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Sermons ...

Date Posted Title Excerpt
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
Sep 7, 2016 11.38 Seconds – Parashat Re’eh Like many of you, I would imagine, I spent a good part of the month of August riveted by the Rio Olympics. And while it’s not generally my “go to” sport, it was actually swimming that I probably watched more than anything else this year – largely because the event coincided with a vacation to Vancouver where my Mom and I would crawl exhausted into bed after a long day of sight-seeing and binge on Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, and Missy Franklin. There are lots of reasons to marvel while watching talented athletes compete – in particular, the sheer skill and strength, time and training that it takes to reach superlative levels of performance. But in addition to all of these things, what I found myself most struck by this season was the margin of victory of these races – an entire career often decided by mere fractions of seconds. Continue reading
Aug 24, 2016 Choosing Your Role in Society A couple of weeks ago I was headed off to my laundry room. I was pushing Isobel’s stroller with one hand and with the other I had an overstuffed laundry bag slung over my shoulder. I passed one of my neighbors and she said, “Playing Mom today?” In my head I wanted to say, “Actually I’m being Dad today” but because I’m not a jerk and I know she didn’t mean anything by it, I just smiled, walked along, and started a load of laundry. No one would have batted an eyelash if a woman were doing the same thing I was, and they certainly wouldn’t have called it “playing.” But when a man acts as a lead parent society doesn’t quite know what to make of it. Continue reading
Jul 18, 2016 How Now Brown Cow? The Parah Adumah and Benign Linguistic Neglect Over the past week a new craze has gripped the world; Pokemon Go. Players download the free game on their phones and suddenly their phones show them a world where Pokemon - adorable little monsters that you can capture and train - are just waiting for to be discovered and caught. The novelty of the game is how it blends the real and the virtual - you have to actually walk around the real world to find these Pokemon, and all kinds of fascinating real world events are happening as a result. Continue reading
Jun 15, 2016 Keep Your Folk – Shavuoth Yizkor 5776 The following story may just be urban legend but I love it all the same. It tells of a woman recently given a terminal diagnosis who made an appointment with her pastor to discuss dying wishes. She told the minister which hymns and prayers she hoped would be sung at her funeral, which Psalms and Scriptural passages she hoped would be read, even which outfit she hoped to be buried in. Just as everything appeared to be in order and the pastor was preparing to leave, the woman suddenly remembered a last detail. “There’s one more thing,” the woman began, “and this is very important.” “When my time comes, I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.” Continue reading
Jun 7, 2016 The Danger of Fear – Parashat B’hukkotai Once upon a time there was a group of students who wished to drive evil out of the world. They went to their rabbi for advice. “Take a broom,” the sage suggested, “and sweep the darkness from a cellar.” This did no good. “Then take sticks,” advised the man, “and beat the darkness out with your fists.” This, too, proved unsuccessful. “Shout and yell at the darkness,” said the rabbi, “And order it to leave at once.” But this did no good either. Finally the rabbi offered, “Light a candle.” And the darkness immediately evaporated. Continue reading
May 17, 2016 Illegal Parking – Parashat Kedoshim Nobel Prize winner Gary Becker was running late for an important meeting one morning when he chanced upon an illegal parking spot, far closer to where he was situated than the municipal garage towards which he had been slowly making his way. An economist through and through, Becker quickly computed the rough probability of getting caught in the unlawful location and multiplied it by the approximate fee of the potential fine; then, with such a cost-benefit analysis completed, he decided that the financial risk was worth it in this situation and made a calculated decision to commit the improper act. Continue reading
May 10, 2016 Masada, Yavneh, and Leicester City – Yom HaAtzmaut 5776 I’m not really much one for American sports, let alone European ones, but when the talk of the town at my Monday night tennis game this past week was all about the Leicester City Foxes and their recent win of the Premiere League soccer title – a feat being referenced as “the greatest sporting story of all time”– I just had to take a look. Some of us are well familiar with the tale, of a soccer club founded in 1884 whose previous best showing had been a runner-up finish all the way back in 1929. In fact, not only had Leicester City never won a top-level championship prior to last week, but they had only been promoted into the Premier League just two years ago and then nearly relegated back last spring due to a poor record. For those of us less familiar with the intricacies of European football, all this means that Leicester started the season as 5,000-1 outsiders for the title, and one bookmaking company told the Associated Press that it paid out 4.6 million pounds (6.8 million dollars) to the 128 lucky individuals who went against incredible odds to bet for the Foxes. Continue reading
May 3, 2016 Yizkor Sermon For the last 18 years of being a cantor I often found myself lost during Yizkor. On the one hand/ i was very much moved by the solemn nature of the service and the emotional charge of the congregational prayers like Psalm 23 and El Maleh Rachamim. On the other hand, when it came to the personal meditations, I felt somewhat disengaged; mainly, because most of my immediate relatives and friends including both of my parents were alive and well at the time. So, basically I did not have anyone I to pray for. Continue reading