Showing posts from September, 2023

Yom Kippur Day 2023/5784: "Asking 'When' rather than 'Why'

  If you’re going to invite a speaker to speak in your community, you probably want to make sure you know how to introduce them correctly - how to pronounce their name, what titles they prefer to be known by, and if you’re inviting someone who is known for having written a best selling book, you probably want to get the title of the book correct. This year the world lost a great author of several wonderful books who was especially known throughout his life for one of those books in particular, and he had story after story about people getting the title of this most famous book wrong when they would meet him or introduce him. For many years this author was probably the most famous rabbi in the United States, and definitely the most famous Conservative rabbi. You may have guessed that I am referring to Rabbi Harold Kushner, who died this year at age 88. He was also  known as a mentor to so many of my colleagues, and a person of outstanding intellect and also outstanding sensitivity.  Eve

Rosh HaShanah Day 2 5784 / 2023: "To Be Alone" and to be together

  “Winning the lottery was the worst thing that ever happened to me.” That’s the kind of statement you might expect to hear from someone who has led an extremely charmed life.  Like you ask them ‘what’s the worst thing that ever happened to you,” and they say -- “come to think of it, with all the awesome things about my life, winning the lottery was a little disappointing by comparison.”  But actually this is a true story. And it’s a sad story. This is what a hospital patient named James said to his doctor when describing the origin of his very significant health problems.  James’ doctor  went on to write a book about his experiences. He wrote: James “looked tired as he spoke. His gestures were listless. He seemed defeated by life.”   “He was dealing with diabetes, high blood pressure, .....stress…..”  And then he shared these surprising words - that winning the lottery had something to do with his medical problems.  James’ doctor writes:  “ It turned out [James] was being quite litera

Rosh HaShanah Day 1 5784 / 2023: Understanding this year in Israel

I could tell you so many stories from our magnificent congregational trip to Israel this summer - but the story I have to tell you today is about giraffes.  You’re wondering, where did you see giraffes in Israel? -- Having been to Israel many times, I had visited most of the historical and cultural and religious sites on our itinerary for our congregational trip, but I had never been to this little place called the Ayalon Institute, and frankly I was a little skeptical when our tour provider suggested it. But I HAVE to tell you the story. The Ayalon Institute is a kibbutz that was built not far from Tel Aviv, in 1945. It was a Jewish agricultural settlement like hundreds of others all across what was then called Palestine, with communal buildings like a dining room, a laundry, a kitchen and bakery, and dwelling places for the people who lived there and who worked in the fields and cared for the animals. So far, not exciting.  But -- this place had a secret, that even most of the reside