Sermon: Vayeshev 5772

December 16th, 2011 by admin | No Comments | Filed in Sermons

Tim Tebow, A Humbler Yosef
I. HS Football – pregame locker-room huddle, on 1 knee for Lord’s Prayer – I moved my lips but recited Shema v`ahavtah
II. Religion & Sports in America – inseparable!
A. Alex Gonzales – biblical verse inscribed on his bat
B. Home run trot – index fingers pointing to the sky
C. Stat: This fall TV season, 23/25 most watched shows – NFL
III. Tim Tebow phenomena – WSJ page
A. Last year Heisman Trophy winner – under eye glare protection – Biblical verses – show WSJ
B. Pro football – QB Denver Broncos
1. Has won 7/8 games
2. ¾ game = terrible – last Q, takes over, ie win over the Jets & using his fullback running ability
3. No more under eye glare protection verse – I guess not allowed in NFL, but Tebowing
a. Phase coined & made into a website by Jared Kleinstein, nice 24 yr old Jewish boy from NY, snapped a pic, posted it on the website he created & it went viral from there
b. Imagine a Rodin pose, head bowed, prayer to Jesus for help in scoring the touchdown
c. Now, little league kids are Tebowing
IV. Tebow & Yosef – Parashat Vayeshev
A. @ Rabbi Joshua Hammerman, this week’s NY Jewish Week, Tebow is a humbler Yosef
B. Both are chosen ones
1. Yosef – bring back to Promised Land
2. Tebow – Superbowl – the promised land of the NFL
C. Yosef’s assent:
1. Gen. 37:3 – Yakov loves Yosef best of all – multi-color coat –strutting
2. Dreams:
a. #1 – v. 5- 8: his sheaf of grain stands upright, brothers’ sheaves bow down (Tebow pose?)
b. #2 – v. 9 – 10: sun, moon & stars bow to Yosef – Yakov berates him – he needs to cool it
3. Not until much later, in response to Pharoah, then he credits his dream interpretation to God – it took being thrown into multiple pits to be humbled
D. Tebow
1. Already cautioned by former NFL QB great Kurt Warner to tone down his evangelical actions
2. Every NFL defense is looking to throw him into a pit, running QB’s in the NFL tend to have short careers

V. Good v. Sons of Darkness
A. This Sunday, Broncos play the New England Patriots – already being touted as a battle of good vs. evil – good v. sons of darkness
B. Tebow vs Tom Brady, the well coifed Hollywood QB (anything Hollywood =’s decademt)
C. Tebow vs Belichick – coach of Pats, the hoodie-clad diabolical coach, once fined for secretly video-tapping opponents practice – sinners must be punnished
D. Tebow vs. Bob Kraft – the Jewish owner – thru Tebow he will see the light
VI. Significance – fuel for the Christian right & Right to Lifers, his mother refused against medical advice to have an abortion, the outcome – Tebow – Tebow the new poster boy – could he take them all the way to & win the SuperBowl – post game commercial: Tim Tebow, now that you have won the SuperBowl what are you going to do? Answer, wont’ be going to Disneyland, but, I’m going to church to pray to Jesus for winning the SuperBowl for us.

