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10/24/2023 05:59:29 PM


Wisdom we can all strive to follow

The late Karl Menninger made this charge:

If people are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered – love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.  Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.  Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you...

10/17/2023 12:53:35 PM


Some thoughts currently in my brain

Psychotherapist Robert Gerzon once compiled a list of human conditions, which he entitled “The Least Favorite Laws of Life.”  Here they are:

Life is suffering. The disasters that actually befall us in life are often ones we never even considered. Money, even lots of money, can only buy things that can be bought. Sometimes our worst fears do come true. Everything changes. Just because we love someone, it does not mean that...Read more...

10/10/2023 02:00:01 PM


May the light come soon to a world in need of God’s eternal presence

Friends, these past few days have been a nightmare come true as we watch in horror the events in Israel. It was comforting to have so many gather on Sunday night in solidarity, and as I write this, I am preparing to travel to Houston for a city-wide gathering. This Friday night, we will continue to recite prayers of hope even as we desire news of Israel’s successful efforts to regain its peace and security.

There are many...

10/03/2023 06:33:02 PM


Israel must live!

Fifty years ago, on October 6, I celebrated my 11th birthday by going to the early Yom Kippur morning service at my temple in Kansas City. This was so I could have the rest of the day to play with my new whirlybird toy. But even at the age of eleven, I knew something was wrong that day. Israel had been surprised by Egypt and Syria and was now fighting for its life. The recent Golda movie points out some of the nuance of this debacle. Even...Read more...

09/26/2023 06:35:20 PM


Chag Sukkot Sameach!

The holiday of Sukkot comes this week to remind us that, despite life's fragility, we should rejoice in our blessings. This holiday is not only about intellectually grasping this concept. We are to construct a booth and, in so doing, physically be reminded of the paradox of enjoying transitory blessings. (Many years ago, in Miami I had to take down my sukkah because of Hurricane Wilma; talk about learning the lesson of life's...Read more...

09/19/2023 06:37:00 PM


Wishing you a good seal in the Book of Life!

I love this poem this time of year, although it also makes me sad.
Wishing you a good seal in the Book of Life!
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I...

09/12/2023 06:38:00 PM


A world where compassion and understanding reign - Shanah Tovah!

I shared a version of this with the congregation last year. The version below is to be printed in this week’s Jewish Herald Voice. Still timely, I believe. Shanah tovah!
Two-Sides of God
Once a couple of years ago I was running late for the airport and, even though it was before 7:30 in the morning, roof repair was being done on my neighbor’s house. One of the drivers had parked in a way that blocked the...Read more...

09/05/2023 06:39:25 PM


Give the world the best you’ve got anyway

The late Karl Menninger, once summed up such advice with this charge:

If people are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered – love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.  Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.  Do good anyway.
Honesty...

08/15/2023 06:30:52 PM


And yet, think of what we have done...

There's a story about Stephen S. Wise, the great social activist of last century, when he once visited China some years before the Second World War.  The only means of transportation in that country then was by rickshaw, and the rickshaws were pulled by old, weak, frail people, who would cough constantly as they dragged their burden.  At first, Rabbi Wise was horrified.  He felt uncomfortable that his transportation should be...Read more...

08/08/2023 06:53:42 PM


True civility is about recognizing the divinity within us all

A Dilemma: Your friend is passionate about a new religious organization she has discovered. The focus of the institution is the charismatic leader, a gifted speaker, and a passionate teacher. When you attend a worship service, you are charmed by the larger-than-life personality of the leader but also concerned about the overt adulation of the person and the clear danger of abuse by such a spiritual figure. When you share this concern with...Read more...

08/08/2023 06:53:42 PM


True civility is about recognizing the divinity within us all

The Man of La Mancha is the story of Don Quixote.  The play features a waitress and prostitute named Aldonza.  When Don Quixote sees her, he refuses to treat her as a prostitute.  Instead, he calls her "my Lady."  He actually gives her a new name, Dulcinea.  Even after she is raped, and Don Quixote finds her hysterical and disheveled, he says compassionately, "My Lady, Dulcinea, Oh, my Lady, my Lady."

"Don't...

