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          Gut Yontif – gmar hatimah tovah!   When I had heard that day in August of 2015 that Dr. Oliver Sacks had died, I wasn’t surprised.   Six months earlier in a New York Times op-ed he announced that a melanoma in his eye had metastasized to his liver and that he was in the late stages of terminal cancer. I was, nonetheless, profoundly sad and I felt a deep loss.   As the New York Times stated in its obituary for him, Sacks “explored...

Last year while waiting for a connecting flight to Milwaukee from Philadelphia in route back from Israel, I ran into dear friends who were also former congregants of mine.  While catching each other up they shared we with me a terrible dilemma they were facing.   Their young adult son was wreaking havoc on their lives. Despite every kind of therapy and coaching, forbearance and forgiveness, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th chances, more love and compassion than one could imagine, their son continued...

While packing up my home in anticipation for my move from Milwaukee to the Seattle area I listened to podcasts – some covering politics and current affairs, others related to the arts and science. I listened to books on tape. I got to read . . . or rather hear . . . some great books. All to pass away the profound monotony that comes from packing, sealing, and labelling boxes.     I was inspired by the great ideas I heard, taken away to far and distant lands by the prose,...

As a law student at Yale, Senator Cory Booker made a bold decision. He would move into a housing project in a tough neighborhood in Newark. He had grown up in Harrington Park, NJ, a lily-white suburb, where, his father would joke, they were “four raisins in a tub of sweet vanilla ice cream.”   They had a good life in Harrington Park, a life of opportunity. But the roots of the Booker family were in the black community of Newark, and...

I never should have said what I said…but once I did it was too late to take my words back. They took on a life of their own – and a few months later they still haunt me, even after I apologized.   This morning I’d like to tell you a story. It’s a true story, though I’m going to leave out a few details in order to avoid making the same mistake I made earlier.  Some things are best left unsaid.   You...

06.27.2020 This week’s parsha, Korach, is not only the last parsha for which I’m here as your rabbi, it was also the first. Last year I said: Change is hard. Change is necessary. Change is inevitable. When I said those words, I had no idea – none of us did – what kind of changes, and the magnitude of the changes, that we as community, a country, a world, would face together. Last year I talked about how Korach wanted to be a “change agent.” In this...

05.23.2020 53 years ago yesterday on the Jewish calendar, on the 28th day of Iyar 5727, Jerusalem was liberated. That was June 7, 1967 on the secular calendar. For the first time in 1,887 years, the Temple Mount and the Old City of Jerusalem, the holiest place in the world in the Jewish tradition, was under sovereign Jewish control. It’s hard to overstate the importance of Jerusalem in the Jewish tradition. We break a glass at weddings as a reminder of the destruction of...

Vayikra 5780 If I were making a movie like “Oh God!” or “Bruce Almighty” that anthropomorphizes God and gives him a human appearance, I would definitely do one scene that showed God with an apron on and an ecstatic look on His face as he flips a burger on a grill.  Because God must surely love a barbecue.  At least that’s the way it would appear from reading not just this week’s Torah portion, Vayikra, but much of the book of Leviticus that...

03.07.2020 Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey, after you left Egypt—how, undeterred by fear of God, he surprised you on the march, when you were famished and weary, and cut down all the stragglers in your rear. Therefore, when the LORD your God grants you safety from all your enemies around you, in the land that the LORD your God is giving you as a hereditary portion, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven....