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Our Sanctuary Dedication

What follows is my sermon and message on the occasion of dedicating our congregation's newly renovated sanctuary.  This is indeed a blessed evening. We are thankful to those who volunteer to serve our congregation and help it make it even better. We are thankful for this holiday of Hanukkah that sheds light on our lives during the darkest time of the year. And we are thankful that not only can we gather together, but that we do so in this beautiful, newly renovated sanctuary... Ten years ago, this is not what anyone at the Jewish Congregation of Brookville ever imagined. Ten years ago, this is not what anyone at Oyster Bay Jewish Center ever imagined. And yet here we are and now we are Congregation L’Dor V’Dor and we must no longer look back to what we imagined long ago, but instead only forward to what I believe will be a strong future filled with much song, many celebrations, lots of lots of Jewish teaching, and plenty of spiritual uplift. In this sanctuary, we will celebra
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Seeing the Good in Wrong

Joseph is a stunning character. Despite adversity he achieves great renown. His brothers first try to kill him and then sell him into slavery in Egypt. He quickly becomes Potiphar’s most trusted servant. Then when he refuses the advances of Potiphar’s wife, she becomes enraged and accuses him of trying to molest her. Joseph is thrown into jail. There he interprets dreams, in particular those of the chief cup bearer (can someone please provide me with the job description for this position?) and chief baker. His interpretations are proven true. The chief cup bearer is restored to his position and the chief baker is executed. Lo and behold, Pharaoh is plagued (get it?) by repeated, disturbing dreams. No one can interpret them. The chief cup bearer reports that he met this guy in jail who has a unique ability to interpret dreams. Joseph is summoned to Pharaoh’s palace. He is cleaned up and given fancy clothes. He interprets the dreams to mean that there will be seven years of plenty fol

Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and the Myths We Tell

It feels somewhat strange when we celebrate Hanukkah a few days after gathering for Thanksgiving. Our Jewish holidays are tied to the Hebrew calendar which operates independently from the Gregorian calendar. Occasionally however, Hanukkah finds its way into November and nears Thanksgiving. This offers us a unique opportunity to reflect upon our dual commitments as American Jews. Interestingly both Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are built upon myths that are thinly tied to history. Let me explain. Nowhere in the Book of Maccabees, the first written record of the events surrounding Hanukkah, is the miracle of oil mentioned. I realize this may come as a surprise given that this story forms the core of how we talk about Hanukkah. We first find the miracle story in the Talmud, a book completed nearly 700 years after the Maccabean revolt. Did the miracle of oil really occur? This post continues on The Times of Israel.

Forgiveness Should Be Easier

I know I am supposed to admire Jacob and love him more than Esau. Jacob is, after all, the father of the children of Israel. He is the man through whom we trace our people’s sacred lineage. And yet, this week, I find myself looking admirably towards his brother Esau. Jacob deceived his father and stole the birthright from Esau. Jacob then runs away—Esau threatens to kill him after discovering the deception. On the run, Jacob experiences God, marries and builds a large family, experiences God some more and becomes incredibly successful. We do not know what Esau is doing during these years. Is he nursing a grudge towards Jacob? Is he perseverating about the wrongs done to him? He has every right to be angry. It is true that Jacob lied and stole from him. We learn little about what Esau is thinking. We learn a great deal about Jacob. We read about his dreams and how he wrestles with God. We learn a great deal about his fears. They continue to plague him. When he realizes that he will

Lift Up Your Legs, There Are Miracles To Be Seen

Miracles are all around us. It is not that they do not exist. It is instead that we fail to see them. That is the Torah’s perspective. And so, we read many times, the refrain, “And he lifted up his eyes (vayisah einav).” Abraham heads out on a journey with the faith that God will direct him to a special and holy place. “On the third day, Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place from afar.” (Genesis 22) Later, an angel stays Abraham’s hand as he is about to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Miraculously a ram appears, and he sacrifices it instead of his son. “And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and he saw a ram caught in the thicket by its horns.” Did the ram appear out of nowhere? Was the place magically created out of thin air? Of course not. They were there all along. The power of miracles is held in our eyes. Miracles are all around us. It is a matter of lifting up our eyes. And yet, this week, Jacob does not set out on a journey because God commands him like his grandfather Abraham. I

Waiting for Miracles

A common theme in religious literature is the miraculous birth of its heroes. The Torah is no different. Isaac is born to Abraham and Sarah after years of infertility. Sarah is in fact ninety years old when she gives birth, and Abraham, one hundred. Isaac’s birth is not only unexpected and surprising but miraculous. The Torah’s message is clear. The only way that Abraham and Sarah could have a child is by divine intervention. Jacob and Esau are also born to Isaac and Rebekah after the Torah reports that Rebekah is barren. There is, by the way, no suggestion that their infertility is because of Isaac. The Torah’s perspective is that it must be because of Rebekah. And so, we read, “Isaac pleaded with the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord responded to his plea, and his wife Rebekah conceived.” (Genesis 25) Still, we cannot know what causes their infertility. We only know that they struggle to have a child. The Torah states that Isaac is sixty years old whe

Antisemitism Three Years Later

Three years ago in Pittsburgh, eleven Jews were murdered and seven injured while doing the most Jewish of things, offering Shabbat prayers at their synagogue, the Tree of Life. Furthermore, this far-right extremist claimed he was angered by the community’s support of immigration rights, by this community’s expression of their Jewish values. This past summer, protests against Israel’s war in Gaza, turned violent. Jews were attacked because they wore a kippah or they dined at a Jewish restaurant. It was thought that somehow these outward manifestations of their Jewishness made them legitimate targets for their attackers’ anger at Israel’s actions. Make no mistake, antisemitism, and murderous hatred, and violent attacks, have no such rational explanations. There is no such legitimacy. It is folly to suggest that if Israel was not so heavy handed in its response to Hamas rockets, or if Jews were not so supportive of liberal causes, antisemtism would cease. One in four American Jews