07/25/2023 06:51:24 PM


Finding wisdom in books other than the Torah

Many years ago, a well-meaning congregant asked if he could share a comment that he overheard about me. With some trepidation I said yes. He told me he heard someone say, “I like Rabbi Goldberg, but he is always talking about the Torah.” Upon hearing this I replied, “Guilty as charged.” I do love studying and talking about the Torah. But I also enjoy other sources of wisdom, including recent books. One such book is Neil King Jr’s...Read more...

07/18/2023 06:49:06 PM


We cannot change our fate, but we can change our destiny

Many years ago, an English family journeyed to Scotland for a summer holiday.  The mother and father were looking forward to the time away with their young son. But one day, the son wandered off by himself, and he found an abandoned swimming hole. Naturally, he took off his clothes and jumped in.
The boy was immediately attacked by vicious cramps, and he cried out for help as he struggled to stay afloat.  Luckily, a...Read more...

07/11/2023 06:47:19 PM


The secret to opening our hearts is simply to begin

Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen tells the story of a woman she knew who got cancer.  A male psychiatrist who was the woman's longtime running partner began avoiding her, even when she called.  Finally, the woman beat her cancer back into remission.  Shortly afterward, she ran into the psychiatrist, and told him how hurt she was that he hadn't returned her calls.  "I'm sorry," he said, "I simply did not know the right thing to...Read more...

07/04/2023 06:44:48 PM


Jewish time plus Jewish study equals genuine Jewish spirituality

The story is told of a jetliner that abruptly stops after taxing down the tarmac.  It returns to the gate and stays there an hour.  Finally, the plane takes off.  A concerned passenger then asks the flight attendant, "What was the problem?" 

"The pilot was bothered by a noise he heard in the engine," explains the attendant.  The passenger then asks, "How were you able to take care of the problem so...Read more...

06/27/2023 06:42:45 PM


Life is lived in the balance.

On the morning of June 24, 1993, David Gelernter, a professor of computer science at Yale University, opened a package he'd received in the mail. Suddenly it blew up and nearly killed him. Gelernter was the 23rd victim of the Unabomber, the man now identified as Theodore Kaczynski, who died recently. As with his other victims, Gelernter had never even met Kaczynski.

Bleeding profusely, Gelernter managed to...

06/06/2023 11:17:54 AM


The ship sails safely to port

Writing a few years ago in the New Yorker magazine, Adam Gopnik recalled “a great four-funneled ocean liner, the biggest and most luxurious ever built, whose passengers, rich and poor, crowd on board, the whole watched over by a bearded man named Edward John Smith, with the chief designer, Thomas Andrews, along for the maiden voyage, too….the ship sets off from Southampton, sure of itself, unsinkable, until it comes to the ice fields...Read more...

05/30/2023 11:16:11 AM


Studying the teachings of Pirkei Avot

This time of year, it is traditional, as the summer beckons, for Jews to study an ancient tract of soundbites from the rabbis called Pirkei Avot. Such memorable declarations as “If I am not for myself who will be for me, but if I am only for myself what am I?” are found in this collection. During the next few Saturday mornings at our Zoom Torah study session (8:30 a.m.) we will examine some of the profound teachings of Pirkei...Read more...

05/23/2023 11:13:15 AM


Freedom leads to obligation

This week is the holiday of Shavuot (Thursday night at 8 p.m. in the moadon for study and dessert, Friday morning services, including Yizkor, at ten a.m.), which celebrates the giving of Torah at Mount Sinai, fifty days after Passover, the holiday of liberation, begins. Freedom leads to obligation. These days in New York City or The Woodlands I see high school and college graduates sporting their academic robes. It makes me think...Read more...

05/09/2023 11:10:41 AM


Efforts to require The Ten Commandments in Texas' Public School

Last week the State of Texas came closer to requiring the Ten Commandments to be posted in public schools.  According to Senate Bill 1515, public schools in Texas would have to prominently display the Ten Commandments in every classroom starting next school year. The bill now heads to the House for consideration.

On the surface, this seems tame. After all, The Ten Commandments come from the Torah, so...Read more...

05/02/2023 11:08:30 AM


You don’t receive a state. You earn one.

There is an old comedy album my dad used to love to play for us, entitled, “You Don’t Have to Be Jewish.” On the album there is a skit about a Jewish man who is very successful in business. To celebrate he buys himself a yacht as well as a complete captain’s uniform, including a beautiful, peaked cap. He goes to his immigrant parents and announces, in all his garb, that he is a captain. His parents reply, “Son, to your mother...Read more...

