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March-April Newsletter

What follows is my article from our March-April 2012 Newsletter.  In it I answer a number of our students' ask the rabbi questions.

Here are your questions, and of course my answers.

What’s your first name in English?
Steve, but you should continue to call me rabbi.

How old are you?
47. My birthday is in July when I will be 48.

This is a not smart question. R U married?
Yes. I am married to Susie. She is also a rabbi. Also I have two children. One is in high school and the other in college. By the way no question is stupid. You can only learn if you ask questions. But you may want to write out the words to your questions instead of writing in texting slang.

Are you from Israel?
No. But every Jew is connected to the land of Israel and I hope the State of Israel

Who is the President of Israel?
The President of Israel is Shimon Peres, but in Israel the real power is not in the president but the Prime Minister and that is Benjamin Netanyahu.

Why did you want to become a rabbi?
I always wanted to help people and I love learning. A rabbi is a combination of helping others and teaching and learning.

Do we ever have a field trip in Hebrew School?
I think it would be really great if we organized a youth trip to Israel for when you are in high school. How would that be for a field trip! We always visit the Holocaust Museum in Glen Cove when you are older, but it would also be really great if we went to the Jewish sites in New York City one time. I would also be happy to go with you to a Jets or Giants game.

Why did Hitler feel the need to hate our people? What’s there to hate?
There is nothing to hate. People like Hitler will hate no matter what. So the first lesson is that we can change nothing about ourselves to prevent antisemites from hating us. There are a lot of really smart people who have spent their lives studying the Nazis and the Holocaust. No one has come up with a really good answer for why Hitler, the Nazis, ordinary Germans and far too many Europeans, hated Jews so much that they wanted to murder them. To my mind there are two explanations that are important to remember. 1. The roots of antisemitism go back thousands of years. Children were taught to hate Jews for generations. From this long held hatred it is not such a logical jump to say “Let’s get rid of them.” That is why we must fight against those who hate, or make fun of, others for who and what they are. 2. Germany had so many problems right before World War II and people wanted to blame others for all of their problems. The Jews became the scapegoat. And that is the final lesson. It is always easier to blame others for our own problems.

What did Jesus do that made people believe he was the messiah?
According to the Christian Bible he performed many miracles and fulfilled the traditional Jewish vision of the messiah, a man sent by God who would save the world. The world still waits to be repaired however. Christians believe that he will return to save the world. Jews believe that he was an extraordinary man who taught some beautiful and meaningful lessons, but that he is not the messiah because he did not save the world during his lifetime.

On Mount Sinai did Moses receive the first five books of the Torah?
Yes. Moses and the entire people received not only the written Torah but all of Jewish teachings. Now I can’t prove this to you. Just like the last question it is a matter of belief so too is this question about what happened at Mount Sinai. I think we discover God when we study Torah. We bring God into the world when we live by the instructions in the Torah. I don’t worry so much about the details of what happened then. I am more concerned with what we do now.

Thanks for the questions!