I am going to talk to you today about three brothers, three “tens” and three four-letter words. But first I want to focus on two people!
A few years back Britain’s Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sachs, was scheduled to speak in our synagogue. Beforehand I received a call from his assistant telling me that Chief Rabbi Lord Sachs and Lady Sachs would be pleased to have lunch with me and my wife. I immediately replied that I was available but that I would have to check with Lady Wohlberg! Today I want to tell you about Lady Wohlberg and I and a question I asked myself this year. It’s a question I suspect many of you have asked at some point in your life: should I have stayed or gone? READ MORE
For all of us as Jews, hinei baw yom hadin – behold the Day of Judgment has arrived. But for all of us as Americans there is another day of judgment this year: Nov. 8th, when we choose the next president of the U.S. So, who are you going to vote for? Knowing my interest in politics and my concerns for the security of Israel, I don’t remember a time when more congregants have asked me that question than this year.
This year the choice we all confront is choosing a candidate who the majority of American people don’t like. On July 29th, William Ziegler died in New Orleans. His family put the following death notice in the local newspaper: “William Ziegler escaped this mortal realm on Friday, July 29, 2016 at the age of 69. We think he did it on purpose to avoid having to make a decision in the pending presidential election.” In fact, in a Public Policy Poll when voters were asked if they would rather have Clinton, Trump or a meteor strike the earth, 13 percent chose the meteor; 7 percent were undecided! READ MORE
Down through the ages, we Jews ushered in every New Year with the words from our liturgy: “Tichleh shana v’killoloso teichal shana u’birkoso – may the old year end with all its curses; may the New Year begin with all its blessings.” But I think that this year, for all of us as Americans and as Jews, more appropriate words come from the 60’s rock group, Buffalo Springfield: “There’s something happening here … what it is ain’t exactly clear …” Something is going on in our country … a discontent, a deep division, extending from the Board Room to the bathroom, that has provided us with two candidates for the nation’s highest office – both of whom have more people who dislike them than like them, with American Jews wondering which one could be more trusted when it comes to Israel and with Americans in general echoing those words from Buffalo Springfield: “There’s something happening here … what it is ain’t exactly clear …” READ MORE
The days and weeks leading up to the High Holy Days are quite hectic and stressful for a rabbi. Traditionally we refer to the High Holy Days as “Yamim Noraim – the Days of Awe,” but my father used to say that for rabbis the better translation was: “Awful Days.” There is a lot of pressure and tension leading up to these days as a rabbi prepares. What can a rabbi do for a few hours that will take his mind off the High Holy Day pressure? Well, I can’t tell you what other rabbis do, but I can tell you what I did. A week ago I took my boys to Philadelphia to see AC/DC! Now, I know that to some of you, AC/DC refers to “electrical current” … AC – alternating current and DC – direct current. But for those of us in the know, AC/DC is an iconic, classic rock band … one of the favorites of my youth. And to this day, I have an AC/DC poster in my office at home and my ringtone on my iPhone is AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells” … a common one amongst rabbis! READ MORE
In recent weeks I delivered a series of sermons on “learning” … Last week was what WE must learn. This week we had entitled, “Let’s Learn.” So with the coming of the High Holy Days, today you’re not going to believe how much you’re going to learn! You’re going to learn why Jewish kings were anointed by a spring; why we eat carrots on Rosh Hashanah and our challah is made round; what are the two stripes on the flag of Israel and why we beat our breasts on Yom Kippur. We are also going to learn whether Donald Trump should wear a tallit and if Colin Kaepernick should sit while the flag is displayed and the national anthem is played. So buckle your seat belts … here we go! READ MORE
It is said that one picture is worth a thousand words. Well, here was a picture that spoke to millions. It was a picture that we all saw and it couldn’t help but touch our hearts. You may not know the name of the person in the picture, but you know who he is … and you know what has happened. It was a picture of Omran Daqneesh, five years old, after he was pulled out of a building hit by an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria on August 17. Omran lived with his parents and three siblings in a rebel-held neighborhood in Syria, which on August 17 was bombed by either Russian or Syrian forces. He was pulled from the rubble and put on a seat in the back of an ambulance where the picture was taken. Part of his head was covered in blood, his legs were bruised, his thick hair was filled with smoke and dust. And he just sat there … the ambulance was not moving … it would not move until it filled with more children … and he just sat there all alone. Peggy Noonan, writing in the Wall Street Journal, pointed out that he wasn’t even crying. Children would naturally cry under such circumstances; a cry would bring attention and comfort. But what Omran has learned over the past five years is that, if you’re living in Syria, no one brings comfort and attention. You are all alone. READ MORE
I have spoken about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Both share something in common: more than half of America dislikes them. This week I speak of someone that the majority of American people genuinely respect and admire. For us, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has given her people – the Jewish people – nothing but nachas … genuine Yiddishe nachas. She was the first Jewish woman appointed to the Supreme Court of the U.S. and she publicly takes pride in her Jewish upbringing and background. Shortly after her appointment she addressed the American Jewish Committee and said, “I am a judge, born, raised and proud of being a Jew. The demand for justice runs through the entirety of the Jewish tradition.”
But, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has not only been a source of pride to the Jewish people, she has also been a source of pride to the American people. She’s acknowledged as having been at the forefront of women’s rights for equality. Indeed, she is so iconic that Tumblr has a site entitled: “Notorious RBG,” and now there is a book bearing that name as well. READ MORE