A Rabbi's World

10/11/2013 | | Jewish Week | A Rabbi's World

Since its release just a few short weeks ago, the Pew Research Center’s survey and report on the state of American Judaism has stimulated an almost frantic conversation on where we are as a Jewish community, and where we might be headed.

10/04/2013 | | Jewish Week Online Columnist | A Rabbi's World

Woody Allen used to say that telling jokes to an audience that’s drunk or stoned guarantees you nothing more than cheap laughs. Anything will be funny to those people, because they’re “under the influence.”  Their judgment is impaired.

09/23/2013 | | Jewish Week Online Columnist | A Rabbi's World

With the High Holidays in our metaphorical rear view mirror and Sukkot already upon us, the change in atmospheric pressure, both literal and figurative, is very much apparent.  Autumn is in the air. 

09/15/2013 | | Jewish Week Online Columnist | A Rabbi's World

 Of the roughly one thousand rabbis of all denominations who were on a conference call with President Obama shortly before Rosh Hashanah, I would imagine that most- myself included- addressed in a High Holiday sermon the subject that had been a central focus of the call.  It was, of course, Syria, and its recent, horrifying use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians.  It is what is front and center on everyone’s mind these days, obviously not only within the Jewish community.  To ignore it would be to ignore the proverbial eight-hundred-pound gorilla in the living room- or, more accurately, in our synagogues.  

There was never a question in my mind that one of my sermons would have to be focused on the Syrian issue, but like many rabbis, I’m sure, I had two issues of concern. 

The first was that I was reluctant to write it too far in advance.  I still remember how many of us in the rabbinate had our High Holiday sermons completely subverted by the famous handshake of the late Prime Minister Rabin, of blessed memory, and Yassir Arafat, on the South Lawn of the White House announcing the Oslo Accord in September of 1995.  No one had a clue that that was coming, and then, right before Rosh Hashanah, we were all thrown into “re-write mode.”  Before President Obama decided to seek congressional approval for a military response to Syria, it appeared quite likely that an American attack against Syrian targets was imminent.  Why write a sermon that was, as likely as not, destined to become old news?  “We won’t be fooled again,” I thought to myself smugly, channeling The Who.

08/30/2013 | | Jewish Week Online Columnist | A Rabbi's World

I’ve always loved the story in First Kings about Elijah and his triumph over the priests of Baal.  Like so much of the literature of the Early Prophets, this episode reads like an action adventure novel.  The Israelite prophets waged a long and taxing battle against the powerful allure of the indigenous Canaanite cultic life that the Israelites discovered when they conquered the land.  Elijah’s victory was a great moment in that struggle.

Spiritually, the appearance of God to Elijah in a kol d’mammah dakkah– a still, small voice– is particularly rich.  After all the sturm und drang of the story itself, the fact that God’s “voice,” as it were, became audible to Elijah is the quietest of ways, as opposed to via the loudness of the natural events that preceded the revelation, has always been meaningful to me.  God is in the quiet as much as the noise… maybe more.

08/23/2013 | | Jewish Week Correspondent | A Rabbi's World

Since being posted to a United States Marine battalion in Okinawa almost two years ago, my son-in-law, Rabbi Yonatan Warren, a lieutenant in the United States Navy Chaplaincy Corp, has worked hard–- along with my daughter Leora -– to build a community of meaning for the Jewish personnel in Okinawa and its surroundings, as well as for all those men and women who might need his counseling and services.