Yaakov & FDR

December 8th, 2011 by admin | No Comments | Filed in Sermons

Shabbat Shalom.
Some of you may remember hearing the speech that I am about to quote from; or, at least all should be familiar with its most famous line. I quote:
Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives: Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by … the Empire of Japan.
President Roosevelt concluded with the following words:
As Commander-in-Chief … I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense…I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.
With confidence in our armed forces—with the un-bounding determination of our people—we will gain the inevitable triumph—so help us God.
Yes, 70 years ago, the Japanese’s sneak attack on Pearl Harbor; 2,402 Americans were killed and 1,282 wounded.
This Shabbat, parashat Vayishlakh, our ancestor, Yaakov, is about to confront his sworn enemy, Esav. What does Yaakov do in anticipation?
First, Gen. 37:4: Vayishlakh Yaakov malachiim – Jacob sent messengers ahead to his brother Esav.” Yaakov attempts to negotiate with his brother.
Second, Yaakov’s negotiators return with the report, v. 7: “we came to your brother Esav, he himself is coming to meet you, and there are 400 hundred men with him.” We understand those 400 men to be a powerful military troop.
Third, upon this perceived threat of military action against, Yaakov (v.8) “was greatly frightened…he divided the people…into two camps (v.9) thinking if Esav comes to 1 camp and attacks it, the other camp may yet escape.”
In comparison, what did President Roosevelt do in a somewhat similar situation, a perceived threat of military action?
First, he attempted to negotiate with the Japanese government.
Second, he was advised by his messengers that there was an imminent threat.
Third, like Yaakov, he divided his defensive resources into 2 camps pending such an attack.
Where the comparison ends is, Roosevelt, unlike Yaakov, did not learn in time of the full extent of the Japanese military plans, and based upon which proved to be not fully accurate intelligence assessment, he ordered the Philippines to be the more fortified, never thinking that the Japanese would attack Hawaii.
The heinous sneak attack on Pearl Harbor galvanized this county and led to our entry into WWII. To note, on December 7, 1941, the 1st transports to Chelno death camp began. In hindsight, Pearl Harbor for the descendents of Yaakov, probably prevented the entire annihilation of European Jewry by Nazi Germany.
Yes, Pearl Harbor, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy, and, we all well know the other infamous date that came to be associated with December 7th, the day upon which another sneak attack, successful due a failure of communication within the intelligence agencies, took over as the highest single day toll of American lives lost: September 11, 2001 – 9/11!
Indeed, I see a clear link over the span of time between Yaakov and Roosevelt, and, I fear that B`nai Yaakov, which became B`nai Yisrael, faces an ever more ominous threat from a sworn enemy – a nuclear holocaust coming from Iran.
What will our modern day Yaakov do? Split his camps or launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran? And what will Yaakov’s ally, Roosevelt do? Be a true ally, or wait once again until 6 million Jews are murdered? In this case, correct that number to the current Jewish population of Israel – 7 million Jews!
God forbid! And, may the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt ring true once again: “with the un-bounding determination of our people—we will gain the inevitable triumph—so help us God.”

Thanksgiving Sermon5772

November 25th, 2011 by admin | No Comments | Filed in Sermons

Shabbat Shalom.
So, what really happening in Plymouth MA in 1621, the 1st so-called Thanksgiving? Well, thanks to some channel surfing this past Wednesday night, I think I now know. I caught an episode of a show that I seldom watch, and I suspect that many of you here this evening watch, South Park.
It seems the young students of the South Park had to write an essay on the origins of Thanksgiving, so, instead of reading a bunch of books to do their research, they decided to watch a documentary on The History Channel. And, so I learned that the original Thanksgiving in 1621 was the result of a treaty between the Pilgrims and the Indians, both aliens from their respective planets, Plymouth & India, who came to the New World in their fight to control the stuffing mines. Fascinating and hilarious – true satire.
However, it doesn’t come close to the level of the great master of satire, the late Art Buchwald, may his memory be for a blessing, a columnist for the Washington Post. One of his most famous columns was published on Thursday, November 24, 2005, Thanksgiving, he wrote:
Le Grande Thanksgiving –This confidential column was leaked to me by a high government official in the Plymouth colony on the condition that I not reveal his name.
One of our most important holidays is Thanksgiving Day, known in France as le Jour de Merci Donnant .
Le Jour de Merci Donnant was first started by a group of Pilgrims ( Pelerins ) who fled from l’Angleterre before the McCarran Act to found a colony in the New World ( le Nouveau Monde ) where they could shoot Indians ( les Peaux-Rouges ) and eat turkey ( dinde ) to their hearts’ content.
They landed at a place called Plymouth (a once famous voiture Americaine ) in a wooden sailing ship called the Mayflower (or Fleur de Mai ) in 1620. But while the Pelerins were killing the dindes, the Peaux-Rouges were killing the Pelerins, and there were several hard winters ahead for both of them. The only way the Peaux-Rouges helped the Pelerins was when they taught them to grow corn ( mais ). The reason they did this was because they liked corn with their Pelerins.
In 1623, after another harsh year, the Pelerins’ crops were so good that they decided to have a celebration and give thanks because more mais was raised by the Pelerins than Pelerins were killed by Peaux-Rouges.
Every year on the Jour de Merci Donnant, parents tell their children an amusing story about the first celebration.
It concerns a brave capitaine named Miles Standish (known in France as Kilometres Deboutish) and a young, shy lieutenant named Jean Alden. Both of them were in love with a flower of Plymouth called Priscilla Mullens (no translation). The vieux capitaine said to the jeune lieutenant :
“Go to the damsel Priscilla ( allez tres vite chez Priscilla), the loveliest maiden of Plymouth ( la plus jolie demoiselle de Plymouth). Say that a blunt old captain, a man not of words but of action ( un vieux Fanfan la Tulipe ), offers his hand and his heart, the hand and heart of a soldier. Not in these words, you know, but this, in short, is my meaning.
“I am a maker of war ( je suis un fabricant de la guerre ) and not a maker of phrases. You, bred as a scholar ( vous, qui tes pain comme un tudiant ), can say it in elegant language, such as you read in your books of the pleadings and wooings of lovers, such as you think best adapted to win the heart of the maiden.”
Although Jean was fit to be tied ( convenable tre emballe ), friendship prevailed over love and he went to his duty. But instead of using elegant language, he blurted out his mission. Priscilla was muted with amazement and sorrow ( rendue muette par l’tonnement et las tristesse).
At length she exclaimed, interrupting the ominous silence: “If the great captain of Plymouth is so very eager to wed me, why does he not come himself and take the trouble to woo me?” ( Ou est-il, le vieux Kilometres? Pourquoi ne vient-il pas aupres de moi pour tenter sa chance ?)
Jean said that Kilometres Deboutish was very busy and didn’t have time for those things. He staggered on, telling what a wonderful husband Kilometres would make. Finally Priscilla arched her eyebrows and said in a tremulous voice, “Why don’t you speak for yourself, Jean?” (Chacun a son gout. )
And so, on the fourth Thursday in November, American families sit down at a large table brimming with tasty dishes and, for the only time during the year, eat better than the French do.
No one can deny that le Jour de Merci Donnant is a grande fte and no matter how well fed American families are, they never forget to give thanks to Kilometres Deboutish, who made this great day possible.
Concluding prayer:


