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05/14/2024 12:22:50 PM

May14

The foundation of what it means to be a responsible, centered person

Mark Twain used to say that when the world came to an end he wanted to be in Cleveland, since everything happens there ten years later than the rest of the world. Poor Cleveland. Of course, if you want to cheat death there is a simpler way. Keeping coming here to synagogue. A major study of church attendance and mortality indicates that people who attend church, synagogue, or their mosque every week live an average of seven years longer than...Read more...

05/07/2024 12:20:18 PM

May7

How lucky we are to have the State of Israel

Before I was at CBSW, I served a congregation in Chicago. We sent our students to a Reform Jewish camp in Wisconsin. The camp had an all-Hebrew unit of seven weeks wherein about eighty Reform Jewish high school students would eat, study, and pray in Hebrew with Israeli counselors. I served as faculty. These students were highly educated and committed Reform Jewish youth.
 
One Shabbat afternoon I met with the students alone, with...Read more...

04/30/2024 05:17:10 PM

Apr30

Earning statehood

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 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 you’re a...Read more...

04/23/2024 11:52:26 AM

Apr23

Hope for redemption

This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends Not with a bang but a whimper.

So according to “The Hollow Men,” by T S Eliot, but recently it is the bang that worries us. A poll recently found that one in seven...Read more...

04/16/2024 11:07:36 AM

Apr16

Remember who the true enemy is

In the second installment of The Hunger Games trilogy, there’s a moment when main character Katniss Everdeen’s mentor Haymitch gives her a piece of advice before she enters the arena to fight for her life: 
You just remember who the enemy is. That’s all.

Katniss is a participant in the Hunger Games, in which different “tributes” are forced to fight one another to the death on camera, for the...Read more...

04/09/2024 05:46:11 PM

Apr9

Placing our troubles in a more spiritual perspective

Dear Friends, I have an announcement to make: I am hereby officially tendering my resignation as an adult. I have decided I would like to accept the responsibilities of a 5-year-old again.

• I want to go to McDonald’s and think that it is a four-star restaurant.

• I want to sail sticks across a fresh mud puddle and make ripples in a pond with rocks.

• I want to think M&M’s are better than money because...Read more...

04/02/2024 09:54:28 AM

Apr2

Imagining: What if?

Imagine if Harry Potter’s parents weren’t murdered by Voldemort. Imagine if there were no trauma that began the whole seven-novel story. Harry would be a normal student at Hogwarts. He would presumably be happy. There would be no story but no tragedy either. 

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if Israel, born in 1948, had never needed to fight for her survival since day one, actually even before she declared herself a...Read more...

03/26/2024 12:43:52 PM

Mar26

Taking the time to notice burning bushes

Ever hear of Situational Awareness? It’s a handy term. Maybe you know it. It is something you need if you are a fighter pilot, a spy, or an Olympic athlete. Captain Sully had it when his quick thinking saved his plane from tragedy. It's something that many of us have sacrificed as we are too preoccupied by our smart phones to even be aware of walking into things.

Loren Rosenberg was struck by a car when attempting to cross a busy...Read more...

03/19/2024 11:46:19 AM

Mar19

What gets your goat?

Some people used to say, “The measure of someone is the size of the thing it takes to get his or her goat.” What do you think? Do you know what it means to get his goat? It refers to the sensitivity of racehorses. According to one historian, racehorses are infamously high-strung. Horse trainers learned many years ago that highly sensitive animals like a stall mate, and a goat is one of the most suitable companions for a racehorse. In...Read more...

03/12/2024 02:46:57 PM

Mar12

The thief is our shadow

The founder of modern Chasidism is known as the Baal Shem Tov (Master of the Good Name). Also known as the Besht. Born in the backwaters of the Carpathian Mountains, in what in the 18th century was part of Poland and is now in Ukraine, the Baal Shem Tov anticipated our own struggles with modernity. At the same time his teachings are an invitation inward, a map that allows us...Read more...

02/27/2024 11:34:57 AM

Feb27

The most wonderful thing I have today that wasn’t available to me before is old age

“It’s an old man dancing like a chicken and singing,” said the teenage girl, laughing uncontrollably as she watched a video in her bedroom. Her father, a professor named Arthur Brooks, poked his head into her room to see what was going on.

In a second, he figured it out. She was watching rock star Mick Jagger, who turned 81 this year, singing The Rolling Stones’ hit “(I Can’t Get No)...Read more...

02/20/2024 11:31:27 AM

Feb20

What can we learn from the past, and what shall we take into the future?

These past couple of years have challenged us in so many ways. Resilience has gone from being a nice attribute of character to a basic need in surviving. Maintaining our core purpose in life, including family, friends and work, and keeping our integrity intact, while facing dramatically changed circumstances, should not have to be managed daily, and yet here we are.

Burnout, or its contemporary cousin, quiet quitting, is endemic...Read more...

