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Posts Tagged ‘extremism’

SERMON: EMUNAH: Believe it or not …

November 15, 2016 Leave a comment

On this day, obviously, there is only one thing on my mind, and one thing for me to talk about … and that is emunah. But not THAT Emuna, although I could talk about her for hours! This morning I want to talk to you about the emunah that is so much a part of our tradition and which many of us, as Americans and Jews, have lost. In the authoritative Alcalay Hebrew dictionary the definition of emunah is “confidence, consciousness, honesty, religion, faith, doctrine, creed, belief and trust.” Any way you look at it, our country is going through a serious crisis of emunah. READ MORE

SERMON: Groupthink

October 5, 2016 Leave a comment

The days and weeks leading up to the High Holy Days are quite hectic and stressful for a rabbi. Traditionally we refer to the High Holy Days as “Yamim Noraim – the Days of Awe,” but my father used to say that for rabbis the better translation was: “Awful Days.” There is a lot of pressure and tension leading up to these days as a rabbi prepares. What can a rabbi do for a few hours that will take his mind off the High Holy Day pressure? Well, I can’t tell you what other rabbis do, but I can tell you what I did. A week ago I took my boys to Philadelphia to see AC/DC! Now, I know that to some of you, AC/DC refers to “electrical current” … AC – alternating current and DC – direct current. But for those of us in the know, AC/DC is an iconic, classic rock band … one of the favorites of my youth. And to this day, I have an AC/DC poster in my office at home and my ringtone on my iPhone is AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells” … a common one amongst rabbis! 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: Orthodox Terrorists: What do these words mean?

February 8, 2016 Leave a comment

This is the first time I am formally delivering a sermon since I returned from Israel a few weeks ago, so let me begin by asking you: What’s up? That is a simple enough question to ask in English, but as I discovered from an Israeli newspaper, the question is not so simple in Hebrew. You see, in Hebrew you can ask “What’s up?” by saying “Mah hamatsav” or you can say “Mah koreh, ” or you can ask “Mah itcha, ” or if you want, “Mah nishma.” If that doesn’t work, try “Mah ha-inyanim” or “Mah holeich.” Or if all else fails, “Mah nihiyah.”

That is a lot of ways to ask the simple question, “What’s up?” But the question is: are all the phrases the same? Do they all have the same connotation? Can they be used interchangeably? Are all synonyms created equal? READ MORE

SERMON: The Nile, Denial and Religion

It has been said that every Jewish holiday can be encapsulated in these words: “They tried to kill us, we survived … let’s eat!” Surely, this festival of Pesach is a perfect example of this. Unfortunately, these words: “They tried to kill us …” still resonate today, except that the “they” is something no one wants to name, and the “us” is not just the Jews, but the civilized world.

In the weeks leading up to Pesach these are some of the quotes I read:
– Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, said that the terrorism trend lines today were worse “than at any other point in history.”
– Michael Morrell, former Deputy Director of the CIA, told an audience, “My children’s generation and my grandchildren’s generation will still be fighting this fight.”
– Former CIA Director, Gen. David Petraeus, told an interviewer, “We are in the midst of what clearly is a long struggle … there are no shortcuts to success. No single measure that we can take that will eliminate the danger in one fell swoop.”

Yes, “they” are trying to destroy “us.” And it would seem to me that a good measure of the problem that exists today finds its roots in our ancient Egyptian experience. The problems today begin with where the problem began then: right at the Nile. READ MORE

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

SERMON: Be Not Overly Righteous …

September 30, 2013 Leave a comment

It’s the oldest mystery story in all of history … the questions it raises are 5734 years old. It’s possible – just possible – that only now do we have some hint to solving a question that has puzzled humanity in general, and Biblical commentators in particular, since the dawn of creation.

Today we began at the very beginning. “In the beginning, God created heaven and earth.” Shortly thereafter came Adam and Eve and certainly their lives raise many questions. But it’s the story of their children, Cain and Abel that still affects us to this day … the first murder in human history. How could one man kill another, in the Garden of Eden, no less? As if to complicate the question, how could it be a brother killing a brother? How is that possible? The rabbis, through their midrashic comments, add another layer of mystery to this first murder. How did it all come about? You remember? There were two brothers, Cain and Abel, both of whom offered sacrifices to the Almighty. What were the sacrifices? One brought the mipri ha-adamah from the fruits of the field. The other brought M’bchorot tzono from the finest of his sheep. Who brought which? Cain brought the fruits of the field, while Abel brought the animals … something Cain refused to do. Do you know why he refused? Our sages offer a fascinating explanation. Cain refused to sacrifice an animal because he couldn’t get himself to kill an animal, not even for the sake of God. Cain could not stand the thought of hurting even a small animal. And then what happened? Cain became the first murderer in history when he killed his brother Abel. READ MORE