Sermon: Haye Sara 5772

November 17th, 2011 by admin | No Comments | Filed in Sermons

Shabbat Shalom.
Tonight, I want to do some comparative literature analysis: Torah and Shakespeare.
First, Shakespeare’s Julius Ceasar: Two weeks ago I was in Rome with my wife and her 4 siblings and their spouses. I was the tour guide for the family – our system was I would explain in English, and Genya would translate into Russian for her family.
At the Forum, I began by telling the story of the assassination of Julius Caesar and the eulogy by Marc Anthony. What better way to do so than utilizing Shakespeare’s words from Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 2:
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
…For Brutus is an honorable man;
So are they all, all honorable men -
Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honorable man.
And, then, I paused and received a smattering of applause from some other tourists that were there, but, when I looked at my relatives – their expressions were blank.
And, so, I asked Genya, did you translate into Russian? Yes, she said. So, why no reaction? She replied, growing up we never heard of Marc Anthony’s eulogy. I said, how could that be, one of the most famous lines in all of literature – “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.”
I was stunned – how is that possible? Her answer, back in the former Soviet Union, we never studied it. Wow, was William Shakespeare such a capitalist that his body of work was banned!?!?
Truth be told, we don’t really know if Marc Anthony actually uttered those words. Literary scholars Shakespeare crafted the eulogy as a subtle, seditious affront to the English monarchy. After all, why was Julius Caesar assassinated? Because the members of the Roman Senate feared he was using his popularity with the people to change the rule of the land from a privileged democracy to an all powerful monarchy.
This brings me to the opening verse of this week’s parasha, Haye Sara:
וַיִּהְיוּ חַיֵּי שָׂרָה, מֵאָה שָׁנָה וְעֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה וְשֶׁבַע שָׁנִים.“Now Sara’s life was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years” (Gen. 23:1)
Our rabbis have long question the formation of this verse. Why not just state 127 years instead of 100 years – 20 years – 7 years; the thrice repetition of the word Shana – years?
The commentators primarily suggest that the repetition represents different phases in Sarah’s life. Again, truth be told, we don’t really know if Sara lived to be 127, we just have the literary expression of it in our Torah. And like our ancient rabbis, we too find it a bit incredulous that she lived to such an age. So why?
I believe that like Shakespeare, the ancient Masorites, our sages responsible for the final text of the Torah, had a socio-politico agenda; one that might surprise you.
What is truly unique about the specification of Sarah’s life-span is not how the years are listed, but that they are even listed. Sarah is the only woman in the Tanakh – the Hebrew Bible, whose age is given!
Az mah? So what? One of the strongest literary criticisms of the Tanakh has been that it is male-centric literature. For example, when the birth of the great hero Samson is described, the name of his father is stated; whereas the name of his mother is never mention – she is simply called the wife of Manoach.
Thus, the unique stating of Sarah’s age places her on the same level of our patriarchs Avraham, Yitzchak & Yaakov – she is important –she is the ultimate matriarch – she is the true genesis of monotheism via her womb –– the first woman to change a marital relationship from a monarchy to a democracy; thus, she is the original feminist.
Elana, tomorrow you will be called to the Torah as Bat Mitzvah, and yes, this is a ceremony that had it origins for girls only in the 20th century, but remember, it is Sarah, from your Torah portion, that made it eventually possible.

