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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Annual Meeting: How We've Shared the past 12 Months Together

News and Views

It is hard to believe we are already looking back over another wonderful year together. The month of June not only is the time for Sinai’s Annual Meeting, but also a great opportunity to reflect on how we’ve shared the past twelve months together. As my third year at Sinai reaches its conclusion, I am grateful to continue to commence and to deepen my relationships with so many of our individuals and families, the people who make our synagogue a true community. Our being togethe...

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Reform Judaism - Evolving Judaism

News and Views

Our Rabbis disagreed about Rome. A conversation captured in the Talmud describes their differences. Rabbi Judah marvels at the Roman markets, bathhouses, and bridges: to him they symbolize the potential of global commerce, the awareness of sanitary health, and the scientific advancement of engineering achievements. His colleague, Rabbi Yossi, is nonplussed by Judah’s words of praise; Yossi remains silent. Not so Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, whose words singe with sarcasm, “The Roma...

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Participation, Patience and Perspective

News and Views

Hillel says: "Do not separate yourself from the public, and Do not believe in yourself until the day of your death, and Do not judge your friends until you arrive at their place." -Pirkei Avot, The Teachings of our Rabbis, 2:4 Our great sage Hillel lived two thousand years ago. During his day, Rome ruled the known world, and our rabbis struggled to balance their Jewish identity with often oppressive political realities. Facing an empire not known for subtlety, Hillel opted for a different pat...

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Radical Ideas and Self Sacrifice: Stone Temple Baptist Church

Sermon

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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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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The Limit Function

Kol Nidrei 5777

             I remember calculus class like it was yesterday.  Al Cavalarro drew two pictures on opposite sides of the blackboard: on the left was a rudimentary frog; on the right was an open door.  Slowly, he scripted three words between these fascinating figures: “The Limit Function”.  “The frog,” Mr. Cavalarro began, “is trying desperately to make its way through the open doorway. ...

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Real Hard Work

Rosh HaShanah 5777

    “Love Easy Money?” asked the front business page headline in the Chicago  Tribune.[1]  “Unsealed Trump University playbook results in free sales lessons,” promised Phil Rosenthal, the article’s author, with tongue planted firmly in cheek.  A series of scathingly sarcastic assessments filled the column, printed the day after a U.S. Judge in San Diego ruled the purported “playbook” of the presidential candidate opened ...

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Preparing for the High Holy Days

Selichot 5777

This Saturday night marks a solemn observance, selichot. The word itself means “forgiveness”, and selichot marks the formal beginning of our introspective season. As we approach the final days preceding Rosh HaShanah, our calendar would have us focus on the work of turning towards our better selves—in Hebrew, teshuvah—that is the focus of our High Holy Day ritual. As Saturday turns to Sunday, we are meant to turn inwards to contemplate the kinds of people we hope to...

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