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12/06/2022 04:14:34 PM


There must be a balance between hope and patience

In many ways the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 168 C.E. should have marked the end of Jewish history. After all, there would be no sovereign state, no Temple, no priesthood, and no power. But the Jewish people thrived in a more spiritual way by inaugurating the era of rabbinic Judaism, away from the fires of Jerusalem. Nevertheless, in 132 to 135 CE the Jews of Judea revolted anew against Rome in what became called the Bar...Read more...

11/29/2022 10:31:35 AM


Judaism lives to fight another day

In our journey through Jewish history, we have focused on the centrality of Jerusalem in the spiritual life of the people. We reach a point, however, where Jerusalem must be abandoned if the Jewish people and Judaism are to continue. The city is under Roman siege. No Jews are allowed to leave because the Jewish zealots want every Jew to die in Jerusalem. Yochanan ben Zakkai must pretend to be dead to be carried out of the city. Once outside...Read more...

11/22/2022 10:33:44 AM


Roman forces destroy Jerusalem and the Temple

Rome was the major superpower in the Western world some two thousand years ago. The corrupt leadership in Jerusalem gave the Romans control over the Judean state in order to solve a family “game of thrones” dilemma. When the Romans replaced the Seleucids as the great power in the region, they granted the Hasmonean king, Hyrcanus II, limited authority under the Roman governor of Damascus. The Jews resented this Roman interference in...Read more...

11/10/2022 02:24:57 PM


Continuing our Journey: The Jews of Judea are also caught up in the power struggles between Egypt and Mesopotamia

In our continued dive into the history of the Jewish people we have reached the historical dark era of the early second temple period.

Little is known about the activities of these years, during the last few centuries of before the common era. We do know that during this period Alexander the Great swept through the Middle East and encouraged a marriage between the local customs and Greek culture and technology.

The...

11/01/2022 11:16:40 AM


Jews mourn their lost home in Judea but choose to stay in Babylon

When the people of Judea – exiled for decades in Babylon – were allowed to return to Judea the typical response was, “Thanks, but we’re good here.” They had become used to Diaspora living. They mourned their lost home, but they chose to stay in their new one, much like the typical definition of a Zionist one hundred years ago: someone who raises money so someone else can move to Palestine.

This choice also meant there...

10/26/2022 03:41:58 PM


Nevertheless a new era began, and eventually a new sovereign period would arrive.

The exile of those from Judea was very different than the earlier exile of the northern Israel tribes. The biggest difference was that many Jews stayed in Judea although it was now controlled by the Babylonians. The trauma was real but the takeover was not complete. The people were able to remain a community and thus unlike in the north they remained with a separate faith and identity.

The prophets changed their message from repent...

10/19/2022 10:05:49 PM


Not by might, nor by power, but by God’s spirit, shall the Jewish nation prevail.

In one of the most severe events in the history of the Jewish people, in 586 BCE, the kingdom of Judea was conquered by the Babylonians. The First Temple was destroyed, the population exiled, and the end of the Jewish people appeared certain. Before being destroyed, Judea had been a vassal state to Babylonia. The question came whether to continue paying tribute or to resort to military power, with the help of God, to end the payments to...Read more...

09/30/2022 03:26:05 PM


When did the individual Hebrew tribal identities become secondary to a common Israelite identity?

In our tour of Jewish history this year we have reached the establishment of the first Jewish state, ca. 3000 years ago. A question: At what point did the United States of America go from a motley collection of colonies to a nation. (The old usage was “The United States of America are….” Only later did it become, “The United States of America is….”). Another question: When did the individual Hebrew tribal identities become...Read more...

09/14/2022 03:52:52 PM


Forty years of wandering

Forty years our ancestors spent in the wilderness and then it was time for them to enter the Promised Land. (CBSW has spent forty years in The Woodlands, but it seems like a much friendlier place than the Sinai desert.) We were supposed to enter the Promised Land much sooner, but the people were not ready for the responsibility. Easier to take the slave out of Egypt than Egypt out of the slave. The spies sent to check out the land could not...Read more...

09/06/2022 02:36:32 PM


Sinai becomes a metaphor

Our journey through Jewish history in honor of CBSW’s 40th anniversary continues with the Covenant at Sinai. Approximately 3,200 years ago our ancestors made an agreement with God. In exchange for a close and supportive relationship with the Creator and Lawgiver, the people agreed to follow God’s commandments. Sadly, and with the notable exception of Hollywood’s Raiders of the Lost Ark – if only it were true – no archeological...Read more...

