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Posts Tagged ‘Pesach’

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

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: Suing Your Parents

It took place in a courtroom in New Jersey on Tuesday, March 4 of this year and it immediately became a topic of discussion on the Internet when Rachel Canning, of Lincoln Park, New Jersey, filed a lawsuit against her parents. As one writer described the story:

Rachel Canning is an 18-year-old who is suing her parents. She brought a lawsuit to force her parents to pay for her private school education and her personal expenses. It seems that while living at home her parents set rules she was expected to follow. She had to abide by a curfew, commit to doing assigned chores performed by her siblings, and be respectful to her elders. She chose instead to leave home and live with the family of a friend – a home in which she was free to get drunk and to party as she pleased. It seems she valued independence above all. But unfortunately she wasn’t independent enough to be able to support herself – and so she demanded that the parents who had previously bought her a car, paid for her tuition, and set aside money for her college education be legally required to continue to take care of her in the style to which she had become accustomed. The contract she assumed guided their relationship was “You owe me everything – I owe you nothing” – because after all that’s the way I and so many members of my generation define your job as parent. In a Morristown court, after Rachel filed for an emergency order to get $600 a week from her parents, Judge Peter Bogaard blasted the young woman, referring to an obscene voicemail she left for her mother. “Have you ever seen a young adult show such gross disrespect to a parent in a voicemail?” he asked. “The child thumbs her nose at her parents, leaves the house and turns around asking, ‘Now you have to pay me money every week.’ ” READ MORE

SERMON: Pesach, Matzoh, Maror … and the Contemporary Situation

Preparing my sermon for Pesach, I felt like the Chassidic master Reb Shimon of Yareslov. It seems that Reb Shimon used to complete a tractate of the Talmud on erev Tisha B’av, turning that day into a festive occasion. The fact is, that even though Halacha may permit this, no one does it! But Reb Shimon used to do it every year; singing with joy and anticipation until the last minute before Tisha B’av of the coming of the Moshiach – “Adir Hu, yivneh, beito, b’karov – Mighty is God, may He rebuild His house soon.” Reb Shimon would finish the song, say the Birkat Hamazon, put on his soft shoes and cry out, “Eicha!” and he would pass out! The Sanzer Rebbe would say that the only one who really understands the loss of the Temple is Reb Shimon … he holds out until the last minute waiting and only then he cries “Eicha!” realizing the Moshiach and Temple have not come! READ MORE