Dvar Torah: Ki Tavo 5771

September 15th, 2011 by admin | No Comments | Filed in Sermons

And walk in God’s ways (Deuteronomy 28:9)
והלכת בדרכיו (דברים כח:ט)

Shabbat Shalom.
I attended an event during the week together with Rabbis Josh Goldstein of Shaa`rey Shalom and Chayim Marcus of Congregation Israel. As we waited for the event to begin, Rabbi Marcus asked the 2 of us if we thought Springfield would support a fleishig kosher Chinese restaurant. It would be certainly nice to have such a restaurant in town, and we can only hope that it gets such support, but the track record of kosher establishments in town has been pathetic, except for Bagels Supreme.
The conversation then turned to kosher delis in the area, and when one such was mentioned, I responded that I don’t permit their entry into our building. When Rabbi Goldstein asked me why; I explained that this establishment is Hillul Shabbat, that it violates the Sabbath. Rabbi Goldstein’s response surprised me, he said, “It’s good to see a representative of liberal Judaism take a stand on halakha!”
As you all well know, there are clear differences of interpretation between the movements when it comes to halakha, which begs the question: What is Halakha?
The most common translation is law. In this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tavo, we find the original use of this word: והלכת בדרכיו – And walk in God’s ways (Deuteronomy 28:9).
Moshe is advising the Israelites that they are to “walk in God’s ways.” Sound advice, indeed, but how does the verb holekh – to walk, become halakha – law?
Rather than viewing the phrase “and walk in God’s ways” as good advice, most authorities consider this verse to be one of the 613 commandments, instructing us to follow in the ways of God; meaning, to obey God’s commandments.
However, I found one commentator that gives a slightly different spin to this verse, Rabbi Yosef Albo, 15th C. Spain, (Sefer Ikkarim (essay 3, chapter 29) explains that והלכת בדרכיו – And walk in God’s ways means that we must follow God’s ways of kindness. “Just as God is compassionate, so must you be compassionate…just as God performs acts of kindness, so too you must perform acts of kindness.” He further teaches, paraphrasing the Talmud (Sotah 14a), that this verse commands us to clothe the naked, visit the sick and bury the dead, as well as perform other acts of kindness in our quest to emulate the ways of God.
What a delightful way to understand the concept of halakha! Instead of the minutia of how to keep kosher; Albo emphasizes the importance of extending our hands to help those in need.
Likewise, our Sages taught in Perkei Avot, the Ethics of our Ancestors, 1:2: Ahl sh`loshim d`varim ha`olam o`made – On 3 things the world stands – ahl haTorah – ahl haAhvadoh – on worship – v`ahl gemillut chasadim – on deeds of loving kindness. Indeed, gemillut chasadim—acts of loving kindness—represent one of the three major pillars upon which the world rests.
This week’s Torah portion invites us to “walk in God’s ways,” and as we prepare for the upcoming High Holy Day season, I invite each of you to find ways to engage in acts of gemillut chasadim, and thus, we build a stronger base for our community and our world to stand upon!
Kain y`hee ratzon – ALUASA.