Posts Tagged ‘Sukkot’

SERMON: Refugees: Then and Now

October 7, 2015 Leave a comment

We can all picture the images before our eyes. They are fleeing, not by the hundreds and not by the thousands, not by the tens of thousands… they are fleeing by the millions. History will never be the same! Of course, I am referring to the two million refugees who fled the land of Egypt, whose travails we remember during this festival of Sukkot, when the Jews having fled the bondage of Egypt, found themselves not in Hungary, not in Germany and not in Turkey… but in a wilderness, living in booths for 40 years.

We Jews are sensitive to the plight of refugees for a good part of our history that is just what we’ve been – refugees – from Egypt, Israel, England, Spain and on and on. And then came the Holocaust when the world would not even allow Jews to become refugees… when all doors were slammed in our faces by the civilized world. So what we now see taking place in the Middle East, across the Mediterranean Sea and entering Europe, cannot help but touch us as Jews and as Americans; a country made up in large part of refugees. READ MORE


SERMON: Gas Masks Are for Purim…Not Sukkot?!?

September 23, 2013 Leave a comment

I am going to ask you a simple question, but I tell you right now that the answer is not so simple! Question: Who would seem to have a clearer perspective … a 13 year old teenager or an 85 year old sage? Under normal circumstances, the answer would be obvious. But not today!

On this Shabbat of Chol Hamoed Sukkot, our Bar Mitzvah boy, David Renbaum, reminded us of an ancient debate about this festival of Sukkot that still has contemporary relevance. What is it that we commemorate and celebrate during this festival of Sukkot? Again, a seemingly simple question but the answer is not so simple! Most everyone would tell you that during this festival of Sukkot we commemorate how the Jews traveled in the wilderness for 40 years and were able to survive while living in sukkot … living in little booths. And so this week we do the same.

But you should know that is only one opinion; the opinion of Rabbi Akiva. In the Talmud we are offered a different perspective, the perspective of Rabbi Eleazer who says that what we commemorate on Sukkot are the “ananei hakavod” – the clouds of glory that followed the camp of Israel as it traveled from Egypt to the Promised Land of Israel. According to our tradition, God protected the Jews during their travels by providing them with seven clouds of glory which enveloped them. One was placed under their feet like a carpet, one was above their heads like a shadow, four were on all their four sides and the seventh cloud went before them to show the way. All Israel dwelt in one protective booth made of these clouds. According to Rabbi Eleazer, our Sukkah today is there to remind us of this Divine protection that God gave us. READ MORE

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The Superheroes of Modern Orthodox Judaism

October 10, 2012 Leave a comment

What do Batman, Robin, Superman, Zorro, the Green Lantern, Spiderman, Donny Steinberg, Yitz Lieberman, Kevin Alter, Seth Schlussel and Kevin Hakimi have in common? The answer: no one knows who they really are! But they are all superheroes!

During this festival of Sukkot, aside from eating in the Succah, there is another ritual we perform every day with the exception of the Sabbath to commemorate the ancient agricultural meaning of this festival. We recite a blessing and hold in our hands the four species: the lulav, the palm branch; the esrog, the citron; the Hadasim, the myrtles; and the aravos, the willows. We hold them together and recite a blessing which concludes with singling out the lulav – the palm branch. There was a rather strange and fascinating aspect of how the lulav was used by the Jews in ancient days. In the course of the year we find a wide variety of mitzvot which we are encouraged to fulfill. In virtually every instance, once the mitzvah is performed, we lay aside the object with which we performed the mitzvah and it is relegated to relative obscurity. When we finish with Chanukah, we put away the Menorah. At the end of the Seder, we clean off the table. After Shofar blowing, we put the Shofar away for another year. Yet the Talmud asserts that “such was the custom of the people of Jerusalem on Sukkot … they would carry the lulav aloft in their hands when they left their homes, when they walked to the prayer hall and when they returned. They would carry it when they visited the sick and when they went to visit those in mourning …” In other words, the lulav represented much more than a palm branch upon which a special blessing was recited on the festival. It became an object to be treasured and displayed and to be carried with oneself throughout the week of Sukkot. READ MORE

Sukkot Sermon: Is Fun Kosher?

October 17, 2011 Leave a comment

For this morning, just a little unorthodox thought from an Orthodox rabbi.

First the question: what do you think is more important – fasting on Yom Kippur or being happy of Sukkot?  The question sounds ridiculous; after all, if someone came over to you at 12 o’clock on Yom Kippur and said, “Why don’t you eat something?” you would never dream of listening to them.  But if someone came over to you on Sukkot and said, “Why aren’t you happy?” you would feel comfortable in replying, “It’s none of your business!”  Fasting on Yom Kippur, or being happy on Sukkot? … doesn’t seem to be much of a question.  But I read something written by a Gil Locks that really provides food for thought.  The fact of the matter is, nowhere in the Torah are we told that you must fast on Yom Kippur.  It doesn’t say that in the Torah!  All it says in the Torah is: “V’inisem et nafshoteichem – and you shall afflict your souls.”  It doesn’t say “don’t eat!”  It just says “afflict your souls.”  Who says that “afflict” means “to fast?”  The rabbis do!  It is the rabbis who tell us that one means of affliction is to refrain from food for the whole day.  READ MORE

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Sukkot sermon

September 27, 2010 Leave a comment

My sermon from Shabbat Chol HaMoed Sukkot is now available on the Beth Tfiloh sermon webpage –

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