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Posts Tagged ‘Pesach’

SERMON: Dayenu, Jared Kushner… and Us

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It’s one of the most popular Hebrew songs, it’s one of the best known Hebrew words. It’s one word that takes five English words to translate. The word is – dayenu. Translation: “It would have been enough.” Dayenu, of course, comes from the Haggadah, but you hear it sung at Jewish weddings and celebrations because every Jew knows the tune, and every Jew knows the word. What they don’t know is that the poem that provides its context and meaning is just not true! READ MORE

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SERMON: Are We Family?

One Jewish FamilyToday is Pesach … tomorrow is Easter. Thinking about this put a smile on my face. I thought about those who have chosen to be Jews for Jesus, and the incredible choice they had to make this weekend. Should they go to shul, or go to church? Should they have the sacramental wine and wafer, or the Manischewitz wine and matzah? Should they dip an egg in salt water, or paint an egg and roll it down the hill? I smiled, thanking God that I don’t have to make such agonizing choices!

But I also smiled for another reason. Here is Pesach and there is Easter … and we Jews don’t have a worry in the world. The fact of the matter is that down through the centuries the coming of Pesach and Easter was the time when thousands of Jews fell victim to bloodthirsty mobs inspired by bigoted priests. There was a time when Pesach and Easter coinciding brought terror into Jewish homes. There was a time when the Seder would be interrupted by mobs who came looking for the bodies of Christian children. There was a time when Christians were told in church that Jews made matzah with the blood of Christian children.

So there is much for us to smile about when Pesach and Easter come together. Look how far we have come! Look how far we have come from that fear. Look how times have changed – from “Christ killers” we’ve become “brothers in faith,” with popes who used to condemn us now placing notes of prayers in our people’s most sacred spot, the Western Wall. READ MORE

SERMON: #NeverTrump

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I want you to pay attention to what I’m about to say, because people who aren’t here won’t believe that I said it! So here goes – today I have something nice to say about President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

As many of you know, I did not and would not vote for them. I find Donald Trump a grossly indecent human being. His leadership is a form of government best described as a kakistocracy. And if you don’t know what that means … we are all better off! I could spend several days telling you why I strongly oppose him, but that would be a waste of your time, and mine. We are all entitled to our opinions. But despite the fact that I don’t approve of much of what Trump and Pence stand for, today I rise to defend them from attacks coming from one particular group – American Jews. Recently, President Trump and Vice President Pence have been criticized by American Jews because of the slap in the face they gave to the Jewish people. Pence, by the speech he gave to Israel’s Knesset; Trump, by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. For some Jews these were unpardonable sins. READ MORE

SERMON: Everybody is Somebody!

Thirty-three million people were watching it here in America, and countless millions around the world. It was a never-to-be-forgotten moment as the Academy Award for Best Picture was announced – the winner was La La Land. Then, amidst the victory speeches and accolades a commotion erupted on stage. By now we all know what happened! A mistake had been made. The envelope was switched and the real winner was Moonlight. But no one knew what to do – until one man stepped forward. Jordan Hurwitz, the producer of La La Land, took control while everyone else seemed paralyzed and confused. Hurwitz called Moonlight’s team up to the stage, handed over the statue and hugged the real winners.

We Jews have a name for people like Jordan Hurwitz. They are called “nachshonim” and we are reminded of where this name comes from during these last days of Pesach. Do you remember what happened when the Jews stood at the banks of the Red Sea? It happened on the 7th day of Pesach. If you don’t remember the Torah reading, you certainly remember the movie! The Jews have been liberated from Egypt and are on their way to the Promised Land when suddenly they are confronted with the swirling waters of the Red Sea in front of them and the Egyptian army behind them. So they cry out to God and what does God say? “Daber el b’nai Yisroel v’yisau – tell the Jewish people to go forward.” But no one moves! Everyone was fearful of drowning. When the Israelites stood at the edge of the Red Sea, none of the princes, the leaders, had faith in God; none wanted to go into the water. All the princes suddenly became very polite. Each one said to the other, “After you …” Suddenly, out of nowhere, comes along a man named Nachshon ben Aminadav, who, in an act of great faith and courage, plunged into the swirling waters. According to our tradition, because of Nachshon – and Nachshon alone – because of his courage, heroism and faith in God, the Almighty split the Red Sea, thus saving the entire Jewish people. The Jewish people have remembered Nachshon’s name ever since. This is why in modern Israel, the ones who go first, the ones who take the lead in a difficult or dangerous situations are called Nachshonim. READ MORE

