Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

SERMON: Faking It

November 30, 2016 Leave a comment

The Academy Awards are still several months away but, from my perspective, the Oscar given for the best performance by an actor has been narrowed down to two names: Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Their award-winning performance took place on Nov. 10th in the Oval Office of the White House when these two sat there together with smiles on their faces. Obama warmly welcomed Trump, saying, “We are now going to do everything we can to help you succeed.” And Trump referred to Obama as “a good man” and said their meeting was “a great honor.” For all of us this had to be a performance of a lifetime! Just think of what the two of them had previously said about each other. READ MORE


SERMON: Syrian Refugees: A Matter of “Moral Licensing?”

December 1, 2015 Leave a comment

This week I couldn’t help but think about the words uttered by the Godfather, Don Corleone, to the gangster, Virgil Sollozzo, when he says to him: “It don’t make any difference to me what a man does for a living you understand, but your business is a little dangerous.” It is shortly thereafter that Sollozzo gets gunned down by Michael Corleone in the famous restaurant scene. I must tell you that I never considered my business dangerous. Yet recently there was something in the news that, if true, could put me out of business, permanently! Strangely enough, it was a study found in the journal Current Biology.

The authors of the study, led by a scholar at the University of Chicago, involved nearly 1,200 children from Canada, China, Jordan, Turkey, South Africa and the United States. Their research discovered that children raised in religious homes were significantly less likely to share and demonstrate altruism than those coming from the homes of atheists or non-religious families. The study went against everything that every religious leader has preached; the belief that being religious helped make someone more empathetic and morally sensitive. In the words of the researchers: “Overall, our findings cast light on the cultural input of religion on pro-social behavior and contradicts the common sense and popular assumption that children from religious households are more altruistic and kind toward others.”

That is an absolutely mind-boggling statement, seemingly going against what every religion, and certainly our religion, preaches. Rav, the codifier of the Talmud tells us: “You think it really matters to God how an animal is slaughtered. Know that the purpose of the mitzvot is l’tsaref et habriyot – to refine man, to make man a better person.” This study seems to say that it doesn’t work! Being religious doesn’t mean being better. And if that’s true, that is not good for my business! READ MORE

SERMON: American Culture, Jewish Culture, Arab Culture

December 1, 2014 Leave a comment

Should a Jew celebrate Thanksgiving? I know the answer seems obvious, but it’s not as obvious as it seems. Some of the major halachic sages of the 20th century disagreed on this question. After all, Thanksgiving can’t simply be dismissed as being a secular holiday, when American court decisions have ruled Good Friday and Christmas and Chanukah as being secular as well. So how is one to view Thanksgiving?

– On the one hand, my teacher, Rabbi Joseph Soleveitchik, used to conduct the Talmud class for his students earlier on Thanksgiving Day so that he could fly home to Boston to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family.

– Rabbi Moshe Feinstein said that as long as you don’t consider yourself obligated to eat turkey, then you can celebrate the holiday.

– But Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner felt that the establishment of an annual holiday that is based on the Christian calendar makes it a Gentile holiday and, therefore, a Jew should not observe Thanksgiving.

Rabbi Soleveitchik’s position has certainly become the most accepted one, although truth to say, in some Orthodox homes no big deal is made over the Thanksgiving meal. After all, Orthodox Jews have a Thanksgiving meal every Friday night with family, friends and all of the trimmings. I don’t remember Thanksgiving being a major event in my youth. In fact, I remember the first year we were married … Sherry invited her parents and mine for dinner on Thanksgiving Day … and served chicken cacciatore! READ MORE

Happy Thanksgivukkah — Chanukah Sameach!

November 27, 2013 Leave a comment
Happy Thanksgivukkah...Chanukah Sameach!

Happy Thanksgivukkah…Chanukah Sameach!

Everything you need to know and enjoy Thanksgivukkah

November 26, 2013 Leave a comment

This year, Chanukah is a special day with special foods:
JPost: Thanksgivukka: Please pass the turkey-stuffed doughnuts

Not everyone is so excited about this:
The Colbert Report: Thanksgiving Under Attack
Slate: No Thanksgivukkah

We think it’s really cool…but we don’t want it to get out of hand:
Haaretz: 8 imaginary Frankenholidays inspired by Thanksgivukkah

On a serious Chanukah note:
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: 8 Short Thoughts for 8 Chanukah Nights

And a joyous Thanksgiving note:

See you at the Chanukah Fireworks Under the Stars at Beth Tfiloh tomorrow night!

Are you ready for Thanksgivukkah?

October 4, 2013 Leave a comment

Some light reading for Shabbos.  You should know that the first night of Chanukah, which is also Thanksgiving eve, we are having a major fireworks display at Beth Tfiloh to usher in the two holidays.

When Holidays Collide, You Get The ‘Menurkey’

My Thanksgiving sermon

November 30, 2009 Comments off

“Ivanka Trump’s First Empire Turkey”

This was a historic Thanksgiving for American Jews … a “first” took place. Ivanka Trump had her first Empire Turkey for Thanksgiving … and I only hope she didn’t get the piece that had the metal tag on it!

Last month’s marriage of beautiful Ivanka Trump – daughter of “the Donald,” to Jared Kushner, a member of a prominent Modern-Orthodox Jewish family, was big news for all. Ivanka converted for the love of her life, and taking on her Hebrew name made this the marriage of “when Yoel met Yael.” New York newspapers and bloggers across the country gave every detail they could get their hands on regarding Ivanka’s conversion, her wedding dress, the invitation and the affair itself … and all of it was fully in keeping with Orthodox Jewish tradition. Her conversion was a real one; the rabbi who officiated at the conversion and marriage is a friend and colleague whom I admire, Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, and who is respected by all for his integrity. Her wedding dress had long sleeves. The invitation had one side in English and one side in Hebrew.

When you think about it, it’s really quite remarkable: a woman with one of the best known American names traded it in, going from Trump to Kushner. READ MORE

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