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
Before I deliver my sermon, I ask your forgiveness. I ask your forgiveness for the story I am about to tell. The story is inappropriate to tell publicly and even worse for a rabbi to be telling it in a synagogue … worse than that, to be telling it on Yom Kippur–the holiest day of the year. And worst of all to be telling it in these sacred moments before Yizkor. But I have to tell the story because it’s the only way I can fully relate to you my physical condition and state of mind as I am about to celebrate my 70th birthday. READ MORE
We have heard enough bad news in the past year, so on this, the holiest night of the year, I bring you good news. Earlier this year the Anti-Defamation League conducted the largest ever world-wide survey of anti-Semitism. The survey covered over 100 countries around the globe containing about 85% of the world’s population. According to the results of the survey, 26% – or a little over one billion people in this world – have anti-Semitic attitudes. That’s the good news! What makes this news good are several factors: it’s only 26% … it’s only one billion people! But there was something else about the survey that, for me, was really good news. Of those one billion with anti-Semitic beliefs, 70% had never actually met a Jew! In Spain, for example, a country filled with anti-Semites, 20% of them could not even give a reason why they hate Jews! For me, all this was great news. READ MORE
Every year on Rosh Hashanah, through the Torah and Haftorah readings, our tradition has us focus on three women: in the Torah readings, Sarah, our first mother, and in the Haftorah readings: Chana – who taught us how to pray, and Rachel, who prays for us. On this Rosh Hashanah I want to focus on three Jewish women who did all that for us this year – and so much more. They have something that most all of us yearn to have.
This has been a very tough and challenging year for the Jewish people. What Israel has gone through this year has to make it one of its most difficult times in its 66 year history. Israel has confronted a world prepared to compromise with an Iran that is hell-bent on building a nuclear weapon which it has threatened to use against Israel. Israel has had to deal with a European Union that constantly threatens it with economic sanctions. Israel’s Prime Minister has gone through a very shaky relationship with the President of the United States. American led mediation for peace with the Palestinians fell apart. And then came a week from hell … with the
three Yeshiva boys kidnapped and killed, and the Palestinian boy murdered in a revenge attack by Israelis, and rockets being fired regularly at southern Israel. And as if all this was not enough, a full-scale war broke out with Hamas! And lo and behold, the day the war in Gaza came to an end, rockets started to fall on the Golan Heights! I tell you the truth … I don’t know how the Israelis do it! Whenever I am in Israel – and I’m there every year – you would never know the difficulties these people are living through. I don’t know how they live under such stress and pressure. READ MORE
Here at Beth Tfiloh we had a long time member, Irv Kroll–a man who came to worship here 365 days of the year–and who said to me from time to time, “Rabbi, come on. I listen to your eulogies and all your plaque dedications. You’re always saying how this one is special and that one’s outstanding and this one is unique … everybody’s so great. Come on, rabbi, get off of it!” And I always replied to him, “Don’t worry, Irv. When it comes your turn, I’ll lie about you, too!” When he passed away I didn’t have to lie about Irv. He was one of the Beth Tfiloh greats. But I will be stretching the truth about some of you! That’s human nature. We tend to exaggerate the merits of a person after they are gone.
Joan Rivers passed away last week and from the words of eulogy said about her, from Hollywood to Hoboken, you would have thought that this woman was a combination of Joan of Arc and Mother Theresa! Everyone seemed to have something good to say about her. And there was a lot of good to say! She was a trailblazer, and it seems from those who knew her, a genuinely goodhearted person. But I must tell you the truth: I was not one of her fans. READ MORE
With the High Holidays upon us, this morning I want to answer the three most frequently asked questions I get before the High Holidays begin:
- Why is the shofar a ram’s horn and not a cow’s horn?
– Why don’t we wear gold on Yom Kippur?
– What do the words “ain kateigor naaseh saneigor” mean?
OK … I’ll admit that I am not asked these questions that often, but if Dick Cheney, a Pentagon spokesman, Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey and a leader of the American Reform Movement had known the answers, their actions may have been different … and so might yours!
On June 17th the Wall Street Journal carried an op-ed column written by former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter, Liz Cheney, with the title: “The Collapsing Obama Doctrine.” In the article they derided the President’s policies regarding Iraq and other mid-east countries, writing, “Rarely has a U.S. President been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.” Now, Dick Cheney is entitled to his opinion, and for all I know, Dick Cheney might be right in what he said. But HE never should have said it be cause what followed was a whole series of critics saying: who is he to talk … look what happened during the Bush/Cheney administration. Talk about a President being wrong about so much at the expense of so many! It was Bush and Cheney who cost the lives of thousands of Americans and what did we get for it? So, Cheney writing an op-ed that he meant to start a discussion about the Obama administration only ended up revising a discussion of the Bush/Cheney administration … which only goes to prove: “people in glass houses should not throw stones.” READ MORE
This might surprise you, but I have a lot to say about what’s going on in the world right now — and I’m going to share it all with you each Shabbat for the next four weeks!
· Shabbat, August 30: Ferguson: It’s as Clear as Black and White
· Shabbat, September 6: Look Who’s Talking
· Shabbat, September 13: From Here to Eternity
· Shabbat, September 20: No One Wants to Hear the Truth
These sermons will cover topics ranging from Pope Francis to Ferguson, from Joan Rivers to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, Ocean City to Israel, Gaza war to “selfies,” Charles Darwin to the Pentagon.
Services begin at 9 am in the Dahan Sanctuary and 9:30 am in the Epstein Chapel. I look forward to seeing you in shul!