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Sermons ...

Date Posted Title Excerpt
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
Mar 15, 2017 Tears of a Clown – Shabbat Zachor There is a story told of Joseph Grimaldi, a famous clown from the early 1800’s. One day a middle-aged man walked into the office of a specialist known for treating melancholia and shared with the doctor how unhappy he had been feeling of late. “I can’t eat; I can’t sleep,” said the man. “Everything in my life seems all so dark.” The specialist turned to his patient with concern. “You really need to find a way to cheer up,” he responded. “I hear that there is a wonderful harlequin performer at the Covent Garden Theater named Grimaldi who consistently brings down the house. Go see him and laugh a bit; it will lift your spirits.” The man nodded and turned to his doctor with a sad smile. “I much appreciate the advice, Sir, but I don’t think it will help me,” the man replied. “You see, I am Grimaldi.” Continue reading
Jan 10, 2017 Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat – Parashat Vayeshev As a child, family road-trips from Boston to Philadelphia to visit my grandparents were invariably accompanied by the Tucker four singing loudly and a bit off-key to Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. My parents loved the musical and Scott and I came to as well; to this day we can recite the lyrics from start to finish practically by heart. So it was a no brainer when, as a final paper for my Ancient and Middle Eastern Studies 255 class on the Book of Genesis while in college, I was asked to compare a contemporary work of art or literature to its Hebrew Bible analogue that I chose this piece for my analysis. Continue reading
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