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Archive for June, 2017

SERMON: Divide Jerusalem? Divide Berlin?

There is a word that all of you know. In fact, most all of you will even recognize it in Hebrew. It is one of the words found in three verses of today’s Torah portion that make up 15 words that are amongst the best known in all the Bible. It is the third word in the Priestly Blessing, which reads: “Yevorecacha Hashem – may the Lord bless you,” get ready because here comes the word, “v’yishmerecha – “and keep you.” I told you that most of you would know the word. But let me tell you something else. I suspect most all of you don’t know what it means. What does it mean that God should “keep” you? Keep you where? Keep you what? The first word we understand … may God “bless” you. What does “bless” mean? We all know – it means bless! That’s easy! The biblical commentator, Rashi, specifies its meaning to be: “Your possessions should be blessed.” But what’s with the “keep?” Let me tell you a man who understands what the V’yishmeracha – to “keep” means. And he doesn’t even know a word of Hebrew!

His name is David Dao. Do you remember him? How quickly we forget! Less than two months ago there was hardly anyone in America who didn’t know his name. He is a 69 year-old doctor who was forcibly removed from a flight from Chicago to Louisville, KY. He had a ticket and all his documents were in order. But that didn’t stop United Airlines, which used to have as its tag line, “Fly the Friendly Skies of United,” forcibly wrench him from his seat and physically drag him down the aisle because the flight had been overbooked. To put this in biblical terms, you see what happened? He had a seat but wasn’t allowed to “keep” it! That’s how Rashi explains the V’yishmeracha – to “keep” to mean. In Rashi’s words, “That bandits should not come against you and take your property.” Rashi goes on to say, “For one who gives a gift to his servant is unable to guard it against all people.” What is the good of getting a gift if you are not going to be able to keep it? What is the good of buying a ticket for an airline seat if you are not going to be able to keep it? What is the good of reuniting Jerusalem if the world is going to try and take it away from you? READ MORE

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YIZKOR SERMON: Who Are Our Friends?

It was exactly 50 years ago this week that Israel learned what all of us must learn: who are our real friends?

To get a perspective on how to answer this question I first want to draw your attention to two people who play an important role during this festival of Shavuot. Interestingly enough, they are both non-Jews who later on became Jews. But their stories, in regard to the Jewish people, are very different.

First is a woman named Ruth. It is hard to describe how high a pedestal our tradition places her on. She became the forerunner of King David and the Messiah. Her story was chosen to be read on Shavuot when we recall the giving of the Torah because she took on the Torah on her own. She is the paradigm of the quintessential convert. Her conversion takes place through her uttering those immortal words: “Ameich ami v’Elokayich Elokai – Your people shall be my people and your God shall be my God.” READ MORE