Israel: Two Categories of Debate

Perspectives

There is a teaching that says that there are two different kinds of arguments, two categories of debate.  The Ethics of our Ancestors, Pirkei Avot, teaches that some debates are for the sake of heaven and other debates are not for the sake of heaven. The rabbis asked, “What does it mean for an argument to be for the sake of heaven?” A debate for the sake of heaven has everlasting value.  It is an argument in which the two sides respect and value each other, where they ...

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Israel: A Journey

Reflections

“Your trip can be just another vacation, or it can be the journey of your life,” writes Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman in his book Israel: A Spiritual Travel Guide. I still remember my first trip to Israel. I was 18 years old, a senior in High School. It was a teen trip through my home syangogue. I still remember the first time I stepped off the bus. That first breath of fresh air. I’d always heard stories of people kissing the ground upon landing in Israel. The Tel Aviv airport...

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Israel's 70th Birthday: A Conversation + A Celebration

News and Views

There is a moment in our lives when we realize our parents aren’t perfect. Those moments may be unsettling, but—for most of us—they are far from tragic. Looking back over teenage years likely filled with some rough spots, we realize that even as we adjusted our conception of our parents, we did so around a remaining pillar of loving relationship. In retrospect, hopefully we also believe those relationships are deeper because, instead of being based on unrealistic expectat...

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My Rabbinic Journey

Installation Reflections

I am full of gratitude this evening, for all of you for being here tonight, for helping to create the Sinai community that we all care about so deeply. At the risk of leaving someone out, I would like to thank a couple of people by name. Rabbi Zinn, for coming and speaking this evening. I have been asked many times what it is like to be a Rabbi and have a brother who is also a Rabbi. I am lucky enough to not know anything else. My only experience as a Rabbi is with a brother who is a Rabb...

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ACT: Advocacy. Education. Philanthropy. Service.

Perspectives

Houston. Florida. Puerto Rico. Northern California. These are just four of the stories of natural disasters bringing destruction and devastation to our neighbors. As these disasters approach, while they are happening and in their aftermath we often ask ourselves, “What can we do?” With each successive event, many of us have asked the community, “What are we doing?” We can experience a wide range of emotions during these times. At times we feel empathy for those su...

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Purim Renewed

Reflections

As a young child, I loved the holiday of Purim. I would dress up, usually as Queen Esther, head to temple, watch the Purim Spiel and win prizes from playing games at the carnival. One year, dressed in a poofy 80s pink dress, I even ended up in the local newspaper! But, likely, between the ages of 9-22, with the exception of one celebration in Israel, I forgot about the holiday. It seemed, after all, to be a children’s holiday. My love for the holiday of Purim returned when I entered ra...

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What’s So Bad about Idolatry?

News and Views

After all, it is idolatry—far more than the wicked and insane Emperor Antiochus IV Epiphanes—that stands as the real villain of our Hanukkah holiday. That same Antiochus was crowned king decades before the Maccabees ever rose up in revolt against him. In fact, many of our ancestors in Jerusalem favored Epiphanies, whose cosmopolitan outlook suited those Jews who wanted to become a greater part of the Hellenic culture that dominated their day. But in 168 B.C., something changed....

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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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