Last night I went with my granddaughter Miriam to see the play Anne Frank. I thought it was marvelously well done, from every standpoint, but it left me extremely depressed. It embittered me against mankind for having made it possible for such a cold-blooded, calculating demonic crime to be perpetrated against millions of innocent men, women, and children to be enacted, and what is worse, to be erased from the conscience—if that crime made the least impression on it.
If the expression, "the written and oral Torahs are the words of God delivered to Moses on Mt. Sinai" cannot be read literally, then what does it mean? I believe the Rabbis of the Talmud are pronouncing the deepest respect possible for the received tradition.
One of the reasons that the language of reverence needed to be so powerful was precisely because of the radical innovations which the Rabbis themselves were facilitating in the development of Jewish law. The Rabbis were masterful agents of change.
When I heard that Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs had invited President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad—a notoriously anti-Semitic and anti-Israel figurehead—to speak on campus, my first instinct was to oppose the event vehemently. read more »
I reasoned that, if Columbia hosted an anti-Semitic figure on campus, Ahmadinjead’s could attempt legitimize his terrifying and historically incorrect viewpoints. Why should one of the most prestigious universities in the nation provide a platform from which a dangerous leader such as Ahmadinejad could deny the Holocaust and spew his advocacy for the destruction of Israel?
Here is an excerpt from Rabbi Steve Booth's Rosh Hashanah sermon from this year. Download the complete sermon.
A couple summers ago, I was sailing a large rented sailboat on Lake Dillon with Rabbi Soloway from Boulder. I was thrilled to discover he was as experienced and skilled a sailor as I, as he grew up ocean racing in England. It was just the two of us, a somewhat blustery late spring day, but we were doing fine. As the wind slowly built up however, I was steering, and I said: “Marc, I know its a pain, but if we reefed the main down a bit, it would be easier to steer and we’d have more control.” He agreed, and we did it. read more »
As he finished with the sail and looked back to me from the deck, as we both started to nod that yes, this was better, ....BOOM! -- ....we heard something pop....
Remember the media craze surrounding Lauren Caitlin Upton, Miss South Carolina in last month’s Miss Teen USA pageant, the young woman who stumbled into notoriety through a blunder on national television. That episode offered many lessons to reflect on, the first being the idea that we all stand under the bright lights of judgment, dumbstruck and speechless, without a clue how to account for ourselves. read more »
There’s more for us to learn from Caitlin’s gaffe. How did we get to the point where such absurdity draws so much of our attention? Why do we shine the spotlight on rather unremarkable people and then reap some kind of sadistic pleasure when they prove themselves to be seemingly unworthy of our focus?
The claim that sacred texts were written by human beings, not God, is most commonly thought of as serving a secular agenda.
For me, acknowledging the human hand that touches sacred texts strengthens my religious tendencies and feelings.
Below is an excerpt from a sermon I gave Rosh Hashanah morning. Download a pdf to read the sermon in its entirety. read more »
We are praying here today in the language and telling the stories of the ancestors we share with our Israeli sisters and brothers, with the sancta and canon passed down ledor vador/from generation to generation, beginning with our peoples’ experiences in that land.
Below is an excerpt from Rabbi Lina Zerbarini's Rosh Hashanah sermon delivered at Yale this year. She is a 1997 graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the Associate Rabbi at the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale University. Download the sermon in its entirety. read more »
I do believe in possibility, in growth and change. And yet, the process of change is frightening, marked by fits and starts and two steps forward and one - or three - steps back - in myself and in others.
In this Yom Kippur Sermon written for this year, Rabbi Bonnie Koppel draws on the work of Maimonidies' Hilchot Teshuva, the Laws of Repentance, and Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas' 2006 book, The Five Languages of Apology to unpack the process of apologizing in order to get us to do more of it.
Rabbi Bonnie Koppell is a 1981 Graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. She has served the Jewish community of Phoenix for the last twenty years as a congregational rabbi, and, additionally, as a teacher at the Jess Schwartz Community High School. She was the first female rabbi to serve in the US military and currently holds the rank of Colonel in the United States Army Reserve. Read more about Rabbi Bonnie Koppell.
The following is an excerpt from a sermon I gave on Rosh Hashanah called, Bible Bullies. You can read the sermon in its entirety on my blog:
The pediatrician who supervised the assessment that our son had Asberger's Syndrome broke the news to me gently as though he was waiting for me to burst into tears. read more »
But the son I brought home that day was the exact same child I've loved his entire life. In receiving the diagnosis, Bobby (my husband) and I strode right past denial, anger, bargaining, and depression and went straight to acceptance of Yonatan's condition. What we really wanted to figure out was how he was going to make his way in the world.
Following is an excerpt from a sermon I gave on Rosh Hashanah. You can read it in its entirety at my blog:
I will confess I that there are times when I fall victim to this cynicism as well. Like everyone, I’ve often been overwhelmed by the knowledge that the systemic roots of these problems are just so enormous, so pervasive in our world. read more »
Still, I cannot surrender the conviction that individual actions do indeed make a difference in our world, and that such actions such as these are occurring around the world, every day, every moment, every second, in ways we often cannot quantify or understand.
What matters isn't
who I am on retreat,
singing the day into being,
but who I am
when I've come home
to the cat and the bills, read more »
to-do list as long
as the yoga mat
I too rarely unfurl.
Growing up in a non-Jewish area was always awkward around holidays. These were not days of reflection and celebration that they were meant to be, but instead, holidays were a time when I was elected by my non-Jewish peers as the resident rabbi. As one of the few Jewish kids in my high school of 2,200 students, my non-Jewish peers were a pretty large demographic, and like me, knew next to nothing about Jewish culture, religion, and history. read more »
Since I was a “graduate” of Judaism, having been Bar-Mitzvahed, I did know more than most, but ‘most’ was a high school filled with kids whose reaction to my Jewishness was, “Oh, so you don’t celebrate Christmas?” In this question lay the core of what a Jewish kid was to most other kids in a non-Jewish area—that poor soul, who, running down to the menorah on Christmas morning, finds nothing but coal.
JRF, a member of the Jewish Council of Public Affairs and an affiliate member of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, joins in supporting the JCPA's 2007-8 National Anti-Poverty Campaign.
There shall be no needy among you. (Deuteronomy 15:4)
The JCPA proposes the launching of a national anti-poverty campaign to: read more »
Rabbi Shai Gluskin blows the shofar in Elul, 5767 in advance of the New Year of 5768.
The sounds are: 1 Tekiah, Shevarim, three mournful tones, Teruah 9 staccato notes, and finally one Tekiah. Each of the four (Tekiah, Shevarim, Teruah, and Tekiah) should consist of one "measure" taking up the same amount of time.
Video taken by Joe Getzoff.