Rabbi’s Words

  • When Darkness Taints the Festival of Lights
    Originally Posted in Rabbi’s Words on January 5, 2020. Thursday I pulled into the CKA driveway for the first time since returning from our splendid and inspiring congregational trip to Israel. I came bearing joy, having witnessed the continuing growth and prosperity of our fellow Jews in our homeland, Eretz Yisrael, but also facing the darkness of what has happened here, in our home, while we were gone. Two events cast a shadow over the light of the holiday: a series of violence occurring and reoccurring throughout Hannukah directed at Jewish traditional communities of New York, culminating in the brutal…
  • From Gay Pride to Jewish Pride
    It was some time back, perhaps on my last trip to Israel, that I first saw a rainbow pattern kippah (Jewish ritual skullcap). I don’t know if it was meant to be a “Pride” kippah, but that’s how I interpreted it, and I bought it. My brother is gay. I performed his wedding to an Israeli man (a doctor! Sigh of Jewish pride). So, when Pride Month rolled around this year, given the amount of push back people in the LGBTQ community have endured in the last couple of years, I felt like I had to represent. I could have pulled out my…
  • The Goring Details of an Epidemic
    I was floored. Not by the news that over 500 children in Brooklyn had developed measles. I have seen the anti-vaccine movement gain steam over the past two decades. No, I was floored that most of these children were Hasidic Jews, an insular branch of Jewish ultra-Orthodoxy. Why should that surprise?  It surprised me because, while I am not an Orthodox rabbi, I am fairly conversant in Jewish medical law (Halacha) as expounded and practiced in Orthodox circles, and I know that their religious authorities are ferociously pro-medicine. The great scholars uniformly say, in the name of biblical law and…
  • Strive to be Humane
    Following the path blazed by Rabbi Jonah Pesner of the RAC, and by Rabbi David Stern, President of the CCAR, I journeyed from Dallas to McAllen to see, to learn, and to protest the morally offensive and deeply destructive policy of separating immigrant children.
  • Sukkot – Dwelling in a House of Dreams
    Our holiday of Sukkot – part harvest festival, part historical reenactment – is the holiday of insecure dreams. We are commanded to build a shelter for ourselves, but only the most flimsy, temporary shelter, to remind us of our own fragility, the transitory nature of life, and what it was like to be refugees from Egypt, with only the good will of a great power to sustain us. But then we are commanded to dwell in it. We are to welcome guests: our neighbors, the poor, and even our wandering ancestors, to be with us. And then, ideally, we sleep…
  • Sermon from Rosh Hashanah 5778
    So today I thought I’d talk about the concept of the klutz kasheh. This is a Yiddish term which literally mean a ‘klutzy question,’ or a ‘silly conundrum.’ The great Jewish tradition of grappling with silly difficulties goes back to the Talmud, where the Sages liked to pose unlikely, seemingly ridiculous problems to each other. A classic is one where someone poses the question, “A person with two heads, does he put tefillin on one head, or both?” A favorite from medieval Jewish tradition was the question of whether, being short a tenth person, could a golem be counted in…
  • I’ll Follow the Sun (with apologies to Lennon and McCartney)
    Did you hear the one about the fellow who stayed up all night wondering where the sun went? It finally dawned on him. The sun. It’s easy to take it for granted, even to resent it, living in Texas. But of course it’s a start point for everything on this planet that interests us. Without the sun constantly bombarding the surface of our planet with energy, life on earth would not have been able to defy the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics and evolve into the magnificent diversity we see and know today. Think of the things you don’t take for…
  • Spiritual Grandeur
    I have this theory. It goes something like this: You can gauge the way people feel about God by the way they feel about inclement weather. As for me, I appreciate storms. Windy days invigorate me, and volatile weather — lightning storms, torrential rains, blizzards — enthrall me. Even though they make me uncomfortable or frighten me, I am moved by the display of power; storms remind me of my relatively humble place in the cosmos. Others, I know, dislike violent weather. They have a marked preference for moderate, serene, and placid climates. A few people I know go even…
  • Signs and Wonders in Denton County
    A Christian vandal? Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Yet Congregation Kol Ami has had to deal with just that. In response to the ongoing crisis in New Orleans and Alabama, like churches and synagogues around the nations, CKA went into tzedakah (“charity”) hyper-drive. As part of that, we posted a new message on our roadside marquee board in front of the synagogue: CHARITY SAVES FROM DEATH  –  PROVERBS TZEDAKAH HELP ALA MISS LA. Past postings on our board have included such zingers as UNDER THE SAME MANAGEMENT FOR 3500 YEARS and HAPPY CHALLAH DAYS, so I thought what could be more…
  • And after the fire, a small still voice (I Kings 19)
    Originally written shortly after September 11, 2001. The German Philosopher Ludwig Wittenstein declared, “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” So what are we to make of something that leaves us speechless? Something so incomprehensible, so alien, that words fail us? Such an otherworldly event seems to have overtaken America on Tuesday when, in coordinated attacks, suicide terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center, damaged the Pentagon, crashed airplanes filled with travelers, and massacred as yet untold numbers of innocent people. And to add to the horror (is it possible at this point?) is to realize how…