The History of Flags and Chicago Sinai

News and Views

You never know what to expect when you ask a Rabbi a question…. To illustrate, I’ll share a question that was asked of me two years ago. The literal question of the e-mail subject line was, “Can we visit with you?” But the real question was written in the message: “We wish to propose having the flag of Israel in the sanctuary for your consideration and support”. This was not the first time I was asked this question at Chicago Sinai Congregation. During my interviews to become Senior Rabbi, the committee asked me what I imagine they asked all candidates: Would you bring an Israeli flag into the sanctuary to hang next to the American flag? Despite knowing how thorny issues pertaining to powerful symbols can be, I answered honestly: I see flags as political symbols, not Jewish symbols. Because they contain such potential power to divide human beings from...

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Ensuring Freedom for All: A Letter from our Rabbis

As we welcome this anniversary of our nation’s independence, we rightfully celebrate the unique liberties we enjoy in America. At the same time, our Jewish heritage reminds us that our celebrations of liberty should compel us to work for the liberation of all. This July 4th is especially bitter as it arrives amidst horrifying news of squalor and degradation emerging from the detention centers at which the very country we celebrate is confining those who seek the freedoms we enjoy. We have heard horrifying reports from Homestead, FL and Clint, TX, anguishing arguments over the minimal support our government is providing asylum seekers, and continuing coverage of children separated from their families. This should be troubling to all Americans; it is especially disconcerting to our Jewish community. The question we ask ourselves, and which we are asked almost every day is: what can I do to make a difference? The...

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Rabbi Limmer’s Sermon: Video about Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise

Shabbat Services

On Friday, April 5, Rabbi Limmer spoke about Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise. You can view the YouTube video he spoke about here.

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Moral Resistance and Spiritual Authority

Book

Chicago Book Launch of "Moral Resistance and Spiritual Authority" -  Our Jewish Obligation to Social Justice co-written by Rabbi Seth Limmer, Rabbi Shoshanah Conover and Rabbi Edwin Goldberg. To listen to Rabbi Limmer's interview with Jay Shefsky on Chicago Tonight on 12/28/18 click on READ MORE below, and then click here.

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Letter from Rabbi Limmer in Light of Today’s Tragic Events

Today was a painful day. Today, a murderer entered a synagogue, a house of worship—a literal sanctuary from the worries of our world—unleashed the contents of a deadly weapon, and stole the divine gift of human life. As I write these words, I believe at least eight human beings have been murdered at Congregation Tree of Life in Pittsburgh, PA. I am shocked. I am dismayed. I am horrified. I learned today’s awful news while riding on a bus through the Jordan Valley on the road North from the Dead Sea along the Jordan river. “Rabbi, did you hear the news,” asked my friend Pastor Chris Harris of Bright Star Church, adding, “I am so sorry.” Immediately, my other friends on the bus—twelve Pastors from Chicago along with two other church leaders—immediately offered their sympathies. This was moments after two heavily-armed Israeli soldiers walked through our bus to conduct a...

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Stop the Silence

Kol Nidre 5779

To watch Rabbi Limmer give his sermon click here.  Kol Nidre is a night of quiet.  It commences our signature ceremony of introspection: this evening we examine our souls, search out our faults, and begin to change our ways.  For that, we create quiet.  We silence our voices as the music of Kol Nidre rushes over us.  We pause for silent reflection, silent prayer, silent remembrance, silent confession.  We turn down the noise of our physical needs, refraining from food and drink, from activity and exercise.  It will only be with the blast of the shofar tomorrow at nightfall that we break our spell of quietude just moments before we break the fast. Ages ago, Yom Kippur was quite a noisy affair.[i]  Crowds filled the Temple so far before dawn the rooster didn’t even need to crow.  In a public pageant of pomp, sacrifices were staged, blood was sprinkled, communal confessions...

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Enough, Already! Or, For My Sake The World Was Created

Rosh Hashanah Day 5779

To watch Rabbi Limmer give his sermon, click here.  It’s time someone said it: Enough already.  Really, it’s been enough. It’s a hard world out there.  We know. Regardless of which paper gets delivered to your door, which social media feeds you check during the day, or which cable news channel you turn on at night, being awake and attentive is an exhausting experience. So let me say it: Enough already: enough of politics, of war, of tragedy.  We see those every day. But today, we come here to celebrate.  We want a taste of something sweet, of something new, of some renewal in the form of Rosh HaShanah.  We come to the sanctuary this morning to differentiate that brutal world outside from this sacred space we share. Can’t we have just one happy day? Turns out, it’s a hard world in here, too.  So much of what we’ve heard...

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When No Remains Remain

News and Views

“For from Bari shall go forth the Torah, the word of God from Otranto”. In the Middle Ages, this famous play on the prophet’s vision of Jerusalem was so well-known it made its way into the famed Talmudic commentary of Jacob ben Meir, Rabbeinu Tam.  Jews throughout the world knew of the importance of Otranto and Bari—two thriving trading hubs on the heel of Italy’s boot—both as centers of commerce and bastions of Jewish thought.  As far as capitals of Jewish life and learning are measured, Bari and Otranto were to the Byzantine Empire what Chicago and New York are in America.  It was therefore only appropriate to describe these twin cities as the Jerusalem and Zion of their day. However, until recently, I had never heard of either Bari or Otranto.  I knew nothing of the Saletine Peninsula [that Italian “boot heel”], or the modern region called Puglia that...

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Summer Reading!

News and Views

Make your books your companions; let your cases and shelves be your pleasure-grounds and orchards. Bask in their paradise, gather their fruit, pluck their roses, take their spices. —Judah Ibn Tibbon, Tzavaah A few summers ago, I shared my 11th grade tale regarding “summer reading”, and so I won’t regale you with repeated tales at this time as we turn the calendar to June. However, as we Jews are known as “People of the Book”, and as many of us see the summer as a time to catch up—on the sandy shores of Lake Michigan or en route to some sunny destination—on the books that have been gathering dust on our shelves during the busy months of winter and spring, I wanted again to share some recommendations with you all about some wonderful potential additions to your reading list for the summer. Rabbi Akiba: Sage of the Talmud by Barry...

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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 expectations, they grow out of our appreciation for the real character of those we love. Appreciating people for who they really are is the key to developing honest relationships that can endure difficult seasons and stand the tests of time. Jean Piaget was a developmental psychologist who connected our ability to appreciate others for who they are to the final stage of our cognitive development, the “formal operational stage”. How do we get...

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