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Posts Tagged ‘Rosh Hashanah’

SERMON: ROSH HASHANAH – Uncle Bernie and the Jewish Problem

October 5, 2016 Leave a comment

Down through the ages, we Jews ushered in every New Year with the words from our liturgy: “Tichleh shana v’killoloso teichal shana u’birkoso – may the old year end with all its curses; may the New Year begin with all its blessings.” But I think that this year, for all of us as Americans and as Jews, more appropriate words come from the 60’s rock group, Buffalo Springfield: “There’s something happening here … what it is ain’t exactly clear …” Something is going on in our country … a discontent, a deep division, extending from the Board Room to the bathroom, that has provided us with two candidates for the nation’s highest office – both of whom have more people who dislike them than like them, with American Jews wondering which one could be more trusted when it comes to Israel and with Americans in general echoing those words from Buffalo Springfield: “There’s something happening here … what it is ain’t exactly clear …” READ MORE

SERMON: Groupthink

October 5, 2016 Leave a comment

The days and weeks leading up to the High Holy Days are quite hectic and stressful for a rabbi. Traditionally we refer to the High Holy Days as “Yamim Noraim – the Days of Awe,” but my father used to say that for rabbis the better translation was: “Awful Days.” There is a lot of pressure and tension leading up to these days as a rabbi prepares. What can a rabbi do for a few hours that will take his mind off the High Holy Day pressure? Well, I can’t tell you what other rabbis do, but I can tell you what I did. A week ago I took my boys to Philadelphia to see AC/DC! Now, I know that to some of you, AC/DC refers to “electrical current” … AC – alternating current and DC – direct current. But for those of us in the know, AC/DC is an iconic, classic rock band … one of the favorites of my youth. And to this day, I have an AC/DC poster in my office at home and my ringtone on my iPhone is AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells” … a common one amongst rabbis! READ MORE

SERMON: The Tallit and the Flag … the Apple and the Honey

September 26, 2016 Leave a comment

In recent weeks I delivered a series of sermons on “learning” … Last week was what WE must learn. This week we had entitled, “Let’s Learn.” So with the coming of the High Holy Days, today you’re not going to believe how much you’re going to learn! You’re going to learn why Jewish kings were anointed by a spring; why we eat carrots on Rosh Hashanah and our challah is made round; what are the two stripes on the flag of Israel and why we beat our breasts on Yom Kippur. We are also going to learn whether Donald Trump should wear a tallit and if Colin Kaepernick should sit while the flag is displayed and the national anthem is played. So buckle your seat belts … here we go! READ MORE

SERMON: Black Lives Matter

September 19, 2016 Leave a comment

omran-daqneeshIt is said that one picture is worth a thousand words. Well, here was a picture that spoke to millions. It was a picture that we all saw and it couldn’t help but touch our hearts. You may not know the name of the person in the picture, but you know who he is … and you know what has happened. It was a picture of Omran Daqneesh, five years old, after he was pulled out of a building hit by an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria on August 17. Omran lived with his parents and three siblings in a rebel-held neighborhood in Syria, which on August 17 was bombed by either Russian or Syrian forces. He was pulled from the rubble and put on a seat in the back of an ambulance where the picture was taken. Part of his head was covered in blood, his legs were bruised, his thick hair was filled with smoke and dust. And he just sat there … the ambulance was not moving … it would not move until it filled with more children … and he just sat there all alone. Peggy Noonan, writing in the Wall Street Journal, pointed out that he wasn’t even crying. Children would naturally cry under such circumstances; a cry would bring attention and comfort. But what Omran has learned over the past five years is that, if you’re living in Syria, no one brings comfort and attention. You are all alone. READ MORE

SERMON: Rosh Hashana – Do YOU Believe in God?

September 29, 2014 Leave a comment

Every year on Rosh Hashanah, through the Torah and Haftorah readings, our tradition has us focus on three women: in the Torah readings, Sarah, our first mother, and in the Haftorah readings: Chana – who taught us how to pray, and Rachel, who prays for us. On this Rosh Hashanah I want to focus on three Jewish women who did all that for us this year – and so much more. They have something that most all of us yearn to have.

This has been a very tough and challenging year for the Jewish people. What Israel has gone through this year has to make it one of its most difficult times in its 66 year history. Israel has confronted a world prepared to compromise with an Iran that is hell-bent on building a nuclear weapon which it has threatened to use against Israel. Israel has had to deal with a European Union that constantly threatens it with economic sanctions. Israel’s Prime Minister has gone through a very shaky relationship with the President of the United States. American led mediation for peace with the Palestinians fell apart. And then came a week from hell … with the
three Yeshiva boys kidnapped and killed, and the Palestinian boy murdered in a revenge attack by Israelis, and rockets being fired regularly at southern Israel. And as if all this was not enough, a full-scale war broke out with Hamas! And lo and behold, the day the war in Gaza came to an end, rockets started to fall on the Golan Heights! I tell you the truth … I don’t know how the Israelis do it! Whenever I am in Israel – and I’m there every year – you would never know the difficulties these people are living through. I don’t know how they live under such stress and pressure. READ MORE

SERMON: Boruch Hashem

September 22, 2014 Leave a comment

With this being the last Shabbat of the year, I am still searching for the correct answer to the question I was most frequently asked during this year.

