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Archive for October, 2015

SERMON: Lech Lecha: Would You Travel to Israel Now?

October 26, 2015 Leave a comment

Last week I had a sad experience. I was reading an Israeli newspaper online describing the situation in Jerusalem where tourists had disappeared, trips were called off, people were fearful to stand at bus stations, no one was going downtown … and then I saw an article with the headline: “The Choir That Didn’t Cancel.” Before reading the article for some reason I said to myself: I bet you it wasn’t a Jewish choir.  And sadly, I was right. The choir was 150 singers from an American group called “The Singing Men from Georgia.” This is a group of Baptists who were giving a concert called “Bringing Hope to the Peoples of the Holy Land.” They didn’t cancel … would you? Honestly, would you book a trip to Israel these days given the situation there? I would! I can’t go now, but this past week I booked a flight to go to Israel in January. Would you? The truth of the matter is, anyone reading the newspapers would certainly agree that given the situation there, this is far from the perfect time to visit. But I wouldn’t hesitate to go. I don’t make light of the situation but I can’t help but feel right now I would be safer in downtown Jerusalem than downtown Baltimore. READ MORE

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SERMON: The Pope or the Chief Rabbis; Who Would You Choose?

October 12, 2015 Leave a comment
Hassid Fliping the Bird

(Photo by Geralyn Shukwit)

It is said that one picture is worth a thousand words. If that be the case, the picture that appeared in the New York Post and went viral on the Internet before Yom Kippur speaks volumes about the contemporary Jewish condition and helps explain why I already miss the Pope, and perhaps provides the beginning of an answer to one of the greatest challenges confronting the Jewish people. (Now if you had trouble understanding that sentence, how do you think I feel?)

Let me explain. It took place two days before Yom Kippur at a time when Jews around the world have a custom of participating in the Kapparot ritual. The ritual itself has a long history of controversy and some great rabbis wish ed to completely ban it. The ritual used to involve a chicken … you swing a live chicken over your head, proclaiming in effect that you, yourself, deserve to die for your sins but instead this chicken will be put to death as expiation for your sins. Sort of, instead of a scapegoat … a scape chicken! READ MORE

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SERMON: Water Water Everywhere … Not Really!

October 7, 2015 Leave a comment

Today I want to take back something I’ve said to you countless times on this day of Shemini Atzeret. So many sermons I delivered on this day began by pointing out that this festival of Shemini Atzeret is very strange. Unlike most other festivals, it has no special ceremony nor does this day mark any historic occasion. Shemini Atzeret is a holiday unto itself… independent of Sukkot and independent in its manner from any other major observance. Today I want to take that back! This year on Yom Kippur I was reminded that there IS something unique about this day … there is something special we do on this day. And what we do has tremendous contemporary relevance. READ MORE

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SERMON: Refugees: Then and Now

October 7, 2015 Leave a comment

We can all picture the images before our eyes. They are fleeing, not by the hundreds and not by the thousands, not by the tens of thousands… they are fleeing by the millions. History will never be the same! Of course, I am referring to the two million refugees who fled the land of Egypt, whose travails we remember during this festival of Sukkot, when the Jews having fled the bondage of Egypt, found themselves not in Hungary, not in Germany and not in Turkey… but in a wilderness, living in booths for 40 years.

We Jews are sensitive to the plight of refugees for a good part of our history that is just what we’ve been – refugees – from Egypt, Israel, England, Spain and on and on. And then came the Holocaust when the world would not even allow Jews to become refugees… when all doors were slammed in our faces by the civilized world. So what we now see taking place in the Middle East, across the Mediterranean Sea and entering Europe, cannot help but touch us as Jews and as Americans; a country made up in large part of refugees. READ MORE