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SERMON: Boruch Hashem

September 22, 2014

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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