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Sermons ...

Date Posted Title Excerpt
Dec 31, 2016 The Mistakes of the Maccabees What is the story of Hanukkah? Is it the story of the miracle of the oil, where one day’s worth of oil miraculously lasts for eight? Or perhaps it’s the story of the few overcoming the many in the name of religious freedom? Perhaps Hanukkah is simply the Jewish winter festival, a celebration of light during the darkest time of the year. Hanukkah can be all these things, but what I’d like to focus on today is the holiday’s historical legacy. The Maccabees managed to create their own Jewish state in the land of Israel, an achievement so rare that it took another 2000 years for it to be happen again. Was this a state that we as modern Jews could be proud of? What motivated these rebels to take up arms and fight the world powers of their day? Continue reading
Dec 20, 2016 God Wrestling – Parashat Vayishlach As someone who is very prone to motion sickness, the Garden of Exile located just outside Berlin’s Jewish Museum had an even stronger effect on me than the average visitor. Some of us may have heard about (or perhaps even visited ) Daniel Libeskind’s architectural masterpiece – a seven by seven square of concrete stelae with Russian olive bushes growing atop, 48 filled with German soil and the last – at center – filled with earth from Jerusalem. Continue reading
Nov 16, 2016 By Present Deeds Must We Judge – Parashat Lech L’cha Could you kill a baby Hitler? This was the question posed by The New York Times’ research-and-analytics department in summer of 2015, canvassing the opinion of nearly 3,000 subscribers to the New York Times Magazine. “If you could go back [in time] and kill Hitler as a baby, would you do it?” Continue reading
Nov 1, 2016 The Myth of Grandfather’s Laundromat – Parashat Bereshit A number of years ago, a third-generation Chinese woman named Paisley Rekdal shared a story in the New York Times about her immigrant grandparents who had moved to Seattle in the early 1940’s and barely eked out a living there – grandma working in a sewing factory and grandpa driving a taxi all while trying to support four young children. Continue reading
Oct 26, 2016 The CV of Failures – Parashat HaAzinu Last Yom Kippur, as some of you may remember, I spoke about a resume that almost broke the internet – one put together by Nina Mufleh, a job seeker at Airbnb. And this morning, with thanks to my good friend Rabbi Josh Rabin, from whom parts of this sermon are taken, I’d like to speak about another CV Continue reading
Oct 26, 2016 The Wind Telephone – Yizkor 5777 Back in the year 2010, a 70-year-old Japanese gentleman by the name of Itaru Sasaki lost his beloved cousin. Finding that he needed a place to air his grief and connect to the one he had loved so deeply, Sasaki developed an unconventional solution – he took an old fashioned, British-style phone booth painted white, installed it in his backyard, placed within it a black rotary phone connected to nothing, and began using the device to converse with the dead. Continue reading
Oct 26, 2016 My Uncle, My Rabbi, and My Deadhead Friend – Kol Nidre 5777 This evening I’d like to introduce you to three of my good friends – my uncle who isn’t really my uncle, my rabbi who isn’t really a rabbi, and a Deadhead from the 90’s who changed the course of my life. I would imagine that most of us have our own personal version of these people, individuals whom we met at just the right time and in just the right place that their impact on us was amplified exponentially. Continue reading
Oct 6, 2016 Tit for Tat with Forgiveness: Rosh Hashanah Day II When I was in college, I was a double major in Psychology and Jewish Studies (the former often being even more relevant to my work as a rabbi than the latter!) and to this day I remain an avid reader of psychology literature in the popular press. In particular, I have always been fascinated by game theory and especially by the prisoner’s dilemma – the social experiment in which two players may either cooperate with or betray one another in order to maximize their own payoff. Continue reading
Oct 6, 2016 10 Days or 10 Dollars – Rosh Hashanah Day I 5777 In the middle of the Great Depression, New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia sought to live amongst the people. It was not unusual for him to ride with the firefighters, raid with the police, or take field trips to visit the city’s orphans. On a bitterly cold night in January of 1935, the mayor turned up at a night court that served the municipality’s poorest ward. LaGuardia dismissed the sitting judge for the evening and took over the bench himself. Continue reading
Sep 28, 2016 Why You Should Go to Synagogue on Rosh Hashanah This Year – Parashat Ki Tavo That is the title of an article that appeared this past week in The Forward written by Rabbi Jay Michaelson, a writer and activist and provocateur of sorts. You might not be surprised to hear that I was none too pleased to see such an editorial in the pages of our Jewish press, even if Rabbi Michaelson’s essential message is somewhat more benign than it first appears. Continue reading