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Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

SERMON: Post-Obama, Pre-Trump: Lessons for American Jews

January 10, 2017 Leave a comment

This is the time of year when pundits make predictions for the future. I am definitely not going to do that! Who would have predicted at this time last year that the so-called “civilized world” would stand by when hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians were being gassed and bombed? Who ever imagined that Britain would vote to pull out of the European Union? And then, of course, there’s Donald Trump. Many still can’t believe it! We are living in a world in turmoil, and there is really no way of predicting what the future may bring. I, for one, can do little – if anything – to set the world straight. But I can do something regarding the Jewish people! I can have an effect on the future. Not by predicting it – even I don’t claim to be a prophet – but by correcting some of the mistakes that our people have made in the past year in the hope that it won’t happen again in the year ahead. READ MORE

SERMON: Faking It

November 30, 2016 Leave a comment

The Academy Awards are still several months away but, from my perspective, the Oscar given for the best performance by an actor has been narrowed down to two names: Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Their award-winning performance took place on Nov. 10th in the Oval Office of the White House when these two sat there together with smiles on their faces. Obama warmly welcomed Trump, saying, “We are now going to do everything we can to help you succeed.” And Trump referred to Obama as “a good man” and said their meeting was “a great honor.” For all of us this had to be a performance of a lifetime! Just think of what the two of them had previously said about each other. READ MORE

SERMON: Orlando and Pulse, Tel Aviv and Sarona, Settlers and Jihad … and lots more…

For us as American Jews, we have been hit with a double whammy. First, there was the terror attack at the Sarona Market in Tel Aviv, killing four people. I have been to the Sarona Market … it’s new and it’s beautiful and just the right atmosphere to enjoy a leisurely evening. But the terrorists didn’t see it that way.

And then, just a few days later all of us as Americans were crushed and devastated by the terrorist attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. It is a place where people can go and be themselves and enjoy themselves. But the terrorist did not see it that way.

The terrorists, separated by thousands of miles, did see everything the same way … through the eyes of Radical Islam. President Obama seems to be the only one unable to say it, but everyone knows it. READ MORE

SERMON: Let’s Talk Politics: Obama, Trump … and Asara b’Tevet

December 21, 2015 Leave a comment

Every once in a while I mention in my sermons that I don’t like to discuss politics from the pulpit and many of you just sit there and giggle! Well, today I am going to talk politics from the pulpit, and what I have to say is nothing to laugh about. But in order for me, as a rabbi, to talk politics I first must disguise it by a D’var Torah regarding the Fast of Asara b’Tevet.

This Tuesday is a sad day in the Jewish calendar. It is the 10th day of Tevet and I think it is fair to say that most Jews don’t know – or don’t care – about that day. Really, how many of you who come to shul every Shabbat know what the Fast of Asara b’Tevet commemorates? Yet our tradition considers it a significant day. There were other fast days that our people used to commemorate which over the centuries were removed from the calendar. Indeed, there used to be fasts on the 8th and 9th of Tevet as well. We no longer observe them. After all, if we fasted every day that had a tragic event took place for the Jews, we would never have to go on a diet! But our rabbis kept the fast of the 10th day of Tevet, and in fact considered it so important that whereas other fast days, besides Yom Kippur, which come out on Shabbos are delayed. If Asara b’Tevet could fall on Shabbos, it would not be delayed. READ MORE

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

SERMON: Netanyahu Addresses Congress: One Speech, Two Opinions

This Shabbat, I gave my perspective on Netanyahu’s speech to Congress:

Who Do You Trust? Iran? The World? Obama? Netanyahu?
I have read a lot of books and it would be hard to say which is my favorite. But it’s easy to say which title was my favorite! It was a book written by Sidney Zion, which he titled: “Trust Your Mother but Cut the Cards.” Those few words say so much! As close as we are to someone, as much as we might love someone, we should never take things for granted. We should never be naïve … trust your mother but cut the cards.

We Jews have a two word phrase for this: “Kabdeihu v’chashdeihu – honor him, but suspect him.” In a sense, we put those words into practice because of today’s Torah portion. On the surface, today’s Torah portion tells us nothing new … after several Torah portions describing God’s directions to Moshe on exactly how to build the Mishkan – the Tabernacle – today’s Torah portion finds Moshe, word for word, sentence by sentence, telling the Jewish people: I did this, I did that, I collected this amount of money, I spent this amount of money … more than 100 verses telling us nothing more than just that. Do you know why? The Midrash tells us that after Moshe collected all the gifts that people gave for the building of the sanctuary, every time he walked by, people would whisper to each other behind his back: “Look how good he looks … look how well he is dressing … surely he must be taking money off from what we have contributed.” Moshe heard this talk; he heard them questioning his integrity and their lack of trust in his honesty and so he gave them a detailed report of every single dime that was spent on the building of the sanctuary. And you should know that because of this incident, we are told that the person who collected the money for the funds in the Temple could not wear a double-hemmed garment, a hollow belt or even pants … so that if later on he would become rich people could not claim that he became rich from taking money from the communal treasury. READ MORE

And then I invited Rabbi Jonathan Gross to give his:

A Response to Rabbi Wohlberg’s Sermon…
First I want to thank Rabbi Wohlberg for giving me an opportunity to give another perspective to the Netanyahu speech. One of the many things that make Beth Tfiloh the best synagogue in North America is the diversity of opinions that exist among our congregation, and even our Rabbis, and our ability to come together on Shabbat and discuss and debate them as a congregation.

One of the stories surrounding the Netanyahu speech involved Nebraska Congressman Brad Ashford, from the district that I used to live in Omaha. Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire activist, was sitting in the balcony with his wife Miriam waiting for Netanyahu to enter Congress to deliver his speech. Miriam leaned over the balcony and dropped her handbag, hitting Congressman Ashford in the head. I just hope that this is the last time we hear of a distinguished gentleman from Omaha getting hit in the head because of the Netanyahu speech.

In the sermon you just heard, Rabbi Wohlberg made many good points about the perfidiousness of the Iranian regime, and the looming dangers Iran’s nuclear aspirations pose to Israel. But I am not here to debate those. He also made some strong assertions about Netanyahu’s record on economic policy, religious matters, and how he handled the war in Gaza. All of these are debatable, but not today. READ MORE

What do YOU think?

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SERMON: Barack Obama, Brian Williams … and Me

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