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Archive for September, 2014

SERMON: Rosh Hashana – Do YOU Believe in God?

September 29, 2014 Leave a comment

Every year on Rosh Hashanah, through the Torah and Haftorah readings, our tradition has us focus on three women: in the Torah readings, Sarah, our first mother, and in the Haftorah readings: Chana – who taught us how to pray, and Rachel, who prays for us. On this Rosh Hashanah I want to focus on three Jewish women who did all that for us this year – and so much more. They have something that most all of us yearn to have.

This has been a very tough and challenging year for the Jewish people. What Israel has gone through this year has to make it one of its most difficult times in its 66 year history. Israel has confronted a world prepared to compromise with an Iran that is hell-bent on building a nuclear weapon which it has threatened to use against Israel. Israel has had to deal with a European Union that constantly threatens it with economic sanctions. Israel’s Prime Minister has gone through a very shaky relationship with the President of the United States. American led mediation for peace with the Palestinians fell apart. And then came a week from hell … with the
three Yeshiva boys kidnapped and killed, and the Palestinian boy murdered in a revenge attack by Israelis, and rockets being fired regularly at southern Israel. And as if all this was not enough, a full-scale war broke out with Hamas! And lo and behold, the day the war in Gaza came to an end, rockets started to fall on the Golan Heights! I tell you the truth … I don’t know how the Israelis do it! Whenever I am in Israel – and I’m there every year – you would never know the difficulties these people are living through. I don’t know how they live under such stress and pressure. READ MORE

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SERMON: Boruch Hashem

September 22, 2014 Leave a comment

With this being the last Shabbat of the year, I am still searching for the correct answer to the question I was most frequently asked during this year.

A rabbi gets a lot of questions and usually they are not too difficult to answer. Most answers you know off the top of your head, others you look up in a book or contact Reb Google. But this year I was constantly asked a question, and I wasn’t sure what answer to give. The question was: How are you?

Since May when I had severe trouble with my back making it difficult to walk, I have been asked on a daily basis by countless people, “Rabbi, how are you?” I really wasn’t sure what to answer. The fact of the matter is, if I were ultra-Orthodox, there would be no problem! Whenever you ask an ultra-Orthodox Jew how they are, they always have the same two word answer: “Boruch Hashem–thank God.” You just got hit by a truck, so how are you? “Boruch Hashem.” The surgeon just removed your intestines, so how are you? “Boruch Hashem.” It’s a great answer to have and it’s based on a Talmudic text which tells us that in the same way we bless God for the good, we should bless God for the bad. But the truth is, these words, “Boruch Hashem,” were first uttered by non-Jews! Look in the Bible and you will see … the ones who said “Boruch Hashem” were Yisro and Noach and Avraham’s servant, Eliezer, and the King of Tyre … all non-Jews! Down through the centuries, rather than say “Boruch Hashem” most Jews were noted for responding to the question, “How are you?” with a whole series of complaints about aches and pains and nausea and stomach problems. I still remember when I first entered the rabbinate, one of the first hospital patients I visited was an elderly woman–a Holocaust survivor–and I said to her, “How are you?” She said, “You really want to know?” And she opened up the drawer next to her bed and took out a small container and opened it and showed me the black gall stones that had been removed from her the day before! READ MORE

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SERMON: Where Has Joan Rivers Gone?

September 15, 2014 Leave a comment

Here at Beth Tfiloh we had a long time member, Irv Kroll–a man who came to worship here 365 days of the year–and who said to me from time to time, “Rabbi, come on. I listen to your eulogies and all your plaque dedications. You’re always saying how this one is special and that one’s outstanding and this one is unique … everybody’s so great. Come on, rabbi, get off of it!” And I always replied to him, “Don’t worry, Irv. When it comes your turn, I’ll lie about you, too!” When he passed away I didn’t have to lie about Irv. He was one of the Beth Tfiloh greats. But I will be stretching the truth about some of you! That’s human nature. We tend to exaggerate the merits of a person after they are gone.

Joan Rivers passed away last week and from the words of eulogy said about her, from Hollywood to Hoboken, you would have thought that this woman was a combination of Joan of Arc and Mother Theresa! Everyone seemed to have something good to say about her. And there was a lot of good to say! She was a trailblazer, and it seems from those who knew her, a genuinely goodhearted person. But I must tell you the truth: I was not one of her fans. READ MORE

SERMON: Look Who’s Talking …

September 9, 2014 Leave a comment

With the High Holidays upon us, this morning I want to answer the three most frequently asked questions I get before the High Holidays begin:

– Why is the shofar a ram’s horn and not a cow’s horn?
– Why don’t we wear gold on Yom Kippur?
– What do the words “ain kateigor naaseh saneigor” mean?

OK … I’ll admit that I am not asked these questions that often, but if Dick Cheney, a Pentagon spokesman, Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey and a leader of the American Reform Movement had known the answers, their actions may have been different … and so might yours!

On June 17th the Wall Street Journal carried an op-ed column written by former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter, Liz Cheney, with the title: “The Collapsing Obama Doctrine.” In the article they derided the President’s policies regarding Iraq and other mid-east countries, writing, “Rarely has a U.S. President been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.” Now, Dick Cheney is entitled to his opinion, and for all I know, Dick Cheney might be right in what he said. But HE never should have said it be cause what followed was a whole series of critics saying: who is he to talk … look what happened during the Bush/Cheney administration. Talk about a President being wrong about so much at the expense of so many! It was Bush and Cheney who cost the lives of thousands of Americans and what did we get for it? So, Cheney writing an op-ed that he meant to start a discussion about the Obama administration only ended up revising a discussion of the Bush/Cheney administration … which only goes to prove: “people in glass houses should not throw stones.” READ MORE

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BT Members/Parents Volunteer in Israel

September 2, 2014 Leave a comment

“People at the hospital have been asking me why I came, and I answer, ‘Because you called,’” said Scott Weiner, a volunteer paramedic from Baltimore.

I am so proud of Beth Tfiloh Congregation members and School parents Scott Goldstein and Scott Weiner, who are both paramedics in Baltimore County, flew to Israel last week with the Emergency Volunteers Project to assist the staff at Asheklon’s Barzilai Medical Center during wartime. Their acts of chessed, of commitment to Israel and klal Yisrael, truly embody what BT is all about. Yasher koach to you both! Read more in American medical volunteers pitch in post-war, The Times of Israel