Sermon: Matot-Mase 5772

July 22nd, 2012 by admin | No Comments | Filed in Sermons

There shall be for you six cities of refuge (Numbers 35:13)

Shabbat Shalom;

            Early Wednesday morning, in response to a news report of hundreds of Syrian refugees crossing in Turkey to seek refuge from the murderous Syrian President Bashar Assad, and due to the escalating crisis, the Syrian military had pulled troops from the Golan Heights to the hot-spots of the revolt; a brigadier general in the Israel Army expressed his concern that it could leave Israel’s border on the Golan with Syria vulnerable to terrorist incursions by Al Queda. In response, my mind was drawn to a  verse in this week’s Torah portion[1] that states:

There shall be for you six cities of refuge (Numbers 35:13)

          שש ערי מקלט תהיינה לכם (במדבר לה:יג)

            Yes, I was going to address this concept until the news broke from Bulgaria and created a nauseous feeling throughout my body. I was going to speak about this concept of the ability to take refuge, the 1st mention in world history of such a protective concept, but that all changed as I came to the realization that instead of the concept of a city of refuge being a positive way to protect those needing such protection, that we live in a world where a city such as Burgas, Bulgaria becomes a refuge to harbor terrorists! That we live in a world that seems incapable of stopping terrorism, or even to make a unified, public statement against it!

            That we live in a country that now reels from a senseless murderous rampage in a movie theater in Aurora, CA.

            That we live in a world in which terrorists can continue to raise their bloody hands against innocent victims. The attack on the Israeli tourist bus at Sarafovo International Airport occurred on the 18th anniversary of the deadly bombing of the Jewish community in Buenos Aires that killed 87. Do you see the horrible irony? We know terrorists plot attacks on anniversaries of prior attacks, but the 18th, Chai – Life – now transformed into death!

            And, as I mentioned last Friday night, we live in a world in which the IOC refuses to grant a moment of silence during the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics, 1 week from today, on the 40th Anniversary of the Munich Olympic massacre of the 11 members of the Israeli delegation.  A moment of silence that would clearly state that we are a world that won’t tolerate the scourge of terrorism!

            Oy, oy, oy!  Our suffering is great, our pain is immense; we feel so helpless  – all we can do at this moment in time is offer a prayer, a prayer written by my colleague Menachen Creditor; there was copy available on the table as you walked in – please join with me:

Prayer in Response to the Terror Attack in Bulgaria

By Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Dear God,

It is just too much. On the eighteenth anniversary of the attack that killed eighty-seven of our brothers and sisters in Buenos Aires, we have lost more of our family, this time in Bulgaria. Again. It is just too much. 

So many people, on their way to enjoy Your world, Adonai… We know there is no sufficient answer, but we call out from the depths of our souls: Why? We cannot absorb the pain. 

Today, we are made aware once more of the fragility of goodness and the urgency of peace. We are one family of many families, God. We are bound together with all families in a common life, in a dream of peace. And on days like this that dream shatters into almost irretrievable shards. We need You. 

We mourn for our murdered sisters and brothers cut down today by evil. May their memories be a blessing, and may their souls be bound up in the bond of Life.

We pray for those injured. Merciful One, grant them the courage to continue their daily living.

We pray for the families of those who died today. Merciful One, we have no words, but we ask You to be a Comforting Presence with them.

We pray for the vigilance and care of emergency responders and medical professionals, tending to those local to the attack. God, guide their hands and hearts.

We pray that our elected leaders respond with wisdom and justice, that this horrible event not hold us back – as the Jewish People and as citizens of the world – from helping each other to overcome the threat of terrorism.

Give us hope that one day terrorism will cease, Adonai. And give us the wisdom to do what is necessary to live in safety and peace until that day. 

May our world be blessed with peace. ALUASA.

[1] Verse & link to Syria came from AIPAC’s Torah Tidbits 5772

Sermon: Shabbat Pinhas, 7/13/12

July 12th, 2012 by admin | No Comments | Filed in Sermons

Who may go out before them (Numbers 27:17)                                          

Shabbat Shalom. In this week’s parasha, Moshe learns of his impending death and asks God to appoint a new leader; a leader that will “go out before them – AHSHARE YEH`TZEH LEEF`NAH`KHEM … (27:17).

            This phrase is usually understood to refer to a military role; however, Rabbi S.R. Hirsch (19th C.) explains that Moshe described a leader willing to devote himself to work for the good of the nation. “[Going out] refers to his ability, apart from military activity, for public activity of every kind…the activity of the shepherd is devoted to the thriving and welfare of the flock.”

            Wow, what an amazing concept, that a leader should be devoted to the thriving and welfare of the people!  Now, wait a second, I know what you are thinking, is the rabbi going to talk about the presidential campaign? No, sorry, not all; rather let me ask you a question: On July 27th, do you plan to watch the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics from London?