08/30/2022 02:34:48 PM


" if they had come forth from Egypt"

In the realm of religious history, there is little that compares with the Bible’s rendering of the Israelites' escape from Egyptian slavery. We get an underdog story, an evil and vain villain, and a dramatic Deus ex machina. Beyond a narrative tale, the story echoes the great theme of birth/rebirth: the people pass through a canal on the way to a new life; the birth of the nation not only frees them for a future but cuts them off from their...Read more...

08/23/2022 02:32:42 PM


Themes of the Exodus

As we continue this year exploring pivotal points in Jewish history, the next big turning point in the Torah, following the call to Abraham, is the liberation from slavery. When the Genesis saga, a family story, concludes, we begin the national account of slavery and redemption. Once again, it is impossible to point to concrete proof that the biblical events related in the Book of Exodus occurred as written, just as we do not have Joseph’s...Read more...

08/16/2022 02:29:52 PM


Abraham's journey

As I mentioned last week, this year I will be reflecting in this column on the pivot points of Jewish history, in honor of CBSW turning 40. Last week we began exploring how Abraham came to create a new religion.
Since the Bible is very terse when it comes to explaining the rationale of Abraham, we have the ancient Rabbis of 1500 years ago offering various back-stories. They are centered around the idea that Abraham was special...Read more...

08/09/2022 02:28:08 PM


Reflecting important pivot points in Jewish history

This year my column will reflect important pivot points in Jewish history. As a congregation we are turning 40 this year. As a people we are quite a bit older. Nevertheless, the pivoting of centuries past can offer us perspective on our present and future.
We begin with what might be argued the first Jewish event in history, the call of God to Abraham. Approximately 4500 years ago, the Torah tells us that God told Abraham to...Read more...

08/02/2022 02:26:12 PM


Beginning a new cycle

I am writing these words as I finish my month of sabbatical. Staying away from the community is not easy for me, but I know some quiet time to think and reflect pays itself in dividends of perspective and gratitude, and this is something precious.

As we enter the month of August – and the Hebrew month of Av – we begin to start the cycle anew. School begins again. The holy days beckon. Before the joy of the New Year, however, the...Read more...

07/01/2022 11:43:34 AM


Join Rabbi Goldberg for a study session on Aug. 6

Before I go on sabbatical in July, I wanted to ask that you consider attending an 8 pm study session on August 6 (Saturday night) in the Moadon (in the Social Hall Building) at CBSW. There will not be any food or drink served, as this is a fast day in memory of the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. Many other tragic events occurred on the ninth of Av (Tisha b’Av), such as the...Read more...

06/21/2022 12:50:18 PM


A deeper purpose for sabbaticals

Last year the congregational leadership generously offered me to take this coming month of July as a sabbatical. I graciously accepted even though I don’t like sabbaticals. I enjoy working! Nevertheless, I know some time to read, think, and reflect is important. First, it brings perspective. Second, some deeper study can occur. And third, it prepares one for the day when there will not be any work to do. We rabbis are especially sensitive...Read more...

06/16/2022 09:18:51 AM


Pride Shabbat

This Saturday we will have a minyan service from 9 - 10 am in the sanctuary. I know the schedule changes each week, but this is by design as we are trying to find out what people want for Shabbat observance. The service this week will feature informal singing, prayers, Torah reading, and Torah study. Please consider joining!

Additionally, this Friday night, as I mentioned last week, will be a pride Shabbat as we mark how much the...Read more...

06/07/2022 09:55:21 AM


“Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore!”

Being from Kansas, I have always identified myself with the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz. I grew up watching it on TV and was extremely frightened by the witches. I then loved the musical Wicked and in general, the story continues to enchant me. The Jewish summer camp I attended as staff and faculty is in the small town of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. I was surprised to learn that the world premiere of the film, The Wizard of Oz, was held in the...Read more...

05/31/2022 02:53:22 PM


Celebrating Shavuot

Three years in as your rabbi, I am still enjoying some experiences in person with you for the first time. For instance, this Saturday night, June 4, will be the first in-person-gathering for the holiday of Shavuot. We will meet from 8-9:30 pm in the Moadon (Social Hall Building) for an informal study of the holiday and some delicious desserts. It is one of my favorite holiday activities of the year and I hope it will become one of yours as...Read more...

