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!
Barack Obama – friend or foe? Let me give my answer and then, if you would like, you can give yours.
There is no doubt that there has been – and there is – a strained relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu. The fact of the matter is, anyone who was paying attention should have known that this would be inevitable. In 2008 in a meeting with 100 Cleveland Jewish leaders, Obama – who was running for president – said the following: “I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says: unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel, that you are anti-Israel and that can’t be the measure of our friendship with Israel. If we cannot have an honest dialogue about how do we achieve these goals, then we’re not going to make progress … because of the pressure that Israel is under, I think the U.S. pro-Israel community is sometimes a little more protective or concerned about opening up that conversation.”
What he said was not so terrible and I have to tell you that I respected him for having said it. He was very honest about his feelings. What he was basically saying was that he does not agree with the policies of a Likud government and that American Jews should be more prepared to debate those policies. READ MORE
I really don’t like to speak during the summer, but what can I do when everyone seems to be speaking about the matzav – the situation in Israel. I cannot wait for the war to be over so that Israel can clean out the tunnels … and I can clean out the inbox on my computer! I have been inundated with people sending me articles about the matzav. Most all of the articles focus on how the world has been reacting to the war; the on-going criticism of everything Israel does. The world’s reaction is disgraceful … from John Kerry’s sarcastic “open microphone” comment regarding Israel: “Some pinpoint operation … some pinpoint operation …” Last year a group examined six drone attacks the U.S. conducted in Yemen. It discovered that at least 57 out of 82 people killed were innocent civilians! “Some pinpoint operation” … and the 133,000 civilian casualties in Iraq, also “some pinpoint operation. And then there is the United Nations Relief Works Agency, UNRWA, being shocked to discover that rockets were found in two of its schools and then turning the rockets over to their rightful owners – Hamas! Remember who this Hamas is – as one writer, Chemi Shalev, described them: “Hamas is a cruel, fanatic, fundamentalist, reactionary, totalitarian, misogynistic, Holocaust-denying, human rights abusing, anti-democratic, anti-American, anti-Western, anti-Christian, anti-Zionist, and anti-Semitic movement that embraces terror, sanctifies martyrdom, glorifies death and condemned the killing of Osama bin Laden.” That is the people that people in the West cry for, protest on behalf of, and condemn Israel for trying to protect itself from. And the crazy part is, even the Arabs themselves seem to have come to grips with what Hamas is. You don’t see many rallies on Hamas’ behalf on the streets of Arab countries; most all the pro-Hamas rallies come on the streets of the Western countries – the so-called “civilized world.” READ MORE
There is one word – a Hebrew word – which over the years has taken on a specific meaning. The word used to be considered neutral but now it’s considered a negative. The word is “matzav” – literal translation: “situation.” The word used to be used quite innocently. One person would say to another, “Mah hamatzav – what’s up?” It’s a question that didn’t even need an answer! Or, one Israeli would say to the other: “Yesh matzav” which can mean, “Something’s going on.” If an Israeli Prime Minister were to deliver a State of the Union address, it would be called “Matzav ha-umi – the nation’s situation.” But today, the word “matzav” refers to only one situation … and that is Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians. According to Ruvik Rosenthal, a language columnist for one of Israel’s newspapers, “The word “matzav” is a word with a negative connotation … according to the dictionary definition it is a neutral word, but in daily usage it has a connotation of tension, sadness, problems.” READ MORE