Mitzvah Weekend: A Weekend On

Winter 2020 Bulletin Article

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others?” In 1994, President Clinton linked Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to a National Day of Service. He signed into law the King Holiday and Service Act. When he did so, he quoted Dr. King, that amongst the greatest guidance and focus of Dr. King’s life was the idea of service. “Everyone can be great because everyone can serve,” he said. Many of our national holidays including Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day and the Fourth of July (all three day weekends) are marked by sales, fireworks, and time with family. At times these observances can be meaningful. Unfortunately, other times these observances lose the original purpose of why those days...

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Behold We are a Stiff-Necked People

Erev Rosh HaShanah 5780

“Welcome to Elberta Michigan, First Settlers John and Caroline Greenwood 1855.” This summer, I went on a 2 week bike trip with a number of high school students, from Olin Sang Ruby Union Institute, the URJ Summer camp in Wisconsin. For two weeks we cycled around the Northern half of Lake Michigan, through Wisconsin, and the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan. We cycled along the picturesque coast, through farmland, and small tourist towns. As we entered each town, there were always the small signs on the side of the road welcoming you to the town; they name the town and honor some individual or group. “Welcome to Charlevoix, Home of the 1992 Boys Cross Country State Champions”. “Welcome to Ludington, Home of the SS Badger”. When you are riding around on a bicycle entering all sorts of small towns, you have extra time to notice the signs, time to...

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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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Embracing Awe

Erev Rosh Hashanah 5779

To watch Rabbi Zinn give his sermon, click here.  A number of years ago, when I was teaching elementary school in Los Angeles,  I led a field trip for my 6th Grade student to Boston.  When we arrived at our hotel, after a long day of travel, after waking up early in the morning, shepherding these students through the chaotic airport, enduring a long cross country flight, struggling to collect our bags and find our way to our hotel, we finally arrived late in the evening, exhausted from our day of travel, ready to go to sleep.  And together we walked into the lobby of our hotel.  We were surprised by the stunningly beautiful old world entrance.  The lobby rose multiple stories, covered in intricately carved dark wood.  All of us stood transfixed for a moment, our eyes drawn to both the massive scale of the room and its minute...

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In Memoriam

Perspectives

One of the most difficult things we do is comforting someone in mourning.  Consoling the bereaved requires personal, thoughtful artistry.  It cannot be done from a distance or delegated to another person. Burying the deceased and comforting the mourners is considered one of the greatest deeds we do.  We have many stories in our tradition that share the helpful ways we can comfort a mourner to be present for their pain.  We also have many stories of the ways, while well intentioned, we can be less helpful.  The story of Job is one of those well intentioned but ultimately harmful stories. After Job deals with unimaginable tragedy, Job’s friends come to his home to try to bring him some sense of comfort.  Instead, their words hurt him, exacerbating his torment, pain and suffering. The story of Ruth and Boaz, can be a much more helpful story in how we bring...

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A Year In Progress

Perspectives

The modern American musical, Rent, famously asks the question, “how do you measure a year?” I have recently been thinking a lot about the transformative experience of a year, how much can change over the course of 12 brief months. Over the last couple of months and the next couple of months, I have marked and will mark a number of meaningful one year anniversaries. It was a year ago in February that I first visited Chicago Sinai Congregation and the city of Chicago. It was a year ago on May 14th that I was Ordained. A couple of days later that I left Los Angeles, my home for almost 10 years. A year ago at the end of June that I moved to Chicago, and a year ago July 5th that I began my work at Chicago Sinai Congregation. As I consider my personal and professional journey this year,...

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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 do not allow their disagreement to mask their humanity.  It is an argument to find some deeper meaning and common ground, not an argument for one side to overpower and control the other. A debate not for the sake of heaven does not have value.  It is an argument where the two sides do not respect each other, where they do not...

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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 Rabbi. That is incredibly special. My family, my mother, step-father, sister, brother, sister-in-law, aunt and nephew who are all here this weekend. The values, ethics and ideals that you embody as a family are the ones that I hope to be able to bring with me in everything I do....

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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 suffering. Other times we feel a sense of helplessness, because of the size and scope of these disasters. Still other times we feel a sense of purpose and energy, knowing that others are in need and we are capable of offering assistance. When approached with any Social Justice problem, we have a number of ways to respond. When faced with disasters as massive and diverse as the floods and fires that have struck our...

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Erev 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 to go out into the streets and cheer and shout. This was a completely new experience for me and for all those people around me. None of us had seen this happen before, and yet we all knew exactly what to do. We knew how to behave. None of us had had this experience, and yet...

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