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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....

02.01.2020 President Trump’s “Deal of the Century” is a plan that would vastly improve the daily lives of Palestinians while meeting the security needs of Israel. So why did Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas respond with “A thousand times no!”? My goal this morning is to give you an understanding of what’s in the plan and what the likely impact of its release will be on Israel. Some of what I will share is fact; some is opinion, some mine, some from...

01.25.2020 America was built on the backs of slaves. From 1620 to 1865 nearly 600,000 Africans were enslaved and shipped to America. Their population grew to over 4 million at emancipation in 1865. As we know, blacks didn’t become fully equal citizens with the passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865. Jim Crow laws and other forms of discrimination remained legal until well into the 20thcentury. Blacks today live with the legacy of centuries of slavery and discrimination. The median white household is ten times...

1.18.2020 This week’s parsha starts with the Jewish people enslaved by Pharaoh. Pharaoh loads the people up with cruel and pointless labor, intended to demoralize the people. Paranoid about the growing numbers of Israelites, Pharoah orders all male babies killed. The people were suffering; they cried out to God. The dramatic turning point in the story – one of the most dramatic moments in the entire Torah – is when God calls out to Moses from a burning bush, and Moses answers...

Vayeshev 5780 - Rav Barry Leff Envy is at the heart of this week’s parsha. We’re told, And Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was a son of his old age; and he made him a fine woolen coat (aka “coat of many colors” – the Hebrew “ktonet passim” is a little obscure). How did the brothers respond? And his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, so they hated him, and they could not speak...

Vayetze 5780 – the Holiness of Jacob Rav Barry Leff In the birkat hamazon, the grace after meals, there’s a curious phrase: Kedoshenu kadosh Yakov Our holiness is the holiness of Jacob. Why Jacob? Why not Abraham, the first Jew? Or Moses, the lawgiver? Or King David, author of the sublime psalms? It’s because Jacob’s holiness is a holiness that encapsulates the approach of the Jewish people. An approach to holiness that is rooted on earth but reaches the heavens. That connects heaven and earth, God...

Bereshit 5780 – Science and Creation Sermon by Rav Barrry Leff Bereshit bara El-him et hashamayim v’et ha’aretz, “in beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The Torah tells us that God created the world in six days.  On the first day God said “let there be light” and there was light.  On the second day God created Heaven to separate “the waters above from the waters below.”  On the third day God created dry land and plants.   On the fourth day God created the sun, the...