Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

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: 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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Mr. Netanyahu Goes to Washington – Yes or No?

February 18, 2015 Leave a comment

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

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SERMON: Iran Nuclear Agreement: Dream or Reality?

December 9, 2013 Leave a comment

A woman woke up one morning and told her husband, “I just dreamed that you gave me a pearl necklace for Valentine’s Day. What do you think it means?” Her husband replied, “You’ll know tonight!” That evening the man came home with a small package and gave it to his wife. Excited and delighted, she opened it and found inside a book entitled, “The Meaning of Dreams.”

We all have dreams! We all spend a good part of our lives dreaming. On average, we dream for an hour and a half to two hours each night, with four or five distinct dreams. If we live 75 years or so, that means we will spend about six years virtually dreaming, for a lifetime total of some 100 to 200,000 dreams. But I think it’s safe to say that for no one were dreams more important than for the Biblical Yosef. Right from the very beginning he was a dreamer. First, telling of his dream where there where sheaves in the middle of a field with one sheave standing out and the others bowing to it … a dream that made his brothers – who already hated him – in the words of the Torah, “hate him even more.” Then, lo and behold, he has another dream; this time even more explicit with the sun, the moon and eleven stars bowing down to him. His eleven brothers boiled over into a hateful rage, eventually throwing him into a pit and leading him into Egypt where now he’s interpreting dreams, first in prison, and eventually in the court of Pharaoh. READ MORE

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SERMON: Israel, Iran; War or Peace

October 28, 2013 Leave a comment

It is not easy being in the clergy business these days. In this era of political correctness you have to watch every word you say:

  •  A Catholic priest cannot say that gay marriage is a violation of the Judeo-Christian heritage because then you are going to be labeled as a “homophobic bigot.”
  • A rabbi can’t say intermarriage is a threat to the Jewish people because then you’re going to be called an “un-American racist.”
  • Of course, you can’t say that men and women are different because although, in case you haven’t noticed, they ARE different … to say it turns you into a “misogynist chauvinist.”
  • None of us can call a terrorist a “terrorist” because you know what they say: “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” You have to call them “militants.”
  •  And of course you can’t say that Barack Obama is a weak president, or the Tea Party is going to destroy the Republican Party, because it’s “politically incorrect” to talk politics from the pulpit.

As you all know by now, I am lots of things but I’m certainly not “politically correct.” So today I want to speak out against something America’s President Barack Obama said that he thought was politically correct, and something that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said that he thought was politically correct. And I want to tell you what is really correct! Read More

Take a stand for Israel NOW – sign BT member David Mackler’s petition asking Jerry Seinfeld and Jon Stewart NOT to perform with Roger Waters, a staunch advocate of boycotts against Israel.

Yizkor: We Will Never Forget

The world wants us to forget … but we say Yizkor

He was called “vulgar” for what he said. Others said “it was a cheap way of gaining public attention.” A scholar said it was “sheer nonsense.” And still others just said that his words were “out of place.” Whose words am I talking about? It was the words of Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, when he spoke at the AIPAC conference in Washington. And what was the terrible thing that Bibi Netanyahu had said? In speaking of Iran and its nuclear threat, he made reference to our experiences with the Nazis and the Holocaust. And for this, criticism came from one and all … from the former Israeli opposition leader, Tsipi Livni, who said, “I don’t like his repeated comparisons with the Holocaust. Israel is not Auschwitz,” to American columnist, Maureen Dowd, who wrote, “I’d feel better if our partner was not the trigger happy Netanyahu, who makes hysterical arguments even in the absence of a dire threat. At AIPAC he compared those who want to be less hasty than he does to America’s refusal to bomb Auschwitz in 1944.” READ MORE

Listening to the “Experts” on Iran … and Jewish Law

Rick Santorum, whoever he may be, said that listening to a speech by President John F. Kennedy made him want to throw up. That’s nothing compared to how I feel! If I read one more article or listen to one more analyst regarding whether Israel should bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, I might go and do it myself … just to get it over with! I don’t think I’ve ever read more about any other subject: from the right and the left, for and against, by Israelis and Americans, from Al-Jazera to Yidiot Acharonot, looking at satellite pictures on DEBKA file to an article in The Economist magazine which claims that the cement Iran produces makes the sites invulnerable. I’ve heard it all from President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, to Manny Lazerov and Gary Applebaum. Who knows who to believe? But because of one man’s words, now I know what to believe! READ MORE