Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

SERMON: God’s Cossacks: Force-fed Judaism

Something historic took place on the festival of Purim, and we Jews didn’t even celebrate it! Yes, everyone knows that Purim was the day we were saved from annihilation by Haman. That we celebrated. But there is something else that took place that day that affects us to this very day. You know what happened on Purim day? The Jews accepted the Torah! That’s right! It happened on Purim! You thought it happened on Shavuot at Mt. Sinai. But no, it happened on Purim in Persia. Allow me to explain because the explanation may give some insight into what motivated the Jews to build the Golden Calf, and indeed it might help us understand how Jews should be treating each other today. READ MORE

Categories: Sermons Tags: , , ,

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: 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

YIZKOR SERMON: Who Are Our Friends?

It was exactly 50 years ago this week that Israel learned what all of us must learn: who are our real friends?

To get a perspective on how to answer this question I first want to draw your attention to two people who play an important role during this festival of Shavuot. Interestingly enough, they are both non-Jews who later on became Jews. But their stories, in regard to the Jewish people, are very different.

First is a woman named Ruth. It is hard to describe how high a pedestal our tradition places her on. She became the forerunner of King David and the Messiah. Her story was chosen to be read on Shavuot when we recall the giving of the Torah because she took on the Torah on her own. She is the paradigm of the quintessential convert. Her conversion takes place through her uttering those immortal words: “Ameich ami v’Elokayich Elokai – Your people shall be my people and your God shall be my God.” READ MORE

SERMON: Sleeping or Rejoicing; the Choice is Ours

You know that I’m no big fan of Donald Trump. But after what he did in Israel this week, I’ve really had it with him! It’s not anything he said, it was just his being there! Because he came, I was forced to move from my hotel in Jerusalem for security reasons. The Secret Service said it needed the whole hotel. I tried to explain that back here at Beth Tfiloh, I am part of the Secret Service … my attendance at services is a big secret! But they just did not get it! The truth is, it made no difference. My stay in Israel was one of the most glorious I’ve ever had. As part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, I got to hear and meet everyone from the prime minister and president of Israel to Michael Oren and Yossi Klein Halevi and more chief rabbis than there are countries in this world! It was all fabulous! But through it all I kept thinking of one person who wasn’t there, who is not alive, but the picture of him is well known in Israeli culture, and it puts into context all that has unfolded before our eyes. Indeed, it sheds light on why we stay up all night on the eve of Shavuot. READ MORE