Posts Tagged ‘Netanyahu’

SERMON: To Israel, with Love

On the menu for today is Turkey and Obama, our children and leprosy. So let’s get rid of the leprosy first so we can get to the main dish.

Our Torah portions of this morning, Tazria and Metzorah, have been every rabbi’s nightmare down through the centuries. What can one say about Torah portions that deal primarily with the laws of leprosy as they affected the ancient Jewish community? Fortunately, in recent times – perhaps starting with the commentary of the great German scholar, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch – there has come an understanding that these laws really did not speak of leprosy itself. Too many of the details just don’t pertain to leprosy as we know it; the details don’t always match. Many of leprosy’s normal symptoms are not mentioned. The Torah speaks of this ailment affecting the walls of one’s home and one’s clothing. We know that this is certainly not the case with leprosy. And if we are speaking of leprosy as a contagious disease, how come the Kohain was called upon to be in contact with the leper for healing? No, our sages long ago tried to read something else into this word “metzorah” – the word we have for “leprosy” by referring to it instead as “motzi rah” – he who spreads gossip. What the sages and certainly Rabbi Hirsch are telling us is that what we are talking about here is not a physical ailment, but a moral failing.

With this in mind, what was done to the so-called “leper” is most instructive. The moral “leper” was required to leave the camp and remain isolated for seven days. The moral “leper” must dwell in complete isolation for the damage he has done to the social fabric of his community. Such a person was considered such a danger to the moral life of those he was living with that he had to be shut off from all contact with them. That is what is done to people who are considered a threat. The Amish and Mennonite churches have something called “shunning” while the Witnesses refer to it as “dis-fellowshipping.” In Judaism we have the concept of putting someone in the “Cherem.” But it’s not just in the world of religion. The most dangerous prisoners are put in isolation. Being isolated from the world around you is a terrible feeling. If you want to have some idea of how horrible it can feel, just ask the people of Israel. READ MORE

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Today I want to talk to you about my favorite song, because I’m going to get to hear it and sing it this week.  This week we celebrate Yom Ha-Atzmaut – Israel Independence Day.  That means there is going to be a lot of singing of Israel’s national anthem, the Hatikvah … my favorite song!  Don’t get me wrong; I love Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” I’m wild about Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” and I find Bellini’s Casta Diva breathtaking … but they don’t do to me what only the Hatikvah does.

When it comes to the Hatikvah, I’m a real softy.  On numerous occasions just hearing it has made me cry.  I can recall some of the more memorable occasions. READ MORE

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

Is Israel a Punching Bag…or Maybe a Theocracy?

December 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Some good weekend reading on Israel:

See you on Sunday on Square Off at 10 AM!

Shabbat  Shalom.

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Facing Off with Thomas Friedman on Israel

December 15, 2011 Leave a comment

A horrible article by Thomas Friedman in the New York Times: Newt, Mitt, Bibi and Vladimir

A wonderful response by Jonathan Tobin in Commentary magazine:  Thomas Friedman and the New Anti-Semitism-Part One

And here is a letter I wrote to the New York Times (read it here … they will  never print it!):

Thomas Friedman’s charge [column, Dec. 14, 2011] that Benjamin Netanyahu’s standing ovation in Congress “was bought and paid for by the Israeli lobby,” is rather nefarious sounding, especially when no proof is offered for such a highly charged claim.

Backing his position by the belief that Mr. Netanyahu would receive a  more negative reception speaking at the University of Wisconsin, Mr. Friedman overlooks the possibility that the members of the U.S. Congress are better informed and have a clearer picture regarding the Middle East than the students on a Madison, Wisconsin campus.

Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg,
Rabbi, Beth Tfiloh Congregaton
Dean, Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School

Kol Nidrei & Yom Kippur Sermons

October 10, 2011 Leave a comment


In January I will be one of the honorees at a dinner for State of Israel Bonds in Boca Raton, FL. I guess they felt that more of our congregants will be there in Boca than here in January. With that event in mind, tonight I am going to ask you to do what you have done for many years now: I am going to ask you to make me look good!

By now I’m sure you know how much Israel means to me. After my family and this congregation, Israel is the love of my life. Every year I visit Israel, every day I read about it, I support it, I breathe it … I totally love it! And so, I can’t help but ask myself: how did Israel get itself into the situation that it finds itself in? READ MORE


So, a beggar walks up to a well-dressed woman who was leaving a restaurant on Rodeo Drive and says, “I haven’t eaten anything in three days.” She looks at him and says, “God, I wish I had your self-control!”

This day of Yom Kippur is a day dedicated to self-control as we deny ourselves all food and all physical and material pleasures. This day is always important, but perhaps more important this year for given the financial situation in our country and in our homes, most all of us are being forced to exhibit a bit more self-control than ever before. We are living through tough times. People have lost fortunes. More and more people are living from paycheck to paycheck; grown-up children are moving back home because they can’t make it yet on their own; retirement funds are being dipped into to help make ends meet; and those who thought they could retire are being forced back to work, just at a time when it is hard to find a job. Our country used to export goods but now it seems as if we are exporting jobs! My brother, Saul, turned 70 and last year he had quadruple bypass surgery. He lives alone, so he decided to get one of those electronic monitors … you know, you push the button if you have an emergency, and they immediately call you and send help. He called two companies; the second one that he called was much more expensive. My brother asked why and he was told that the other – when you press the button – they call you … from India … but we call you from the Bronx! READ MORE