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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...

08/15/2023 06:30:52 PM

Aug15

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

Aug8

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

Aug8

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...Read more...

07/25/2023 06:51:24 PM

Jul25

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

Jul18

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

Jul11

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

Jul4

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

Jun27

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...Read more...

06/06/2023 11:17:54 AM

Jun6

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

May30

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

May23

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

May9

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

May2

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...

Wed, February 21 2024 12 Adar I 5784