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Sermons ...

Date Posted Title Excerpt
Jul 5, 2017 Parashat Hukat This week’s Parasha tells the story of Moses and the rock. The short version goes like this: Moses tells God the people are thirsty. God tells him to extract water from a rock by talking to it. Moses strikes the rock hard. Twice. And water starts gushing. The Israelites can finally quench their thirst. God immediately turns to Moses and informs him that he will not get to see the land of Israel because he didn’t precisely follow his orders. Perhaps like many of you, the first time I read that I, “Are you kidding me?” After all he’s done? Continue reading
Jun 27, 2017 Saving Our Best for the Everyday – Shabbat Rosh Hodesh In an episode of the TV show Friends, one of my most favorite programs of all time, married couple Monica and Chandler are preparing to host Thanksgiving dinner at their apartment when Chandler suggests that they set the table with their wedding china. Monica initially demurs, arguing that such precious dishes are supposed to be saved for something very special – like, for example, a visit from the Queen of England – and worrying about the possibility of breaking an item from the expensive set. Continue reading
Jun 13, 2017 How in the World? – Yizkor Shavuot 5777 It is said that the people of Rome spoke of the great artist, Michelangelo, as a man with four souls because he excelled in architecture, sculpture, poetry, and painting. His vast skill produced many of the world’s most beautiful buildings and statues including, of course, his iconic rendering of the Biblical King David. When Michelangelo was on his death bed, a group of friends gathered at his side. One said sadly, “Michelangelo, how in the world will Rome ever get along without you?” With a weak wave of his hand in the direction of the window, pointing vaguely towards the landscape of the city below, Michelangelo answered: “Rome will never be without me.” And so it was and so it remains, over 400 years since the great man’s death. Continue reading
Jun 13, 2017 Second Chances – Parashat B’haalotcha Besides being the man for whom the Nobel Prize is named, Alfred Nobel was also the inventor of dynamite. What would inspire a manufacturer of explosives to dedicate his fortune to creating the premiere award bestowed upon those who have benefited humanity? Strangely enough, it was a printing error. When Nobel’s brother passed away, a newspaper ran a lengthy article about Alfred Nobel, mistakenly thinking that it was he who had died. Nobel had the rare opportunity to do what very few people can – to read his obituary while still alive – and it absolutely terrified him. Continue reading
May 31, 2017 Monet and Matan Torah – Pre-Shavuot 5777 When I was a junior in high school I visited Giverny, France, former home of impressionist painter Claude Monet. I spent hours walking across the dainty footbridges and winding garden paths that are the subject of Monet’s many masterpieces, drinking in the sweet smell of Wisteria and reveling in the colors of the French countryside. Of my entire three weeks abroad, Giverny was the absolute highlight of my travels. But along with being the favorite part of my time away, Monet’s gardens were also the most difficult piece of the trip to convey to others. Words like “colorful” or “bucolic” seemed totally inadequate to describe the power of what I had experienced; even superlative phrases could not convey the sheer beauty of what I had seen. Continue reading
May 24, 2017 Proclaim Liberty! – Parashat B’har–B’hukkotai A story is told about Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev whose task it was each Passover to supervise the bakeries throughout his town. In addition to overseeing the kashrut of the matzah, he was much concerned with the treatment of the store’s employees, many of whom were women and children. One year, observing that they were being exploited, forced to labor from early morning until late at night under terrible working conditions, he approached the bakery owner. “Our enemies used to cause great consternation among our people,” he said, “with rumors charging that we use the blood of Christian children to make our matzah. Continue reading
Apr 24, 2017 The Scream of Silence – Parashat Shemini In his book, Speech and Silence, Rabbi David Wolpe tells the following story about a dear friend of his and the man’s early months as a new father. Wolpe writes: “For several weeks after the birth of his first child, [Gordon’s] baby would cry in the middle of the night. Each night Ethan cried, regularly, predictably. Each night his mother and father would run to his cradle, watching him, comforting him. Bleary-eyed but happy, his parents knew they could count on their newborn’s midnight screams. Then one night, Ethan did not cry. There was no sound. His father woke up in the middle of the night, startled and frightened. Continue reading
Apr 19, 2017 Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story – Pesach Yizkor 5777 On the mantle of the fireplace in my brother and sister-in-law’s living room, there is a large collection of family photographs in which my young niece, Kendall, has recently become quite interested. She loves to run her little finger over each face, identifying as she goes – this is Mommy, this is Daddy, this is cousin Emma, this is Uncle Steve. For our side of the family, too, Kendall easily picks out Aunt Annie and Gammy and, standing at my mother’s side, Pop-Pop, my father, the grandfather that Kendall never met but for whom she is named. Continue reading
Apr 14, 2017 Tell Me the Answer – Shabbat HaGadol 5777 Once upon a time a rich and learned Jew came to one of the great European centers of Torah learning to search for a fitting mate for his wise, pious, and beautiful daughter. He invited all of the eligible young scholars in town to come to the main synagogue that evening and asked them a difficult Talmudic question. Whoever could solve the problem to his satisfaction, he announced, would win his daughter’s hand in marriage and his own pledge to provide financial support for the couple and their future children for years to come. Continue reading
Apr 1, 2017 Gandhi, Rambam, and the Process of Change – Parashat Vayikra There is a famous story about the great Mahatma Gandhi who was once approached by a woman deeply concerned that her son ate too much sugar. “I am worried about his health,” the woman exclaimed. “And he respects you so very much. Would you be willing to tell my boy about the harmful effects of sugar and suggest that he stop eating it? It would mean the world to us.” Gandhi reflected on the request and indicated that he would be happy to help, that the mother should bring her son back to him two weeks later and no sooner ready to see results. Continue reading