Over these past few weeks, I have delivered a series of both sermons and Torah study sessions that have put our ancestral patriarchs and matriarchs under a high-powered microscope. The goal of the presentations was to teach how the later rabbinic overlay of interpretive (creative?) commentary tended to glorify them and their attributes significantly beyond what the texts themselves would imply.
While spending Shabbat on Manhattan’s Upper West Side a few weeks ago in order to attend programs relating to the “Zamir at Fifty” celebration, I found myself in the unusual position (a dramatic understatement!) of having to decide where to go to Shabbat morning services. I realize that “shul hopping” is a time-honored sport of that particular neighborhood, and there are plenty of Jews who do it in my neck of the woods, too. But I rarely get to indulge that urge to try something different on a given Shabbat…
Although the dinner celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Zamir Chorale took place last Saturday night, and the gala concert at Carnegie Hall was on the Sunday that followed, I must admit that, as a participant in both, I am having trouble snapping myself back into the here and now. I had such a wonderful time!
By sheer coincidence, people from very different times and circumstances in my life have asked me this past week how it is that I have managed to stay the rabbi of the same synagogue for thirty years. It is more than a little unusual, I do admit. Most rabbis- and clergy in general- tend to move around at least once or twice in their career. Every time I speak about my rabbinic career in Forest Hills, I hasten to add how fortunate both I and my family have been to be so rooted in one place- one very fine community.
Just a few evenings ago, my synagogue in Forest Hills formally installed Hazzan Henry Rosenblum as its new Cantor. Having just concluded a lengthy tenure as the Dean of the H. L. Miller School for Cantorial Music at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, Hazzan Rosenblum is both a friend and a mentor to countless young Hazzanim, and a precious colleague to those who have served as Cantors for many years.
Other than the man whose mistress showed up to greet him but not his wife (ouch!), there seems to be no component of the story of the rescued Chilean miners that is not magical, if not miraculous. It is a beautiful example of the triumph of the human spirit, and of the refusal to fail, to paraphrase the oft quoted phrase of the NASA flight director for Apollo 13.
Just about a week ago, on Shmini Atzeret, many of us read in synagogue the book of Kohelet, known more widely to most as Ecclesiastes. People who know the book tend to regard it as more than a little cynical, and clearly, the author of the book- ascribed by tradition to King Solomon in his old age- had been around the proverbial block more than a few times. There was little that he hadn't seen, and he was sure that what he was yet to see would not be new to him. Ein hadash tahat hashamesh, he famously said- there is nothing new under the sun.
In the early evening of September 16, the day before Yom Kippur, my neighborhood of Forest Hills, Queens, here in the city of New York, was hit by a tornado. No one could remember the last time that had happened, but no one who experienced it this time around- myself very much included- will ever forget it. It was a terrifying experience, and it wreaked extensive damage. Most homes, including my own, had roof damage from falling trees, cars were sliced in half by them, power and cable lines were downed (some still are), and in general, it caused great distress.
This sermon was delivered in my synagogue in Forest Hills on Shabbat Shuvah, September 11, just last week. It was the first time I addressed the proposed construction of the mosque/community center near Ground Zero from the pulpit, and obviously, because it was September 11 and the day after Rosh Hashanah, it carried great emotional weight. I wanted to share it with all of you…
Young Families, Singles Flocking to Upper East Side; ‘The Memory Is In Their Taste Buds’: The Lure of Sephardic Food; Safra Synagogue Rabbi’s Growing Empire; Sephardic And Egalitarian at B’nai Jeshurun; Giving Voice to Sephardic Music.