The Door Marked "Teshuva" ~ Yom Kippur 5778

When you enter the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, you have a choice to enter through one of two doors: a door marked PREJUDICED or a door marked UNPREJUDICED. A door marked PREJUDICED or a door marked UNPREJUDICED. Which door would you choose? What if the doors were marked with the character traits GENEROUS and GREEDY? Which attribute describes you? Which door would you go through? Or what about MERCIFUL and JUDGMENTAL? Which door would you enter? Chances are, you picked the good doo...

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You Don't Believe in God, Do You? ~ Kol Nidre 5778

Harvey in Houston.  Irma on the East Coast.  Maria tearing through Puerto Rico. Flood waters rise unfathomably high, stand a biblical 40 days and 40 nights.  Waters cover the face of the earth.  Earthquakes in Mexico City topple mansions and mountains alike.  An “Act of God”" might be how insurance adjustors describe the devastating natural disasters we have witnessed.  But, as we gather in our sanctuary on Kol Nidre night, we can be neither so dising...

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Defending the Enlightenment ~ Rosh Hashanah 5778

You’re not as smart as you think you are.[i] So read the daunting headline in The Economist.  Think about it: you use zippers all the time, right?  Do you know how one works?  Sit and think and try and explain the actual function of a zipper: having a hard time? Are we as smart as we think we are if we can’t explain the function of objects we use every day?  According to this interview with cognitive scientist Steven Sloman, we really don’t even know the...

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Being Present for the Pain of Others ~ Rosh Hashanah 5778

I was sitting in my college dorm room in October of 2004.  It was Game 4 of the World Series. I watched as the batter hit a comebacker to the mound and the pitcher flipped the ball to first base.  The Boston Red Sox had won the World Series for the first time in 86 years. I sat in shock, unable to respond, unsure of what to do.  For a moment. That moment, quickly, wore off.  I knew exactly what to do.  I knew how to celebrate with my friends around me.  I knew&n...

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On Becoming a Bat/Bar Mitzvah

March 11, 2000. The day I became a Bat Mitzvah. The Torah portion was Pekudei, the very last Torah portion in the book of Exodus. I chanted both my Torah and Haftarah, and then I delivered my very first d’var Torah. My Torah portion was about building the Tabernacle and all of the details needed to set its foundation. That morning I shared with my family and friends that my Bat Mitzvah was the foundation of my Tabernacle, for it was only the beginning of my Jewish journey... I was only ...

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How to be Part of the World Around Us

A couple of weeks ago, I invited a close friend to a Martin Luther King Day event.  The event featured a number of speakers including leaders from the Black Lives Matter movement. “I can’t come with you,” she told me. “Really? Why?” I asked. “Black Lives Matter is anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.” She stated matter-of-factly. An intelligent, educated, professional who dismissed the entire organization because of one part of their platform. She was ...

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Radical Ideas and Self Sacrifice: Stone Temple Baptist Church

Stone Temple Baptist Church in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. / January 16, 2017.       This past week, President Obama delivered his valedictory address here in Chicago, IL. He spoke passionately about the need for all of us, every American citizen, to be engaged in preserving our democracy. In particular, he spoke about “the great gift our founders gave to us,” that “radical idea” that is “the beating heart of our America”: It's ...

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2016 It Wasn't So Bad After All

I don’t know about you, but lately, all I keep hearing and reading is how horrible this year, 2016 has been. Just a week ago, my facebook newsfeed flooded with the following statements:  “Seriously 2016, I’m so done with you. RIP George Michael.”  “2016 you are the worst. We love you George Michael.” This wasn’t the first time I saw these remarks, and it wasn’t the last. Only two days later, when we learned that Carrie Fisher died, I a...

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From Regret to Comfort ~ Yom Kippur 5777

A blackboard stood in a park in Brooklyn with the question: What is your biggest regret? For an entire day, New Yorkers opened up about some of the deepest, most intimate parts of their lives. As the day went on, the blank board quickly filled. “Not saying I love you” “Burning bridges” “Not staying in touch” “Not being a better friend” By the end of the day, the production team who created this project, noticed a common theme among nearly all ...

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The Function of Limits ~ Yom Kippur 5777

The date was July 31st. The setting was Toyota Park, twelve miles southwest of the city.  The last-place Chicago Fire hosted the New York Red Bulls in a soccer game ending in that most unsatisfactory of outcomes: a tie.  Still, the night was a success for the home team.  First, it was “Pride Night”, and a sports franchise celebrating the LGBTQ community is not something we should take for granted.  Furthermore, after the Gay Men’s Chorus sang our national...

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