August 01, 2014   5 Av 5774

 
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From the Rabbi's Desk  

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There is an apocryphal story about Yeshiva University’s unsuccessful attempt to start a crew team.  It seems the coach had trouble convincing the rowers they needed eight rowers and only one coxswain telling everyone else what to do.

We Jews come from a long line of dissenters.  It started with Adam and Eve, who disobeyed God and ate from the Tree of Knowledge.  It continued with Abraham, who convinced the Almighty to spare the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah if there were ten righteous among the inhabitants. Abraham won the argument, but alas…there weren’t ten decent souls to be found!

 Moses had a particularly contentious relationship with God, who quickly became impatient with his “Chosen People” soon after he brought them out of Egypt.  They kvetched about the food and complained bitterly about their 40-year journey in the desert. More than once Moses had to persuade God not to let the Israelites die in the wilderness.

 Even the Talmud, the compendium of Jewish law compiled almost 2,000 years ago, is a record of  ancient rabbis’ arguments about the correct way to practice our faith.  Most Talmudic scholars agree that the wisdom of the Talmud is found in the stream of discussion leading up to the resolution. The debates sharpened the rabbis’ minds as they were forced to think with clarity and precision.

 Jews are not afraid to argue; it is part of our cultural DNA and that’s a good thing. 

So I was shocked when I read that J Street, a left-leaning organization that describes itself as pro-Israel/pro-peace, was not given a seat at the table of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.  The conference, which is composed of 50 American Jewish organizations, was created a half century ago to effectively articulate to the administration the concerns of the American Jewish community, particularly regarding Israel.

J Street is a bit too far to the left for me, but they are supported by an increasing number of younger American Jews who have become impatient with the slow pace of Israel’s negotiations with its
Palestinian neighbors. 
The issue is not whether one agrees with J Street’s positions. Many American Jews are also uncomfortable with some right-wing Zionist organizations.  The question is whether the Conference, which claims to represent American Jews, can abide dissent within its ranks.

 American Jews are a diverse and opinionated group.  We discuss, we disagree, and we often argue…that’s what Jews do!  Having strong opinions is a reflection of our passion and commitment; it means we care about Israel and the future of the Jewish people. 

 The opposite of discord is not harmony, it is disengagement and alienation. And that is a far greater threat to the well-being of our Jewish community.

 Rabbi Robert Goldstein

 

Biography of Rabbi Robert S. Goldstein  

Rabbi Dr. Robert Goldstein was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1975 and was ordained a Rabbi in 1981 at the Hebrew Union College/Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City.  In 1988, Rabbi Goldstein earned a Doctor of Ministry at Andover Newton Theological School in Newton Centre, Massachusetts. His doctoral thesis was entitled, “Life Cycle.Life Crisis: Religious Orgins and Psychological Implications of Three Rites of Passage.”
 
At the core of Rabbi Goldstein's ministry is his attempt to help families and individuals find greater understanding and meaning in the milestone rituals of their lives. By making Jewish ritual accessible through creative adult education, he believes that many more people will discover the relevance of the Jewish path of life.
Throughout his ministry Rabbi Goldstein has sought to bring creativity and vitality to the communities from within and always to serve the emotional and religious needs of his community. This requires a commitment to work beyond the Jewish community, working with others in the broader community to create coalition which attempt to resolve some of the expansive challenges which face our society. With representatives of the Catholic and Protestant communities he continues to participate in an ongoing direct dialogue. In 2001, he was the recipient of the Tikkun Olam Award, and in June 2003 the Rabbi received an honorary doctorate from Merrimack College.

Rabbi Goldstein lives in Andover, Massachusetts with his wife Faith, an elementary school teacher. They have three daughters.

From the Director of Lifelong Learning  

This Spring we’ll have opportunities to learn from wise people, and to discover our personal, internal wisdom.

Dr. Samuel Stern, a professor emeritus from Boston University, has had to postpone his speaking engagement at our Yom HaShoah Holocaust Memorial Shabbat Service (April 25th). We will let you know when he can reschedule. Sam (as he told me he prefers to be called; only his mother was allowed to refer to him as Dr. Stern), his mother and his brother were in the first shipment of German Jews from Nuremberg to Riga, Latvia. They were three of the sixteen people who survived the Holocaust, of the thousand in that transportation. Please join us on April 25thfor an engaging speaker and a meaningful service featuring poetry, prayers, and songs.

Our Rabbi’s Table (Tish) series continues on the first Shabbat morning of the month, with a delicious breakfast and discussion of the Torah portion following Minyan on Saturday morning. I will be leading this month’s Tish.

Please join Hadassah and me on Sunday, April 6th, at 2 pm for a workshop on mindfulness and Jewish meditation.

The Braverman Lecture series kicks off May, with a full weekend of events May 2nd– 4th featuring the Braverman Scholar in Residence, Norma Libman at our Friday nihght service, Rabbi's Table on Saturday and Brunch on Sunday.

And mark your calendars for Sisterhood’s half-day of exploring wholeness and well-being that we are calling “Canyon Emanuel,” on the morning of June 8th.

Rabbi Miriam Philips
mphilips@templeemanuel.net

2013 High Holy Day Sermons  


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