SERMON: Michael Cohen and Mt. Sinai, God and Gold

There are many Jews around the world who stayed up Saturday night symbolically awaiting the arrival of the giving of the Torah. But there are two Jews who I suspect had difficulty sleeping Saturday night, and not because of anything that has to do with Shavuot, but because they are, what we call in French, “oif gut gehoctah tsores.” They have a lot of things to worry about these days. The first is Michael Cohen, our president’s lawyer, fixer and some claim, may be his downfall. Michael Cohen was riding high, always there for the president. Few, it was felt, were closer to him and knew more about him. Cohen, it has now been revealed, only had three clients but having the president as one of them should have – and could have – been considered a lifetime achievement. But now Cohen worries that he may spend a good part of the rest of his life in prison. READ MORE

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SERMON: Mother’s Day or Yom Yerushalayim? That is the Question!

Mother's Day or Yom YerushalayimTomorrow is the second Sunday in May, marking it as Mother’s Day. In the Hebrew calendar, tomorrow is the 28th day in the month of Iyar, marking it as Yom Yerushalayim – the 51st anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem during the Six Day War. Mother’s Day is an important day in the American calendar, and Yom Yerushalayim is of importance in the Jewish calendar. So what will American rabbis discuss in their sermons today? For me, the scale was tilted toward Mother’s Day because today I have yahrzeit for my mother who passed away eleven years ago.

Strangely enough, there is something linking my mother’s death to Jerusalem. The last time I spoke to her was from Jerusalem. I was there walking through the Old City and I called my mother and said, “I am coming home tonight. Is there anything you want me to bring you from here?” She said, “Bring me back a coffee mug from the Old City and just come home safely.” We bought the mug, went back to our hotel to pack and then got the call that my mother
had passed away. (Sherry, of course, kept the mug!) READ MORE

SERMON: Sing! Sing a Song!

This is a historic week for us here at Beth Tfiloh, bringing together three special events. But, I’m not going to speak. When we Jews celebrate, when we as Jews confront historic moments, we don’t speak, we sing. At that awesome moment in history when the Jews saw the hand of God at the crossing of the Red Sea, there were no speeches made, they sang. When our greatest leader, Moshe, came to the end of his days, the charge he left to the Jewish people was not by way of speech, but by way of song. Similarly, Deborah and King David, when blessed with great victories, burst out in song.

So today when we celebrate three milestones, no talk just song. Let me tell you about the three milestones by putting them in the framework of three songs. READ MORE

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SERMON: Dayenu, Jared Kushner… and Us

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It’s one of the most popular Hebrew songs, it’s one of the best known Hebrew words. It’s one word that takes five English words to translate. The word is – dayenu. Translation: “It would have been enough.” Dayenu, of course, comes from the Haggadah, but you hear it sung at Jewish weddings and celebrations because every Jew knows the tune, and every Jew knows the word. What they don’t know is that the poem that provides its context and meaning is just not true! READ MORE

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SERMON: Are We Family?

One Jewish FamilyToday is Pesach … tomorrow is Easter. Thinking about this put a smile on my face. I thought about those who have chosen to be Jews for Jesus, and the incredible choice they had to make this weekend. Should they go to shul, or go to church? Should they have the sacramental wine and wafer, or the Manischewitz wine and matzah? Should they dip an egg in salt water, or paint an egg and roll it down the hill? I smiled, thanking God that I don’t have to make such agonizing choices!

But I also smiled for another reason. Here is Pesach and there is Easter … and we Jews don’t have a worry in the world. The fact of the matter is that down through the centuries the coming of Pesach and Easter was the time when thousands of Jews fell victim to bloodthirsty mobs inspired by bigoted priests. There was a time when Pesach and Easter coinciding brought terror into Jewish homes. There was a time when the Seder would be interrupted by mobs who came looking for the bodies of Christian children. There was a time when Christians were told in church that Jews made matzah with the blood of Christian children.

So there is much for us to smile about when Pesach and Easter come together. Look how far we have come! Look how far we have come from that fear. Look how times have changed – from “Christ killers” we’ve become “brothers in faith,” with popes who used to condemn us now placing notes of prayers in our people’s most sacred spot, the Western Wall. READ MORE

SERMON: #NeverTrump

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I want you to pay attention to what I’m about to say, because people who aren’t here won’t believe that I said it! So here goes – today I have something nice to say about President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

As many of you know, I did not and would not vote for them. I find Donald Trump a grossly indecent human being. His leadership is a form of government best described as a kakistocracy. And if you don’t know what that means … we are all better off! I could spend several days telling you why I strongly oppose him, but that would be a waste of your time, and mine. We are all entitled to our opinions. But despite the fact that I don’t approve of much of what Trump and Pence stand for, today I rise to defend them from attacks coming from one particular group – American Jews. Recently, President Trump and Vice President Pence have been criticized by American Jews because of the slap in the face they gave to the Jewish people. Pence, by the speech he gave to Israel’s Knesset; Trump, by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. For some Jews these were unpardonable sins. READ MORE

SERMON: Women, Guns and the Slippery Slope

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Today I want to talk to you about the slippery slope. The slippery slope is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “a course of action that seems to lead inevitably from one action or result to another with unintended consequences.” Jewish tradition describes it a bit differently, with the classic story about the man who, before his wedding, goes and asks the rabbis just what is permissible between him and his soon-to-be wife. “Go ahead, ask, ask,” the rabbi said. The man asked question upon question, about whether one thing or another was okay. To each inquiry the rabbi responded, “Yes, that is fine, between a man and his wife, it’s all fine.” The man was relieved and so he asked about more and more erotic things; about each, the rabbi said it was fine. It was all fine until the man mentioned one last thing that he assumed would be fine like all the previous questions he asked. But, surprisingly, the rabbi said: “No, halachically that is forbidden!” “Tell me, rabbi, why is this last thing not permissible if all the other things were?” The rabbi replied, “That last one is no good because it can lead to mixed dancing!” READ MORE

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