SERMON: Immigrants, Refugees, Liberals and the Pesach Experience

PASSOVER – 1ST DAY • APRIL 11, 2017

Last night Jews did what Jews have done at the Pesach Seder since the time of the Temple – they asked four questions. But this year I did one better. I asked a fifth question. The question, “Why do I care about Syrian refugees and Mexican immigrants?”

I do care – I really do care! This is one of the issues that very much divides our country; going in some ways to the heart of the Republican/Democrat, Liberal/Conservative divide. I find it hard to understand why, on this issue, I stand strongly and firmly on the liberal side. It’s just not like me! Generally speaking, my humanitarian side makes itself manifest in my support for the people of Israel. Social action has never been my “thing.” I don’t recycle. Global warming only affects my suntan.

And yet, I am deeply disturbed by the plight of the Syrian refugees and the Mexican immigrants to the U.S. And I do this fully knowing the arguments against them … the effect on our economy, the challenge to our culture and the more immediate fear of terrorism. I am the one who has never hesitated to refer to it as “radical Islam” and “Islamic terrorism.” So what is with me suddenly becoming a “bleeding heart liberal,” wanting our doors to remain open to refugees and immigrants?

There is only one answer I’ve been able to come up with for this fifth question. The answer is found in one word – Pesach. READ MORE

SERMON: Pesach Politics

It started when I was 16 years old … the summer of 1960 was one I shall never forget. It was a summer I spent in bed. It had just been discovered that I had rheumatic fever, and after three weeks in the hospital I spent the rest of the summer in bed. To help keep me occupied my mother sent my brother, Saul, to buy a record player and some records for me. Saul bought the record player … but the records he bought were music he liked–not me! I still remember their names: Cavalleria Rusticana, Turandot and La Boheme. Given no choice, I listened to them over and over again and have a love of opera to this very day!

There is something else that happened that summer that instilled a love in me to this very day. The summer of 1960 was the summer of the Republican and Democratic conventions that nominated Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. I watched every minute of those conventions and I’ve had a love of politics ever since! READ MORE

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SERMON: Women Moving Their Seat…and Other Global Issues

This January I had a very scary experience when I traveled to Israel. It didn’t happen in Israel, it happened on the El Al airplane … not when it was in the air but when it was still on the ground. Sherry and I had boarded the plane and had taken our seats when a group of Chasidim got on and were headed toward us. I started to sweat and shake. What if, God forbid, one of the men asked Sherry to change her seat so he shouldn’t have to sit next to a woman? Knowing Sherry, I said to myself: this could get ugly. Thank God, it didn’t happen. But what if it did?
Because it oftentimes does! There have been repeated cases of flight delays, arguments on board because an ultra-Orthodox Jew refused to sit next to a woman so as not to have any contact with her. They asked her to move and she has refused. What do you do then? You know what you do? You go to court!

The story was told to all the world in the February 26 issue of the New York Times about Renee Rabinowitz, a PhD in educational psychology and child survivor of the Holocaust. She recently found herself settled comfortably in her aisle seat in the business class section of the El Al flight from Newark to Tel Aviv when, as she put it, “This rather distinguished looking man in Chasidic or Haredi garb – I guess around 50 or so – shows up.” The man had been assigned the window seat in her row but he did not want to sit next to a woman. Thinking that inadvertent contact was forbidden by Jewish law, reluctantly Ms. Rabinowitz, an 81 year old grandmother who walks with a cane, agreed to move. But now, she is suing El Al, claiming discrimination as she says, “For me this is not personal. It is intellectual, ideological and legal. I think to myself: here I am, an older woman, educated, I’ve been around the world … and some guy can decide that I shouldn’t sit next to him. Why?” READ MORE