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SERMON: Am I a Liberal or a Conservative?

October 10, 2017 Leave a comment

Let me ask you a question. Do you think I’m a Republican, or a Democrat? A liberal or a conservative? I have been delivering sermons here at Beth Tfiloh for 39 years now. There is hardly a subject I can think of that I have not spoken about – from Iraq to Iran, from Obama to Trump, from homosexuality to hurricanes, from abortion to anti-Semitism, from J Street to Worth Avenue, from liberals to conservatives. And I have spoken about these subjects with a bit more clarity and outspokenness than most rabbis. That is because of YOU! That’s because you have allowed me to express my feelings! So, you know where I stand. Having said that, do you think, deep down, that I’m a liberal or a conservative? Come on, raise your hands! Would it help if I tell you that in the last six presidential elections, three times I voted Democratic and three times I voted Republican? READ MORE

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SERMON: Remembering What to Forget

October 3, 2017 Leave a comment

In these moments before Yizkor, when we are called upon to remember, let me see how good your memory is. Over the years I’ve told you some humorous stories to start this sermon. Let’s see if you remember this one from seven years ago. READ MORE

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SERMON: 1517, 1897, 1917, 1947, 1967 … 2017 and Tomorrow

October 3, 2017 Leave a comment

There is something about these moments of Kol Nidre that are unlike any other time of the Jewish year. No matter how distant a Jew feels from his Judaism, Kol Nidre still enters his soul. Who knows what it is that makes Kol Nidre so meaningful? It’s true, its melody is haunting. But its words, which are not even in Hebrew, but Aramaic, are a plain, simple annulment of vows. Indeed, at one point in our history the rabbis wanted to change some of the words but they couldn’t because the Cantors protested. Cantors are always protesting! READ MORE

SERMON: Best Wishes for a Positive New Year

September 26, 2017 Leave a comment

With a full heart I welcome all of you as we usher in this New Year by asking you a question: What do climate change, terrorism, Brexit, ISIS, North Korea, Neo-Nazis, Obamacare, Russian collusion and Donald Trump all have in common? Answer: I’m not going to talk about any of them! You can sit back and relax! We have all heard enough! It has been pointed out that the purpose of a sermon is either to disturb the comfortable or comfort the disturbed! It feels as if we have heard enough disturbing news and events in the past year to last us a lifetime! So today I want to help comfort you … and it’s not going to be easy! Political analysts and sociologists have started calling us “the anxious generation.” We have switched from Prozac for depression to Xanax for anxiety. READ MORE

SERMON: Flags and Statues, Apples and Honey: the Power of Symbols

September 12, 2017 Leave a comment

There have been many books written on how to make proper business decisions. Perhaps the best known is Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. That book has sold 25 million copies! I don’t know if this sermon will receive that large a readership, but in one paragraph I think I can teach you the least effective way of making a business decision. READ MORE

SERMON: Charlottesville: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

September 5, 2017 Leave a comment
Charlottesville: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Charlottesville: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I didn’t deliver a sermon over the summer, so I have plenty to talk about. Originally, today I was going to speak to you about events that took place this summer in Chevron, Jerusalem, France and Lakewood. And eventually I will get to all that. I could talk about the devastation in Texas, and we will have something to say about it next week, but for now we pray for the welfare of all those affected and encourage you to contribute to the relief fund listed in our handout. Today I have to speak about what took place in Charlottesville, VA. I have to get it off my chest! Although it took place three weeks ago, the aftershocks will be felt for a long time to come. And, besides, I have to speak about it because, as you’ll see, there were those who were guilty of not speaking about it! I don’t want to be included with them. So today I want to give you a three-fold perspective on Charlottesville … the good, the bad and the ugly.

The good? Now we know … now we know who Donald Trump really is! Since his election, I’ve tried, for the most part, not to talk about him. I have strong feelings about him – very strong feelings. But so do others. He is a divisive figure, so why allow him to divide us? READ MORE

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