A rabbi gets a lot of questions and usually they are not too difficult to answer. Most answers you know off the top of your head, others you look up in a book or contact Reb Google. But this year I was constantly asked a question, and I wasn’t sure what answer to give. The question was: How are you?

Since May when I had severe trouble with my back making it difficult to walk, I have been asked on a daily basis by countless people, “Rabbi, how are you?” I really wasn’t sure what to answer. The fact of the matter is, if I were ultra-Orthodox, there would be no problem! Whenever you ask an ultra-Orthodox Jew how they are, they always have the same two word answer: “Boruch Hashem–thank God.” You just got hit by a truck, so how are you? “Boruch Hashem.” The surgeon just removed your intestines, so how are you? “Boruch Hashem.” It’s a great answer to have and it’s based on a Talmudic text which tells us that in the same way we bless God for the good, we should bless God for the bad. But the truth is, these words, “Boruch Hashem,” were first uttered by non-Jews! Look in the Bible and you will see … the ones who said “Boruch Hashem” were Yisro and Noach and Avraham’s servant, Eliezer, and the King of Tyre … all non-Jews! Down through the centuries, rather than say “Boruch Hashem” most Jews were noted for responding to the question, “How are you?” with a whole series of complaints about aches and pains and nausea and stomach problems. I still remember when I first entered the rabbinate, one of the first hospital patients I visited was an elderly woman–a Holocaust survivor–and I said to her, “How are you?” She said, “You really want to know?” And she opened up the drawer next to her bed and took out a small container and opened it and showed me the black gall stones that had been removed from her the day before! READ MORE

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ROSH HASHANAH SERMON: “Derech Eretz”

September 9, 2013 Leave a comment

We usher in this New Year sitting here … but for many of us, our thoughts are someplace out there.  For all of us, as Americans and as Jews, our hearts and minds are focused on the Middle East where Israel once again finds itself in a neighborhood of turmoil and destruction and a historic vote is soon to take place in the U.S. Congress that will have major ramifications for years to come.  Of that, I will speak more on the night of Kol Nidre.  As Baltimoreans, many of us sitting here today have our minds focusing on Denver where our beloved Ravens usher in this New Year.  The situation reminds me of the time that a World Series game was being played the night of Kol Nidre and a Jew called his rabbi and said, “I’ve been a fan of our team for many years and they are finally in the World Series.  I’ve got to watch the game on TV.”  To which the rabbi replied, “Sidney, that’s what we have video recorders for.”  Sidney, surprised, responded, “You mean I can tape Kol Nidre?”  No, this service is brought to you live!  And you are here, and I want to speak to you about the here and now closer to home.

This year of 2013 represents the anniversary year of two recent major events in the history of our people.  It was 40 years ago, in 1973, that the Yom Kippur War began.  It was 20 years later, in 1993, when the Oslo Accords were signed.  But in between these two, in 1983 – 30 years ago – there was an historic event, if not for the collective Jewish people than certainly for the people of Beth Tfiloh.  It was 30 years ago that we marked the passing of the late, great Rabbi Dr. Samuel Rosenblatt.  He really was great.  During the 50 years that he served as the founding rabbi and spiritual leader of this congregation, he made Beth Tfiloh all that it is today.  He was a giant in the rabbinate… but those who knew him and remember him will tell you that he didn’t look much like a giant!  He was very short in appearance.  And I thought of that during one of my visits to the doctor this year.  After my experience of last summer, I have been seeing the doctor more often just to make sure things are okay.  But the truth of the matter is, the more often you see a doctor, the more things they find wrong with you!  I’m discovering all sorts of new things about my body … words like “cysts,” “degenerative disc,” “arthritis,” “scoliosis,” “cataracts,” “acid reflux” … but none of that bothered me because, basically, I am okay!  There was only one thing that the doctor told me about my physical condition that really upset me.  It seems that I have shrunk!  The doctor said it so casually … but if he knew how hard I’ve worked over the years for every inch, he would have understood how upset I was!  And when he told me that I shrunk, I immediately thought of Rabbi Rosenblatt, because many times I had jokingly said that when Rabbi Rosenblatt came to Beth Tfiloh he was 6 foot 4 … but after so many years with this congregation, they had cut him down to size!  Was this happening to me? READ MORE