Sermon – Parshas Vayetzei – 5784

תְּנָה אֶת־נָשַׁי וְאֶת־יְלָדַי אֲשֶׁר עָבַדְתִּי אֹתְךָ בָּהֵן וְאֵלֵכָה כִּי אַתָּה יָדַעְתָּ אֶת־עֲבֹדָתִי אֲשֶׁר עֲבַדְתִּיךָ׃

Give me my wives and my children, for whom I have served you, that I may go; for well you know what services I have rendered you.”

Yaakov has toiled for Lavan for 14 years for his two wives. Hashem has made his efforts successful and Lavan has prospered greatly because of Yaakov. But Yaakov wants to be free to pursue his own fortune and future. He tells his father-in-law that he has served him faithfully and well but it is time to go.

For the past 49 days, Israel has been in a war to accomplish what Yaakov asked for. On October 7th, as we all know, the monsters of Hamas invaded Israel, massacred and raped civilians, and took over 240 hostages. By any measure, Hamas’ attack on Israel was evil, barbaric, and against all law. Israel was the aggrieved victim and took the only action a nation-state could take under the circumstances. They declared war on Hamas and have waged a moral and just war for the past seven weeks.

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Never Forget/Never Surrender

Sermon – Parshas Chayei Sara – 5784

Avraham is faced with the death of his life partner, Sarah. He does what we would all do. He eulogizes her and mourns her. He attempts to acquire a burial place for his beloved wife. He wishes to acquire what we know today as the Mearat Hamachpela, the cave of the Patriarchs. It is offered to him as a gift but he insists on paying cash on the barrel for it so there can be no question of ownership in future generations. He acquires it for the princely sum of 400 silver shekels from Efron the Hittite and buries his wife.

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The Test

This sermon was delivered on Shabbat Parshat Vayeira, 20 Cheshvan 5784, November 4, 2024.

We have a unique circumstance in this week’s Parsha:

וַיְהִי אַחַר הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה וְהָאֱלֹקים נִסָּה אֶת־אַבְרָהָם וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו אַבְרָהָם וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֵּנִי׃

Some time afterward, God put Abraham to the test, saying to him, “Abraham.” He answered, “Here I am.”

This is the one and only time in Torah where we are specifically told that a story is about a test. There are other times where the Torah tells us we are being tested. For example, when the Jews heard the first two commandments directly from G-d, they became terrified. They pleaded with Moshe:

“You speak to us,” they said, “and we will obey; but let not God speak to us, lest we die.”

Moshe answered the people, “Be not afraid; for G-d has come only in order to test you, and in order that the fear of God may be ever with you, so that you do not go astray.”

But, in this week’s Parsha we are told up front that what is about to happen is only a test. It’s almost as if Hashem doesn’t want us to be shocked by his request for a human sacrifice so he tells us right away not to worry, it’s only a test.

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“Get Out”

This sermon was delivered on Shabbas Parshas Lech Lecha 5784 – October 28, 2023.

Hashem tells Avram to “Lech Lecha”, leave your homeland and birthplace. Hashem does not even tell him where he is going. Hashem merely says he is going “to a land which I will show you.” Avram does not question Hashem’s order; he just packs up and leaves.

Our sages tell us that “Maaseh Avot Siman LeBanim,” “the things that happened to our forefathers are a portend for their children.” And so it has been. For millennia, the Jewish people have been told Lech Lecha: get out. Since the destruction of the Second Temple, Jews have been expelled from country after country, always leaving without an idea of where they might be able to rest their heads next. Jews were expelled from (just to name a few):

  • France in 1254
  • England in 1290
  • Spain in 1492
  • Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky in 1862
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The Coin

This article appeared in the December, 2021 issue of The Scroll.

In the last three weeks or so, I have been involved with six different grieving families. It started with the passing of our beloved friend, Jules Stern, and followed quickly from there. My daughter-in-law lost her grandmother. A friend of mine lost his mother. You get the idea. The passings happened in rapid order with almost no time to really absorb each one. 

I don’t really believe I have experienced that much death in such a short time. Each time there were responsibilities to be fulfilled: services, Shiva visits, etc.

But here’s the interesting point. One might think that seeing six families you care about in pain happen in such a short time might have a negative effect. But, during this time I realized something pretty incredible, and that is what I want to share with you this month.

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This article appeared in the November, 2021 issue of The Scroll.

Chanuka is early this year. I am used to celebrating Chanuka in mid-to-late December. This year, it falls at the end of November and carries on into early December. This happens because the Jewish year follows a lunar cycle and is between 10 and 12 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar which is based on a solar cycle. This difference causes Jewish holidays to shift relative to the secular calendar.

Continue reading “Partners”


Note: This article was first published in the October 2021 issue of The Scroll.

From whom do you get your inspiration? Have you ever thought about it?

I have to admit that I am very fortunate. My parents have been huge inspirations for me and I have written in the past about how they inspire me each and every day. Today, I would like to tell you about someone else who is a constant source of inspiration to me. 

Tacked to a cork board near my desk in one of my two offices is a picture. It shows a mature man (I really can’t think of him as old despite his age) standing in front of one of the greatest monuments to hate in the world: the infamous Arbeit Macht Frei sign above the entrance to that great man-made hell known as Auschwitz. You can see him speaking with someone in the shadow of that horrible icon with the camp buildings in the background.

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Note: This article was published in the August/September 2021 issue of The Scroll.

I am writing this article in Boston, MA. Chana and I are here on an abbreviated vacation. Naturally, we have walked the Freedom Trail, visited Paul Revere’s house, seen the great North Church of “One if land, two if by sea” fame, shopped at Faneuil Hall Marketplace (and saw some interesting street shows), etc. You know the drill. Boston is an historical town and I happen to love history. We have done a lot of walking, talking, thinking (not as much eating as you would think, thank G-d), and, overall, have been enjoying an extended 5 day weekend.

Continue reading “Meaning”

Pleasant Surprises

Note: This article appeared in the June 2021 issue of The Scroll.

The best surprises are the pleasant ones. Too many of the surprises I have had over the last year, heck even over the last month, have not been pleasant. I have lost friends to COVID and other maladies, had unexpected problems at work, and so on, and so on. I do not have to go into details here, you all know the story. What I experienced is, I am sure, not all that different from what you have experienced at one time or another in your lives. 

There are even times when it seems like unpleasant surprises come at me in seeming rapid fire. Issues at work, in the community, at the congregation, etc. can come up quickly in succession, and sometimes it feels like all I am doing is reacting to one bullet after another. During times like that, I bear in mind one of my favorite country songs, by Rodney Atkins: “If you’re going through h*ll, keep on going… You might get out before the Devil even knows you’re there.”

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I Feel the Need to Read

This article originally appeared in the May issue of The Scroll.

I don’t know about you, but I love to read. I got that from my mom, of blessed memory. She was a veritable bookworm and I inherited her love of the written word. My fondest memories are of times when I went into our attic, which was big and filled with boxes many of which contained dozens of books. I would gribbleve (that’s a term my mom used to say whenever we rifled through something… don’t ask me where it comes from or what its literal definition is) through dusty boxes and come up with literary gems that would occupy my mind for hours. Mom used to start wondering where I was and she would call my name at the top of her lungs to try and find me. 

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