05/17/2022 04:16:23 PM


Jewish views on abortion and reproductive choice

This year the focus of these articles and our Tuesday Lunch and Learn events has been how the headlines and our ancient tradition meet. Today (Tuesday, May 17) will be the last Lunch and Learn until the fall. We will speak about Jewish views on abortion/reproductive choice. Please join us in the Moadon at noon. Here is a quick view:
The main statement of Rabbinic Judaism on the subject occurs in the Mishnah (Oholot 7:6). It is from ca....Read more...

05/10/2022 11:46:54 AM


The world asks a lot of us: Honest self-reflection

In Akron, Ohio, recently, a driver apparently decided that a "road closed" sign didn't apply to him (or her; news reports did not identify the motorist) and drove around the barriers only to end up stuck in a large patch of freshly poured concrete. Workers were able to extract the car and repair the roadway, but they advised the driver to get the concrete off the wheels and the underside of the car before it hardened. Police responded to the...Read more...

05/05/2022 04:15:37 PM


Israel's birthday

This week we celebrate the 74th birthday of Israel (on May 5). Israel is a place with many challenges but also many enchantments. Its importance to the Jewish people is growing, if not everywhere in the Jewish world, then at least in most places. I love Israel and I relish sharing it with others. This February, please consider joining me and Melanie, and Pastor Ed and Bev Robb of The Woodlands Methodist Church, as we travel together to...Read more...

04/26/2022 10:52:20 AM


Life can be heartbreaking as well as healing

Jon Batiste, the bandleader of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, won five 2022 Grammy Awards recently, more than any other artist, including one for album of the year (for We Are) and others for best American roots performance and song, best music video and best original score for visual media. 

In his acceptance speeches, Batiste said, "God gave us 12 notes [on the musical scale]. It's the same 12 notes that...Read more...

04/19/2022 01:03:28 PM


Our embrace of the past and our anxious awareness of the future

This Friday morning, we will conclude Passover with a festival service and Yizkor prayers. Memory is always associated with the holiday of Passover. Memory and death are part of a holiday in part because it is during holidays when we remember those no longer with us.
Malachy McCourt, the brother of the now more famous Frank, wrote in his own bestselling book, Monk Swimming, of a time he picked up an old man on the road during a...Read more...

04/12/2022 12:20:27 PM


Celebrating Passover

This week we celebrate Pesach, Passover. It will be my first in-person since moving to The Woodlands. How much we took for granted before March 2022! The Passover story reminds us that we should not take for granted many blessings, including freedom. Egypt is not only a political place. It is also a symbol of the enslavements that still bind us: fear, anxiety, and a general tendency toward cynicism. The antidote to such things is belonging to...Read more...

04/05/2022 01:38:41 PM


The question of how to live a good life

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. (The Book of Proverbs, 18:21)
The question of how to live a good life is at the heart of the book of Proverbs, a collection of timeless sayings. (Our final class this year on Proverbs is on April 12.)  One of the themes that runs throughout the book is the challenge of choosing our words wisely, such as the proverbs: "A soft answer...Read more...

03/29/2022 01:14:30 PM


Moving from burnout to hope

Greetings from California.

I am attending the first in-person meeting of Reform rabbis in three years. As with anything connected to the pandemic, the ability to be together as colleagues will never be taken for granted again! A general theme of the convention is helping rabbis deal with the stress these past two years have produced. We are far from the only group with such stress, and our issues are not nearly as bad as those in the...Read more...

03/22/2022 10:28:31 AM


How do we continue to live with faith

Thus the Eternal saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great work that the Eternal did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the Eternal and believed in the Eternal and in his servant Moses. 

The Book of Exodus verses above, especially with the mention of "Egyptians dead on the seashore," show that the slavery in Egypt tragedy did not end slowly but...Read more...

03/15/2022 11:59:19 AM


Why is Purim so important to the Rabbis of old?

Soon it will be the holiday of Purim. We celebrated it early at CBSW due to spring break, but the actual date is Wednesday evening through Thursday. Purim is a strange holiday. It is considered “minor” in that it is not a pilgrimage festival like Passover. The book on which it is based, the Scroll of Esther, was almost omitted from the Jewish Bible. The story itself is problematic. God is never...Read more...

Wed, December 7 2022 13 Kislev 5783