            Truth be told, I’m not a big fan of these ceremonies; the only part that I like to see is when the Israeli delegation parades into the stadium.  But this year, I’m not going to watch because of what I consider a grave breach of the responsibility of leadership of the IOC President, Jacques Rogge – his refusal, and the IOC committee’s refusal to devote their activity to the welfare of the entire flock.

            This year will mark the 40th anniversary of the Munich Massacre when 11 members of the Israeli delegation were murdered by Palestinian terrorists. In every successive Summer Games, the IOC has been petitioned for a moment of silence during the Opening Ceremonies.  This year, the governments of Australia, Canada, Germany and the U.S. have also petitioned the IOC for a moment of silence.

            In May, the IOC responded – NO – the IOC staunchly protects what they consider the incursion of politics into the Olympics. President Jacques Rogge has been asked to reconsider; it is highly unlikely that he will do so.

            In the words of David Harris, the Executive Director of the American-Jewish Committee: “The 11 victims in 1972 were Israeli, but the Palestinian terror attack …was an assault on all who came to participate peacefully in the spirit of the Olympics. The IOC refusal to hold a moment of silence during the London games opening ceremony…is simply shameful. How else can we interpret the IOC decision but as political in what is meant to be a non-political movement?”

            Guido Westerwelle, the German Foreign Minister wrote to Rogge: “Holding a moment of silence in memory of the fallen Israeli athletes during the London Olympics will count as a kind, humanitarian gesture, and will send the message that violence and terror do not comply with the Olympic idea.”

            Again, in the words of David Harris:  “The 40th anniversary of that tragedy is a perfect opportunity for the Olympics to properly honor the memory of those innocent Israelis. Is a minute of silence too much to ask, given the tragedy that befell the Israeli contingent and, indeed, the entire Olympic movement?” 

            IMHO, the president of the IOC is not a leader that will “go out before them – AHSHARE YEH`TZEH LEEF`NAH`KHEM.” Therefore, on July 27th, as NBC broadcasts the opening ceremonies, I will not be watching. My eyes, my mind, my heart will recall the images of those murdered 11 Israelis, and that they are still publically ignored by the IOC. After all, did not the then president of the IOC, Avery Bundage state: “The games must go on…”

            A moment of silence would clearly teach that the world must not know such horrors ever again.

            Kain y`hee ratzon – may it so be God’s will & ALUASA.

Sermon: Hukkat 5772 – 6/29/12

July 3rd, 2012 by admin | No Comments | Filed in Sermons

Shabbat Shalom.

In this week’s sedra, Hukkat, we read of the death of Aharon, Moshe’s brother.  However, he was more than Moshe’s brother, he represented the religious leadership of the nation: the 1st Kohain HaGadol – High Priest, and was Moshe’s partner in leading the Israelites from slavery to freedom.

            Like Moshe, Aharon was denied entry to the Promised Land.  In this week’s reading, Aharon, Moshe & Eleazar, Aharon’s son, go off to a mountain top, where Moshe removes the vestments of the High Priest and places them upon Eleazar.  And, then we are told that Aharon breathers his last and dies.

            We are then told that the Israelites mourned Aharon’s death for 30 days before resuming their journey. After all, life must go on.

            Allow me to stretch the concept, not in the case of a death, but I do sense that many of us here this erev Shabbat do feel a sense of mourning because a figure almost tantamount to haKohain haGadol will not be continuing the journey with us after this Shabbat.

            Richy, I know you have emphatically made it clear that you did not want any farewell programs or ceremonies, or in the profound hurt that you must feel, to have to listen to laudatory speeches, effusive with platitudes – we have respected your decision.  Indeed, the laudatory platitudes are evidenced by those simply sitting in the pews.

            However, after 13 years of sharing this pulpit with you, I do have some personal words that I want to share.

            You have been both an Ezer Tov and a chaver to me – a great help and a friend.  I, too, will miss your beautiful voice, your profound knowledge of Judaica and sacred music, your warmth, your compassion, and your sense of humor, both the jokes I can repeat and those that I can’t.

            I will miss the ability to count upon you and rely upon you whenever needed, and your advice and camaraderie. 

            And, of course, the beautiful soprano voice of your dear Andrea will be missed from our choir, and her talents in the temple kitchen.  Plus, you know proud I am of Zoe our new USY president and the Ruah Committee Chair on the USY regional board!

            Yes, that is what I feel in my heart.  However, I also know that the only thing constant in life is change and life goes on, the journey must continue.

            My prayer, my hope, my wish for you and your family is Hatzlacha – Success – Brachot – Blessings, and I say to you, todah rabah.