It was in the summer of 1968. The Vietnam War was raging and I had just received my rabbinic ordination … which I thought meant that I would be deferred from the draft. But a few weeks after receiving my ordination, I got my draft notice and 6 months later I found myself in a helicopter gunship flying over the Mekong Delta with my co-pilot – a nice kid from New Jersey named Brian Williams.
Wait! On further reflection, maybe it wasn’t the Mekong Delta … it was Manhattan. And maybe it wasn’t a helicopter gunship … but a 1964 Buick. And maybe my co-pilot wasn’t Brian Williams … but my wife, Sherry. That’s what happens when you “misremember.” READ MORE
Here are some articles to read before then:
Just wait until you see what I’m wearing for Purim… see you on Wednesday and Thursday at BT!
Okay, class. Here is the question for today: should Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu address a joint session of the U.S. Congress on March 3rd?
First, let me first provide the background. The Speaker of the House, Republican John Boehner, invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to address Congress about negotiations regarding Iran’s nuclear program. To date, the negotiations have passed their deadline, with a new extended deadline approaching. There are many in Congress, as well as Israel’s leaders, who feel that the threat of more sanctions can help push Iran into making necessary concessions. Others, including President Obama and some world leaders, argue that Congress resolving to add more sanctions would only push the Iranians away from the table. Everyone agrees that Iran going nuclear will be a threat to Israel, yes … but throughout the Middle East and way beyond as well. READ MORE
When Jews usher in the New Year on Rosh Hashanah we recite the words: “May the old year end with all its curses … may the New Year begin with all of its blessings.” Those words are most appropriate for us as Americans and as Jews as we usher in the New Year of 2015. New York Times columnist, Russ Douthat, writes: “There have been worse years in recent history but 2014 definitely stands out for the sheer variety of awfulness.” Yes, Ebola in Africa, cyber warfare with N. Korea, Russia’s seizing Crimea and part of the Ukraine, civil war in Syria, slaughter in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria, the rise of ISIS in Iraq, anti-Semitism throughout Europe, a failed Middle East peace effort, and still no nuclear deal with Iran. And need I remind you, they still have not found Malaysian flight 370.
So what will the New Year bring …more of the same or better news? It is not easy to say. It was the great thinker and philosopher, Yogi Berra, who once said: “It’s tough to make predictions–especially about the future.” READ MORE
This year is unique because during the festival of Chanukah, I have to speak to you about the exodus from Egypt, because of last week’s opening of the movie “Exodus, Gods and Kings.”
I am not much of a movie goer. The last time I went to the movies was back in August; Sherry and I walked out in the middle. Now it is listed as one of the best movies of the year! It’s hard to get us to sit through a movie … Sherry won’t go unless she knows the movie’s ending and I won’t go if it has aliens or vampires! But the movie “The Exodus” seems right for both of us! Sherry could go knowing the ending beforehand, and I figured that as a rabbi I could get a sermon out of it! So someday I might see it, but for now here is the sermon.
The movie did not get good reviews and its opening week was well below projections. That’s for you and movie critics to decide. I speak of the movie because of articles that I had seen that spoke specifically to the religious nature of the movie. It started with a large article in the Wall Street Journal on Dec. 5 entitled: “How did Moses part the Red Sea? The science of tides may have saved the Israelites from the Egyptians.” The article took note of the fact that this movie looked much different than Cecil B. DeMille’s classic “The Ten Commandments.” In that that movie, Charlton Heston – with God on his side – parted the Sea into two huge walls of water. This new version seems to take God out of the equation … it seems to take the miracles out of the picture. In this movie, the waters part as a result of a tsunami caused by an earthquake. So Glenn Beck proclaims: “And the miracles … they are all explainable, natural occurrences. I think this is a very subversive movie for religion.” Entertainment Weekly describes it: “Director Ridley Scott looked to science, not miracles, to part the Red Sea.” Another commentator describes it as having taken place “in accordance with the way of the world; that the wind dries out and parches the rivers.” Indeed, the plagues themselves seem to be little more than natural occurrences and ecological disasters. What happened to the supernatural? What happened to the miracles? READ MORE
The late actress, Gilda Radner, will long be remembered for the many roles she played, but she is most immortalized for the character she played on Saturday Night Live, Roseanne Roseannadanna, who used to proclaim from time to time: “It’s always something!” Those words, “It’s always something!” became the title of the book written about the life of Gilda Radner. But the reality is, according to Jewish tradition, those words: “It’s always something!” can be used to describe most all of our lives. The words find their root in a commentary on the first verse in this morning’s Torah portion.
Our Torah portion began with the seemingly innocent words: “Vayshev Yaacov b’eretz migurei aviv–Yaacov settled down in the land of his fathers.” But, the rabbis come along and say it wasn’t so. “Bikesh Yaacov leshev bishalva, miyad kafats alav rugzo shel Yosef–Jacob wanted to settle down in peace and he thought that at last he was going to be able to do so, but just then the tragedy of Joseph came upon him.” The rabbis go on to say that Jacob should have known better. He should have known that “ein shalva l’tzadikim b’olam haze–there is no rest and there is no peace for the righteous in this world.” It’s always something! READ MORE
We are happy to welcome the High School students from across the country who have come to Beth Tfiloh this weekend for the Weiner Tournament and have joined us at this time. My words are addressed to them, and to all of you. This morning I am going to speak about a word that many of you in the synagogue know, and many of you do not know. It’s a word that some of you have experienced, and many of you never will. And whether you know the word, or have experienced it, will depend very much on how old you are and where you are sitting in the synagogue at this time. The word is “SEXTING.”
First a few words of comfort for our high school students. Let me tell you something about Jewish law that I don’t think many of you are aware of. In my first 30 years as a rabbi, I was never asked about it. But in the last 10 years it has become one of the more frequent questions: Can a Jew with a tattoo be buried in a Jewish cemetery? And the answer is: no matter what anyone has told you, if you have a tattoo you CAN be buried in a Jewish cemetery! That’s a fact! Let no one tell you differently! A person with a tattoo cannot be buried in a Jewish cemetery is a “wives’ tale.” Or, more likely, a Jewish mother’s tale … a way of your parents scaring all of you into not getting a tattoo! Now, I don’t want you to go home and say that Rabbi Wohlberg said it’s okay to get a tattoo – it’s not! It is prohibited by Jewish law, where we are told in the Torah: “And a wound on your soul you shall not put in your flesh and a tattoo you shall not place in you. I am the Lord.” So, it’s clear that a tattoo is prohibited. But there are a lot of things that are prohibited and if we did not allow a Jew who has violated a Jewish law to be buried in a Jewish cemetery we would have a lot of land available to build condominiums! READ MORE