04/25/2023 05:33:06 PM


The Land of Israel belongs to us

This week Israel celebrates 75 years. Please check out our next planned CBSW trip to Israel in June 2024.

We know that Israel is going through a lot right now, some of it due to the continuing birth pangs of a relatively new country. We also should appreciate the modern miracle that Israel represents. After two thousand years of no Jewish sovereignty, Israel came into being. Most of the world did not care about Jews or a...Read more...

04/18/2023 03:38:27 PM


Theodor Herzl and the road to 1948

In a little more than a week, Israel will celebrate its 75th birthday. The modern Zionist movement did not begin as a celebration but as an admission of failure. Political emancipation had failed to free the Jews of Western European nations of antisemitism. As the trial of  Alfred Dreyfus showed in late 19th century France, the crowd had not forgotten to chant, “Death to the Jews!” One observer of this hate was...Read more...

04/11/2023 12:37:31 PM


Russia in the 19th Century

I am writing this before Passover, and thinking about a member of our American Jewish community, Evan Gershkovich, wrongfully detained in Russia as a spy when he is simply a journalist (and the son of Jewish emigrants from the USSR to the U.S.) We hope and pray for his freedom.

Jews being mistreated by Russia is sadly nothing new. In the 19th century, Russia tried to rid itself of Jews, either by assimilation, conversion, or...Read more...

04/04/2023 02:22:27 PM


The birth of Reform Judaism

Last week we spoke of the increasing alienation of German Jews from their tradition. Emancipation meant Jews need not be tied to their Jewish community. Enlightenment led to their questioning the foundation of their traditional beliefs. Someone like the poet Heinrich Heine converted to Christianity not out of belief but to make his way in German intellectual society. Into this crisis stepped lay people and later rabbis in Germany who offered...Read more...

03/28/2023 03:46:35 PM


The Jews of France are asked to be "authentically French"

The dawn of modernity and emancipation was a mixed blessing for European Jews. On the one hand, more freedom beckoned. On the other hand, would Jews—given a choice—remain connected to their religious heritage? A political challenge of this period was when Napoleon offered the Jews of France the chance to be full citizens but only if they agreed to live openly as Frenchmen and thus give up their “clannish” ways. Napoleon convened a...Read more...

03/21/2023 07:07:42 PM


The rise of Chassidic Judaism

In our yearlong examination of Jewish history (in honor of CBSW’s 40th birthday) we have reached the rise of Chassidic Judaism. Beginning in the 18th century, this movement began as a charismatic appeal to the spiritual in life. The rabbi was replaced with the rebbe, or tzaddik. Learning was replaced by charisma. The spiritual depression, influenced by economic problems, political persecution, and the collapse of traditional communal...Read more...

03/14/2023 03:49:23 PM


Jewish life in Poland

A few years ago, I visited in Poland the government sponsored Jewish history in Poland museum. I was surprised to discover that of the ten permanent exhibits, only one dealt with Polish antisemitism. The rest celebrated the amazing nexus of Jewish and Polish creativity that existed for centuries. It is easy to think of only Auschwitz when considering Jews in Poland, but this does a disservice to the centuries of Jewish life that began to...Read more...

03/07/2023 04:20:21 PM


Tracing today's Jewish culture to the Expulsion from Spain in 1492

Program Note: Please join yours truly for a quick delve in the history of Jews in the American Civil War, today (March 7) at noon in the Moadon. Feel free to bring a lunch if you like. Also, at 7:30 pm on March 14, I will be teaching a class in the Moadon on the Jewish view of Jesus from a historical perspective. All are welcome!

Today’s topic in our yearlong study of Jewish history is the end of Iberian Jewry....Read more...

02/28/2023 11:20:53 AM


Coming home from Israel

I am writing this short article as I prepare to return home after two wonderful weeks in Israel.  The first half of the trip was spent touring Jewish and Christian and secular Israeli sites with some wonderful people from CBSW and The Woodlands Methodist Church. We were fortunate to be a great group, with a great guide, and terrific weather. There are things I had not seen in years, and I...Read more...

Wed, November 29 2023 16 Kislev 5784