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SERMON: Suing Your Parents

It took place in a courtroom in New Jersey on Tuesday, March 4 of this year and it immediately became a topic of discussion on the Internet when Rachel Canning, of Lincoln Park, New Jersey, filed a lawsuit against her parents. As one writer described the story:

Rachel Canning is an 18-year-old who is suing her parents. She brought a lawsuit to force her parents to pay for her private school education and her personal expenses. It seems that while living at home her parents set rules she was expected to follow. She had to abide by a curfew, commit to doing assigned chores performed by her siblings, and be respectful to her elders. She chose instead to leave home and live with the family of a friend – a home in which she was free to get drunk and to party as she pleased. It seems she valued independence above all. But unfortunately she wasn’t independent enough to be able to support herself – and so she demanded that the parents who had previously bought her a car, paid for her tuition, and set aside money for her college education be legally required to continue to take care of her in the style to which she had become accustomed. The contract she assumed guided their relationship was “You owe me everything – I owe you nothing” – because after all that’s the way I and so many members of my generation define your job as parent. In a Morristown court, after Rachel filed for an emergency order to get $600 a week from her parents, Judge Peter Bogaard blasted the young woman, referring to an obscene voicemail she left for her mother. “Have you ever seen a young adult show such gross disrespect to a parent in a voicemail?” he asked. “The child thumbs her nose at her parents, leaves the house and turns around asking, ‘Now you have to pay me money every week.’ ” READ MORE

SERMON: Pesach, Matzoh, Maror … and the Contemporary Situation

Preparing my sermon for Pesach, I felt like the Chassidic master Reb Shimon of Yareslov. It seems that Reb Shimon used to complete a tractate of the Talmud on erev Tisha B’av, turning that day into a festive occasion. The fact is, that even though Halacha may permit this, no one does it! But Reb Shimon used to do it every year; singing with joy and anticipation until the last minute before Tisha B’av of the coming of the Moshiach – “Adir Hu, yivneh, beito, b’karov – Mighty is God, may He rebuild His house soon.” Reb Shimon would finish the song, say the Birkat Hamazon, put on his soft shoes and cry out, “Eicha!” and he would pass out! The Sanzer Rebbe would say that the only one who really understands the loss of the Temple is Reb Shimon … he holds out until the last minute waiting and only then he cries “Eicha!” realizing the Moshiach and Temple have not come! READ MORE

SERMON: The Hagaddah Not to Use!

This morning I want to talk to you about two men; one of whom I suspect none of you have ever heard of and the other I suspect all of you have heard of. Both of them have one thing in common. Let’s see if you can guess what it is.

The first man is named Julius Meini. You never heard of him, and neither did I or many others until he was recently elected as the new President of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, a constituent group of the World Jewish Congress. The Euro-Asian Jewish Congress represents the Jews living in Russia, Ukraine, India, Singapore, New Zealand and others. If you have never heard of him, don’t feel bad … most of the people he now represents have never heard of him as well! First of all, Mr. Meini is not a citizen of any of the countries he represents. He holds dual Austrian and British citizenship. Second, Mr. Meini has never before held a leadership role in any Jewish organization. Now, he is elected as the President of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress? Third of all, Mr. Meini is currently under investigation for bank fraud. Strange choice to lead a Jewish organization and even stranger is the fact that Mr. Meini’s mother was baptized and some question whether he is, in fact, Jewish. So what is it that Mr. Meini has that elevated him to such an important position in the Jewish world? You tell me: what’s he got? READ MORE

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What Hagaddah Not to Use…

There are literally hundreds of Hagaddahs out there.  It’s time to look for the one that is right for your family. My sermon this Shabbat is: What Hagaddah Not to Use.

Attached is a Hagaddah put out by the Federations … it doesn’t have everything, but it has a lot.  You can download it for free!

