not the point of this sermon… READ MORE