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Listen! (RH1 5777)

In the Torah reading for the first day of Rosh Hashanah, we read about the birth of Isaac, a story of hope and possibility, both core themes of the Jewish New Year. We are reminded that each of us is filled with infinite possibility waiting to be actualized, but we must have hope that the New Year also means new opportunities; that we are not stuck where we were this past year.

The verse from the reading that I want to focus upon is Genesis 21:12, “But God said to Abraham, ‘Do not be distressed over the boy or your slave; whatever Sarah tells you, do as she says, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be continued for you.’” First a little background – Sarah had been barren and offered her handmaiden, Hagar, to her husband, Abraham, in her place as a surrogate mother; this is successful and she gives birth to Ishmael. Eventually, Sarah herself gives birth to a son named Isaac and then no longer wants the rival son around. Abraham is troubled that Sarah wants to eliminate his first born son and Hagar. But God reassures him that he should listen to Sarah and all will be well. However, for us as the readers we find the content disturbing to our sensibilities and grammatically the sentence structure bothers the classical rabbis.Read more...

Israel (RH2 5777)

I love Israel! And I hope that you do too!! Because I love Israel, I am a Zionist; and I hope that you are too!!! Being a Zionist does not mean that I plan to go live in Israel. Being a Zionist means that I care about Israel and support Israel and her aspiration to be a free and independent Jewish nation amongst the nations of the world.

Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, the founder of...Read more...

Forgivenss and Gratitude (KN 5777)

Yom Kippur the most sacred day on the Jewish calendar and we have just listened to Kol Nidre. On this day we will fast and pray for 25 hours in attempt to set things right with God. Repeatedly we will confess our sins in the short confessional, the Ashamnu, an alphabetical acrostic listing sins from A-Z or more accurately from Aleph to Tav; and through the longer confessional – the Al Chet, “We have sinned...Read more...

Afterlife (YK 5777)

At this year’s Selichot program on Judaism and the Afterlife, it became clear that rabbis in general do not discuss the topic sermonically, but there is interest in the subject. I have done adult education classes on the afterlife and I hate to think that there is any topic that I won’t address from the Bima, besides politics, and so I decided that the time was now. So why is it that rabbis don’t preach...Read more...

10 suggested resolutions for 2015 from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (ERH 5776)

Count your blessings and begin to change your life

10 suggested resolutions for 2015 from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Have you made any resolutions for the coming year? If not, try the following. Each is potentially life changing.

Give thanks. Once a day take quiet time to feel gratitude for what you have, not impatience for what you don’t have. This alone will bring you halfway to happiness. We already have most of the...Read more...

Community (RH1 5776)

Rosh Hashanah begins what the rabbis call the Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe. I am huge fan of awe which leads to awesome meaning amazing! But our modern understanding of awe as something tremendous is not what our ancestors had in mind when they used the term. When they said awe, they were proposing that fear and trembling were the proper response to awe. When they talked about God’s awesome power, it was something to make us cower. The...Read more...

Israel & Immigration (RH2 5776)

I make it a priority to speak about Israel every year, and this year is no exception. But what to share with you? I could tell you that I love and unequivocally support Israel and that I want you to love and support the Jewish State too, but that would not being saying anything new or surprising even to someone who has never heard me speak before after all I am a rabbi and that is how most rabbis feel. And I’m still torn between wanting to...Read more...

Kol Nidre (KN 5776)

We refer to tonight’s service as Kol Nidre, when in fact that is only the name of the opening piece. Some of you may not realize that Kol Nidre is not even a prayer. It is a text set in legal language, but it has no legal bearing in Judaism. The Torah scrolls together with the prayer leader are supposed to constitute a Bet Din, a Jewish court of law, for this recital. Jewish courts are never held at night which...Read more...

What we Learn from Others (YK 5776)

The moments before Yizkor on Yom Kippur is an especially sacred time; when we stop to remember our loved ones who are no longer with us. There is a custom of visiting their graves before Yom Kippur; part of the custom is placing a stone on the grave to mark our visit. If you were not able to do so, or if you would find it meaningful, you are welcome to visit the tables at the back of the room where there are...Read more...

Making the Most out of Services (ERH 5775)

For many people the High Holy Days are an ordeal. It's something they feel they have to do. And let's face it: for many people services are boring. As a result, they come late, leave early and spend a good part of the service day-dreaming or talking to the people around them. For a rabbi and for those who have come to pray, seeking a spiritual experience, this can be pretty disheartening. High Holy Day services...Read more...

Sun, August 20 2017 28 Av 5777