SERMON: Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman

Our Torah reading this morning is every rabbi’s dream. There is so much in it worthy of talking about, starting with the kindling of the menorah, the role of the Leviim, the concept of Pesach Sheini, two upside down “nuns” bracketing the words of the “Vayehi binsoa ha-aron” – the words we say every time we remove the Torah scroll from the Ark. And then comes the good stuff … the Jews, complaining for a change! And to top it all off, Miriam speaking loshon hara about her brother, Moshe. Every incident is worthy of a sermon, but today I want to discuss something in the Torah portion that is usually overlooked, surprisingly so, because it makes up 10 verses that formed the basis of a Jewish holiday. It begins with the words, “On the day … the Tabernacle was set up the cloud covered the Tabernacle that was a tent of the testimony, and in the evening there would be upon the Tabernacle like a fiery appearance until morning. So it would always be the cloud would cover it and appearance of fire at night.” The verses go on to tell us how that cloud guided and protected the Jewish people through their journey in the wilderness. READ MORE

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SERMON: Eyeless in Gaza

If you want to know exactly what is going on at the border separating Gaza from Israel, I can explain it in 15 words – 15 words found in this morning’s Torah portion. Here they are:
Y’var-ekh’cha Hashem v’yeesh’m’recha:
Ya-eir Hashem pa-nav ei-ley-cha vee-chu-nei-cha:
Yee-sa Hashem pa-nav ei-lay-cha v’ya-sem l’cha sha-lom
May the Lord bless you and protect you:
May the Lord show you kindness and be gracious to you:
May the Lord bestow favor upon you and grant you peace.
That, in a nutshell, says it all! Let me explain. READ MORE
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SERMON: Michael Cohen and Mt. Sinai, God and Gold

Michael Cohen and Elliott Broidy

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

entitlement fb

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