Yom Kippur Sermon – October 9, 2019 – 10 Tishrei 5780

October 11th, 2019|Comments Off on Yom Kippur Sermon – October 9, 2019 – 10 Tishrei 5780

At the community Yom HaShoah/Holocaust Memorial Program last spring, the Wexner family very generously offered participants a complimentary copy of a new book, Antisemitism Here & Now, by historian Deborah Lipstadt. I took a copy and was glad I did. In the book, Prof. Lipstadt makes an observation especially worth sharing tonight. She writes of a [...]

Parashat Vayelech – October 5, 2019 – 6 Tishrei 5780

October 3rd, 2019|Comments Off on Parashat Vayelech – October 5, 2019 – 6 Tishrei 5780

Twice in this week’s parasha, Moses utters the encouraging words, “Be strong and courageous.” This Biblical expression, which appears several times in scripture, is also to be found at the end of Psalm 27, the special psalm added to our services during the season of repentance. The context of these passages indicates that this expression was [...]

Rosh Hashanah II – 10/1 – One Congregant’s Extraordinary Journey of Repentance

October 3rd, 2019|Comments Off on Rosh Hashanah II – 10/1 – One Congregant’s Extraordinary Journey of Repentance

ML: At the beginning of the Kol Nidre service, which inaugurates Yom Kippur, the Chazzon boldly declares, “We are permitted to pray with sinners.” There are historical reasons for why this declaration is made having to do with Jews who were coerced into abandoning the faith during the Spanish Inquisition. Contemporary rabbis invoke it as a [...]

Rosh Hashanah I – 9/30 – The Mitzvah of Finding Worthy Ideas in Unlikely Jewish Places

October 3rd, 2019|Comments Off on Rosh Hashanah I – 9/30 – The Mitzvah of Finding Worthy Ideas in Unlikely Jewish Places

If you have a fondness for troubling ideas, take a look at religions. In my experience, some of the most vexing ideas come out of religious doctrines and traditions. Judaism aspires to a high bar in this competition. The Talmudic rabbis entertained the idea that the ability to argue convincingly for an ostensibly erroneous idea is [...]

Rosh Hashanah – September 28, 2019 – 28 Elul 5779

September 26th, 2019|Comments Off on Rosh Hashanah – September 28, 2019 – 28 Elul 5779

A provocative yet often overlooked passage of our Rosh Hashanah prayers is when we remind God to “Remember the kindness of [our] youth… when we followed God in the [Sinai] wilderness.” What?! According to the Torah, our time in the wilderness consisted of complaint, rebellion, a golden calf, and a disastrous spy mission. Out of all [...]

Parashat Ki Tavo – September 21, 2019 – 21 Elul 5779

September 20th, 2019|Comments Off on Parashat Ki Tavo – September 21, 2019 – 21 Elul 5779

There is no tsuris greater than blindness, as it is written, “Accursed is the one who causes a blind person to go astray in the road.” (Deut. 27:18) and when God comes to mend the world, he will begin with healing the blind. Who are “the blind” being referred to here? -These are the generations who [...]

Parashat Ki Tetze – September 14, 2019 – 14 Elul 5779

September 13th, 2019|Comments Off on Parashat Ki Tetze – September 14, 2019 – 14 Elul 5779

This week's Torah Reading repeats a law from the Book of Exodus. In Deuteronomy, we find that one must help one's "brother" when we encounter his donkey struggling under its burden. In Exodus, we were told to help with the burden of the donkey of one's "enemy." In both cases, we are told explicitly to work [...]

Parashat Shoftim – September 7, 2019 – 7 Elul 5779

September 5th, 2019|Comments Off on Parashat Shoftim – September 7, 2019 – 7 Elul 5779

“When you shall come into the Land... and say, ‘I will set a king over myself...’” (Deut. 17:14) We would expect the Torah to simply command either, “Thou shalt appoint a king” or “Thou shalt not appoint a king.” Why the ambivalent language?   The Bible and our rabbis share a suspicion of government and its [...]