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SERMON: Where Has Joan Rivers Gone?

September 15, 2014 Leave a comment

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

SERMON: Look Who’s Talking …

September 9, 2014 Leave a comment

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

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Look Who’s Talking!

August 29, 2014 Leave a comment

Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg has a lot to say! Join us at Beth Tfiloh to usher in the Hebrew month of Elul, and get ready for an uplifting and inspired New Year.

Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg has a lot to say! Join us at Beth Tfiloh to usher in the Hebrew month of
Elul, and get ready for an uplifting and inspired New Year.

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!

SERMON: Barack Obama … Friend or Foe?

August 12, 2014 Leave a comment

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

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SERMON: Critics of Israel at Home and Abroad

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

SERMON: The Situation …

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

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SERMON: You Wouldn’t Believe the Things They’re Saying About the Jews!

It was the Gentile prophet Bilaam who proclaimed those immortal and, unfortunately, true words regarding the Jews: “Hein am levaded yishkon – behold they are a nation destined to dwell alone.” In many ways the state of Israel is the most isolated one on earth. It is surrounded by neighbors, many of whom do not recognize its right to exist, and who have no economic or diplomatic relations with it. And even with the two neighbors with which Israel does have a peace treaty, very few of their people visit Israel. On the international scene there is a movement to boycott Israel. Well known entertainers like Dustin Hoffman, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, Elvis Costello, Stevie Wonder, Carlos Santana and, of course, Jane Fonda refuse to step foot in Israel. No member of Britain’s royal family has ever paid a state visit to Israel. So when popular international icons do visit, that is big news in Israel! In recent weeks, Israel has had three such visitors … there was Justin Timberlake, who immediately won over the hearts of all Israel when he paid a moving visit to the Western Wall and began his jam-packed Tel Aviv concert with the words, “Yalla balagan” – slang words known to all Israelis as meaning, “Let’s go for it … let’s get the show on the road!” And you don’t get much bigger than the Rolling Stones, and they won over the hearts of all Israelis when they delayed the start of their show, which took place on the first night of Shavuot … they delayed it so that their Orthodox fans would have time to drive to the concert when Yom Tov was over, and they introduced themselves by saying: “Anachanu ha-avanim hamitgalgalot – we are the Rolling Stones!” READ MORE

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