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SERMON: Boogie Yaalon, Sha-Shtill and the Meaning of Pesach

It is hard to believe but there are only 14 shopping days left until Pesach. Pesach has a way of sneaking up on us and so to make sure we know it is coming and to give ourselves time to properly prepare, we have this special Shabbat – Shabbat Parshat Ha-Chodesh – which tells us that the month of Nisan is about to begin and the festival of Pesach is on the horizon. But first, what does Pesach mean? You should know that there are a variety of answers to this seemingly simple question. On a simple level, Pesach is the name of the lamb sacrifice that was brought to form the basis of the Seder. But, The Jewish Study Bible translates Pesach as “protected,” and the first century Aramaic translator, Onkelos, says the word means “compassionate.” The most common translation we have for the word “Pesach” is “Passover.” How did “Pesach” get that name? It got that name in the 1500’s from a Protestant Biblical translator named William Tyndale. Tyndale translated the Bible and had to come up with appropriate translations for our Biblical holidays, and so for Shavuot he came up with “the feast of weeks,” referring to the seven weeks between Pesach and Shavuot. For Sukkot he came up with the name “Tabernacles,” referring to the booths we used in the desert. And for Pesach he looked at the special Torah portion we read today which told us of God’s intention to destroy the firstborn of the Egyptians, but the Jews first had to slaughter a lamb, place its blood on their doorposts, “u’fasachta alechem – and I will pass over you … when I strike in the land of Egypt.” William Tyndale put these two words together and gave us “Passover.” But there is one other translation – a Kabbalistic one – of the meaning of the word “Pesach” that I wish to refer to this morning. READ MORE

Boogie Yaalon, Sha-Shtill and the Meaning of Pesach

Tomorrow I will discuss “Boogie Yaalon, Sha-Shtill and the Meaning of Pesach.” Until then, read this:

U.S. says disappointed at no apology from Israeli defense chief

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SERMON: Where’s the Plane?

Where’s the plane? How many times have you asked yourself that question in the last two weeks? Where is the plane? That’s the question that has mesmerized the world ever since Malaysia Airlines flight 370 disappeared. There have been so many theories to “where is the plane?” – hijacking, malfunction, terrorism, elves, suicide. The Washington Post listed some of the Internet’s best theories: the plane never crashed – it’s just invisible! The plane has been at a U.S. Navy base called Diego Garcia the whole time. The plane was shot down by a hostile country … that one from Rush Limbaugh! The plane was hijacked by terrorists and is being retrofitted to become an attack plane. And of course, the flight was abducted by aliens! All sorts of theories, but no sure answer. And that seems to be driving all of us crazy. Why is that? READ MORE

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Where’s the Plane?

Come to shul tomorrow for my answer to: Where’s the Plane?

Until then, here’s Courtney Love’s theory.

SERMON: Haman and the Hareidim

I tell you now: if you stick around until the end of the sermon you’re going to hear me say something that you might find shocking, coming from me!

Tonight we usher in the joyous festival of Purim. Purim commemorates an incident in Jewish history which took place nearly 2500 years ago while the Jews were living in Persia. Haman convinces the king to annihilate the Jews, but through the wisdom of Mordecai and Esther, and with the grace of God, the Jews were saved … leading to rejoicing and celebrating, which we commemorate to this very day. In fact, rejoicing is such an integral part of Purim that our sages ordained that on this day we are to fulfill what, to me, is the nicest and certainly the most popular rabbinic decree: On Purim, say our sages, one is obligated to drink enough alcohol until – in the words of our sages – “Ad d’lo yodah ben arur Haman l’boruch Mordechai” – until one can no longer differentiate between the phrase, “Cursed is Haman” and the phrase, “Blessed is Mordechai.” What a marvelous commandment! It seems as if we are obligated to get drunk! Even those Jews who usually don’t follow the laws of our rabbis, must find some attraction to this decree! READ MORE

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This Shabbat…I’m going to say something shocking!

This Shabbat, I will discuss Haman and the Hareidim. This is how I will begin my sermon: “I tell you now: if you stick around until the end of the sermon you’re going to hear me say something that you might find shocking, coming from me …”

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