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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SERMON: Is Our President a Genius?

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Is Donald Trump a genius? He thinks he is! He has said so on numerous occasions. But, as a taxi driver in Israel pointed out, even Einstein never called himself a genius. But Trump has called himself a genius, and many people agree with him! According to one poll, 50% of the Republicans polled consider him a genius. You can certainly make a case for this. After all, you don’t become a billionaire and president of the United States by being a fool. Trump himself said it, “I went from very successful businessman, to a top TV star … to president of the United States. I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius … and a very stable genius at that.” And yet, it is reported that Trump’s own Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has called him a “moron,” his Treasury Secretary, Menuchin has described him as “an idiot,” and his National Security Advisor, H.R. McMaster, has called him “a dope.” So which is it? Genius or dope? I have to be honest and admit that I am not a genius … so I’m not the one who can tell whether Trump is one or not. READ MORE

SERMON: God’s Cossacks: Force-fed Judaism

Something historic took place on the festival of Purim, and we Jews didn’t even celebrate it! Yes, everyone knows that Purim was the day we were saved from annihilation by Haman. That we celebrated. But there is something else that took place that day that affects us to this very day. You know what happened on Purim day? The Jews accepted the Torah! That’s right! It happened on Purim! You thought it happened on Shavuot at Mt. Sinai. But no, it happened on Purim in Persia. Allow me to explain because the explanation may give some insight into what motivated the Jews to build the Golden Calf, and indeed it might help us understand how Jews should be treating each other today. READ MORE

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