Archive for May, 2013

SERMON: Turn the Lights On

Oftentimes upon my return from Israel I have spoken about the divisions amongst Israelis regarding the military situation and the quest for peace with the lines separating hawks from doves, Labor from Likud, settlers from Peace Now.  I am happy to tell you that I have never found the people of Israel closer to unity on the Arab/Israeli conflict than now.  The whole issue is hardly discussed.  With Egypt turning, Jordan tottering, Syria exploding, Hamas controlling and Hezbollah fighting … most of the entire Israeli spectrum is in agreement that peace is not at hand.  So the good news is, the Arabs are no longer dividing Israel.  The bad news is, now it’s God!

Hardly a page in any Israeli newspaper does not feature a story regarding the religious divide in Israel.  “Attah echad v’shvimcha echad – God is One and His name is One” … but His people are not one.  The deep, dangerous religious divide in Israel touches on most every subject – from the election of a new Chief Rabbi, to housing allowances, to Women of the Wall, to ultra-Orthodox conscription, to school curriculum, to marriage, divorce, conversion, and to where you sit on the bus!  And it makes all of us look bad!  And even worse, some of us don’t even see how bad it looks, how bad they look … and you don’t have to look to Israel to see it.  Let me just cite recent examples here in America, one from the Reform and one from the Orthodox. READ MORE

On an entirely different note…

It’s amazing the impact BT has on people’s lives. Take Jocelyn Bogdan, who had a life-changing experience while working as a counselor at BT Camps…where she discovered Nutella, as recounted in this Jewish Daily Forward blog post, Save My Nutella Ice Cream — Please!


SERMON: A Torah for All Jews

My colleague, Rabbi Chai Posner, wants to know…where were YOU during matan Torah?

Every generation has its monumental moments when people remember exactly where they were when a particular event occurred. For many, the Kennedy assassination is one of those moments (I don’t know why, but I can’t seem to remember where I was when that happened).

I do remember where I was when we found out on a Saturday night that Yizchak Rabin had been assassinated. I remember exactly where I was when 9/11 happened. I was actually in Israel.

These moments are memorable because of their tragic nature. But our Sages took this a step further when it came to a joyous event – the giving of the Torah. According to the Midrash our sages insist that not just do all Jews remember where they were when the Torah was given, but all Jews were actually in the same place. They were all at Sinai receiving the Torah.

Now, that’s no big deal. But our sages take it even a step further. Not just were all Jews of that generation at Har Sinai when the Torah was given, but the souls of all Jews of future generations were present as well. READ MORE

SERMON: What Were They Thinking?

The recent behavior of two rabbis caused me to email one of our synagogue’s “wise men,” Searle Mitnick, and ask him if it is possible that I am the only moral Orthodox rabbi in the world? It took Searle a while to respond, but his response was: “You may be the only one left standing.” Yes, I’m still standing! I want to talk to you today about these two rabbis, and some others, rabbis and not rabbis, and ask you the deeply profound, philosophically engaging question: What were they thinking?

Michael Broyde is one of the most important Modern Orthodox rabbis in America. He is so important that he was on the short list of those who were recently considered for the position of Chief Rabbi of England. Broyde is a rabbi in Atlanta and a recognized halachic scholar, to the point that he serves as a judge on the Beth Din of the Rabbinical Council of America – the most important Orthodox rabbinic group. As if this is not enough, he is also a full professor of law at Emory University. Recently it came to light that Rabbi Broyde, using a fake name, had joined another Modern Orthodox rabbinic organization … giving him access to all of its rabbi’s confidential comments. He would write in his own opinions on these matters under the false name. As if that isn’t enough, it also came to light that Rabbi Broyde would write letters to journals where he had contributed scholarly articles and using his false name would compliment Rabbi Broyde for his intellectual wisdom! You tell me: what was he thinking? READ MORE