02/06/2024 11:17:10 AM

Feb6

Releasing ourselves from mental slavery to unhealthy behaviors

It’s getting warmer, so I’m about to get back on my road bike. Actually, there's a newer word emerging among serious bicyclists. It's stravacide, and the "cide" suffix has the same meaning as it does in words like homicide (death caused by a human), suicide (death caused by oneself), fratricide (death caused by a brother), pesticide (death caused to a pest) and the like. The suffix cide means "the act of killing." Therefore strava-cide is...Read more...

01/23/2024 03:03:29 PM

Jan23

Can we "choose our battles wisely"?

Writing about the role of government, New York Times columnist David Brooks once observed, “One of the odd features of …[some politicians is the]… inability to learn what politics is about. It’s not about winning arguments. It’s about deciding which arguments you are going to have.”
This is a very important observation. So often we argue about something without determining whether or not the...Read more...

01/16/2024 03:03:07 PM

Jan16

Would our former self like our current self?

I am a collector of corporate slogans. In a few words we can learn so much about a particular organization or at least how it likes to think of itself. For instance,

"All the news that's fit to print" -- the New York Times

"Think different" -- Apple Computer

"The happiest place on earth" -- Disneyland.

My personal favorite is (unofficial) Google's: "Don't be evil!"

Why such a slogan for an Internet...Read more...

01/09/2024 03:00:27 PM

Jan9

The values of the Torah are the foundation of what it means to be a responsible, centered person

Mark Twain used to say that when the world came to an end he wanted to be in Cleveland, since everything happens there ten years later than the rest of the world. Poor Cleveland. Of course, if you want to cheat death there is a simpler way. Keeping coming here to synagogue. A major study of church attendance and mortality indicates that people who attend church, synagogue, or their mosque every week live an average of seven years longer than...Read more...

12/05/2023 02:59:09 PM

Dec5

The night certainly feels dark

Chanukah begins soon and the night certainly feels dark. Can we celebrate Chanukah during this horrific war? Where is the miracle of the light? Too much death and suffering. And yet it is precisely when the night is darkest — short days and small moon — when we need a season of light and hope. We can hope that, as the prophet says this week in our portion, God will prevail not by might, not by power, but by spirit. Of course, these days...Read more...

11/28/2023 02:56:14 PM

Nov28

To save one life is to save the entire world

I look forward to sharing my reflections on the current situation in Israel with the congregation this Sunday morning at 9:45 a.m. In the meantime, I wanted to share a teaching from the ancient rabbis about ransoming captives. We studied this in our Saturday morning Zoom class. Please consider attending in the future. This Saturday, we will be looking at the subject of collective punishment in wartime. It ties to the Torah...Read more...

11/21/2023 02:52:28 PM

Nov21

The power of a simple hug

As I write this, I am sitting in the same hotel on a rainy Monday morning in Jerusalem, at a table — actually the same table — where I sat having breakfast in November 2000 during the beginning of the Second Intifada. Fears of terror then. Fears of terror now. Has nothing changed? Back then, the promise of peace with the Palestinian people — so close — had been snatched away by the Palestinian leadership and the failure for peace...Read more...

11/14/2023 02:52:12 PM

Nov14

Comfort and friendship

Tonight, we have our annual The Woodlands Faiths Together Thanksgiving worship. What a blessing it is to live in a community where so many different religions can gather to support one another. Especially during this time of war and tragedy, the comfort and support of friends mean so much. This is why I am traveling to Israel tomorrow for a short trip to offer support to Israelis, especially Reform Jewish laypeople and rabbis. They are...Read more...

11/07/2023 02:50:10 PM

Nov7

God give us strength so we can enjoy peace

One fact that is not to be challenged in the current war is this: Hamas uses children to shield their missiles while Israel uses missiles to protect their children. Some say the situation in the Middle East is quite complicated but on one level I disagree. It is quite simple to diagnose – although not simple to solve. Simply put, a lot of people want to kill Jews in Israel, and if Israel does not act smarter than them, it might just...Read more...

10/31/2023 02:48:23 PM

Oct31

Abraham's dilemma does not conclude with Abraham

Sixty-one years ago, in October 1962, World War III nearly erupted.  As you may remember, when the Soviet Union had placed nuclear missiles in Cuba, the United States threatened to attack if the missiles were not removed.  Indeed, on October 22 of that year, President Kennedy warned on television that war might be imminent.  He also announced a blockade against Cuba, increasing the tension between the United States and the...Read more...

10/24/2023 05:59:29 PM

Oct24

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...Read more...

10/17/2023 12:53:35 PM

Oct17

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

Oct10

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...Read more...

10/03/2023 06:33:02 PM

Oct3

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

Sep26

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

Sep19

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...Read more...

09/12/2023 06:38:00 PM

Sep12

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

Sep5

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...Read more...

Fri, May 24 2024 16 Iyar 5784