This week's Torah reading, T'rumah, is terrific. (Even though it has a bad reputation as repetitive and boring!) Not only is it my bar mitzvah Torah portion but it also reminds of one of Judaism's core principles: Torah both inspires us with wisdom and also empowers us to interpret its truths, applying them uniquely in our own day and age.
On January 6, riotous supporters of President Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol, scarring a majority of Americans who felt violated by this grotesque attack. My comments this Shabbat focus on the desecration of this sacred space and its impact on us as witnesses.
A historic election looms in the week ahead. People will differ on how whether the election results are tragic or triumphant, and our tradition urges us not to let these differences tear our communities apart. Like Abraham, we prepare to step into a new land with courage, conviction, and compassion.
Each year on Parashat B'reishit, we commemorate the life and legacy of Regina Jonas, the first woman to attain ordination as a rabbi. This year, we also pay tribute to Roslyn Lieberman Horwich, the 92-year-old woman who was our congregation's first bat mitzvah. These historic firsts are inspirational on the grand and the local scale, reminding of us the cascade of firsts that pave the way for future generations of achievement.
This year's Kol Nidre sermon focuses on antiracism from a Jewish perspective. I suggest that we have a Jewish obligation to look at the world through a "racial lens," drawing on the rabbinic concept of aspaklaria to deepen our understanding of this critical and timely issue.
Text available below the recording.
The Hebrew Bible's view of kingship is more democratic than the medieval picture we've inherited, and I believe the offices of the Israelite king and the American president overlap in several ways. Therefore, it is appropriate to turn to the Torah for guidance on a Jewish frame for considering which presidential candidate deserves our vote.
We are beneficiaries of those who have gone before, and the power and privileges associated with these blessings come with obligations as well. Torah insists that we never forget what is the source of our prosperity while remaining ever committed to working (hard) for justice.
Shabbat Chazon is so named because of the prophecy that begins the book of Isaiah. The prophet calls us to account for our own behavior and models our responsibility to speak out against leaders who pollute society with greed. As we prepare for the mournful commemoration of Tisha B'Av, we take Isaiah's message to heart and gird ourselves for the work of teshuvah that lies ahead.
My first composed sermon during shelter-in-place addresses the question of whether, in fact, we should continue with this difficult but essential practice. I believe Parashat B'har speaks directly to this question, urging us to refrain, as much as we can, from the activities of ordinary life.
The Torah contains two opposing messages: we should strive to honor the dignity of every human being, and yet some human beings deserve more respect than others. What are we to do with this discrepancy? And how does Jewish tradition guide us in our embracing and distancing ourselves from the examples of the past?
“To be effective, the preacher's message must be alive; it must alarm, arouse, challenge; it must be God's present voice to a particular people.”