Friday, August 31, 2007

A Taste of Gail's weekly Spirit Builder

A Taste of Gail's weekly Spirit Builder

Gail Nord Ginsburg

Spirit Builder – August 31, 2007
The Torah portion for this week is Ki Tavo, (When you enter).
Instructions and
admonitions to the Children of Israel as they are about the enter the
Land. They take the form of a series of blessings and curses. Truly
blessings, and even more truly horrific curses—they would make your
hair curl to
hear them! The verse I want to focus on is this, "Blessed shall you be
in your
comings and blessed shall you be in your goings." For the full one go to

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Rabbi Reflects on the News

On the News

A. Lance Briggs, Chicago Bears terrific linebacker crashes his $350,000 sports car at 3 am. First tells police it was stolen, (much after the incident), then calls back and says it wasn't and he crashed it ""Within 10 minutes I called back and accepted responsibility for what I did because it was ridiculous in the first place....The first thing I did when I got back here was hug every one of my teammates and tell them I love them because you never know what's going to happen/"
Rabbi Reflects: Many aspects to this story"
1.Responsibility and drunk driving
Last week I mentioned Illinois has new drunk driver rule for first offenders about installing machine in car before you drive. And drinking and driving is shatnez-a forbidden mixture. We don't know if this is the issue, because he fled the scene. He was charged with misdemeanors. After the Bears dumped lineman Tank Johnson first for gun possession then drunk driving, maybe people should learn,
2. Too much money corrupts?
$350,000 for a sports car? Well it is his money. How about Mrs. Hemsley and a $1.4 million tomb.? NYT had story about Great Gatsby like estate on Long Island on 21 acres . Hope of owner was all family live together. Now he died, 81 yer old widow lives in decaying main mansion and all rest of family live in houses on estate and huge estrangement.
Leader of NY society Mrs. Astor died recently, her grandson was suing her son, his father, for neglecting the aged patriarch.
7000 carat diamond (softball size) supposedly, biggest ever found. Who gets to wear it on a ring and say they have world's largest diamond.?
Bears Briggs held out all summer, upset the Bears gave him franchise tag and would only pay him $7 + million for a season.
3. On apologies- Sen. Craig first pleads guilty to the soliciting charge in men's room in airport then denies it and says he falsely confessed because his mind was warped from relentless press ion Idaho looking into his personal life. Ex astronaut Lisa Nowak, who drove cross country to harm other female astronaut over male astronaut will plead temporary insanity. Briggs first blames others and lied to police, then owned up. What is a Jewish apology...
4. New book by Diana West The Death of the Grown Up-how America's arrested development is bringing down Western Civilization- The steadily expanding reach of the youth culture over the last half century has brought Western civilization to the brink of collapse ( NYT review ). Our heroes today are pro athletes who take drug enhancing things (tour de farce-biking, Bonds home runs, ) or train dogs to kill and kill loser (Vick),
Another story-Nashville teachers have new dress code-no dirty or torn clothing, see through blouses, beachwear etc. .

2. Top ranked colleges listed again (I cut it out because mine was tied for #9-U of Chicago) They are partially ranked based on highest percentage EXcluded. Synagogue should be place of highest percentage INcluded. God loves all. Hachnasat orchim-welcome guests.

3.Tom Friedman column on Iraq in NYT Wednesday "When US officers try to explain the challenges of building Iraq, they often talk about three different time pieces they're working with:Washington's were every second we stay is a problem: the Iraq Shiite led government's watch seems to be broken and you have to tap it regularly to get it to work, and the Iraqi Sunni watch awlays wants to go in reverse.
I had an item the other day about Chavez putting back time half an hour in Venezuala.
Ed Feinstein's new book has Hasidic tale about clock of hasid that is unique-it counts towards redemption.

4. Tribune article opens "when Etheopia decided 6 years ago it needed to find a goodwill ambassador to send on the road to spruce up its image as a nation and tourist destination, the government turned to one of its oldest residents and perhaps the only one to be truly world famous, a diminutive bag of bones named Lucy.
Sunday, I had a very interesting experience. I participated in the Ordination service of a Presbyterian Minister. Jews get Ordained by the schools. Protestants by a Church.
I wore two kippot there. One was as the President of the Niles Township Clergy Association and the other was as a Rabbi. The candidate wanted Psalms read in Hebrew. I was even on the official body that recommended his ordination. The service was very moving. He was the only one ordained. They do it one at a time. We do it as a group. All ordained laid their hands on him. We got a handshake from the Chancellor.
I wasn't sure whether I should do that laying of hands since I can't Ordain a Christian minister. But, I did not want to offend. The head guy there suggested I do it, so I went up and stood with them and put one finger on the shoulder of the person who was in front of me who was touching the new minister.
The charge from the presiding minister of the Church to him could have been a fine charge to any Rabbi, with a few words changed.
My version of it would be
1.Teach Torah at every opportunity
2.Even though the Synagogue pays me, I work for God, never forget it.
3.Worry less about pleasing the members, and more about pleasing God
4. Always be prepared to teach Torah
5.Never pass up an opportunity to teach something if you can
6. Keep on learning
7. Be always humble, modest, calm, and strive for holiness.
8. The society waters down our message all the time, we shouldn't.
Our world famous item is not 3.3 million years old like Lucy, and its an old piece of skin, but it is even more than the key to luring tourists, and sprucing up our image-its...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Here's a piece I found on stress busters

What can you do to try and stay on top of the stress so it doesn't affect your health, happiness, or waistline?

Exercise. Amen for endorphins. Believe me, they've helped me many days with my perspective. If you have to work out, then go take a brisk walk and get that blood flowing. It isn't about working out to lose weight -- it's about being healthy and staying sane.

Eat the real stuff. Crappy food (fast, processed, and loaded with sugar) doesn't help your chemical brain and body handle stress. Living food, real food, helps support your mind and body while it's trying to deal with the million things coming its way. Every time I reach for the chocolate, I'm looking to feel something from it. Don't get me wrong -- if it's just a little here and there because I enjoy the taste of it, great. But if I'm using it the minute I feel overwhelmed, then that's when that food is no longer OK to eat. It doesn't make the problem go away, and then I just feel bad about eating the food to pacify myself. Grab green food instead. Put things in your mouth that are going to support your immune function and keep you levelheaded.

Notice. Try not to let the stress overtake you. Recognize the situations that cause the stress and notice them coming your way. You have a better shot at fending off the full effects of the stress when you can anticipate it.

Get it off your chest. Talk to a friend or partner about the stress. Sometimes just getting it off your chest can help unload some of the burden.

Keep your sense of humor. If you do have the chance to talk about it, try to see the irony and humor in the wacky bits. I think someone is dead in the water once they lose their sense of humor.

Stay grateful. My daughter has large lungs and verbal skills she likes to display. Just when I start to wishfully think about her being quiet, I remind myself to be grateful that she can talk to me at all. In almost all of our problems are boatloads of blessings. "Oh, I don't feel like going to the gym." Well, Amen that you have the means and the health to even be able to wrestle with the idea of going to work out. Make a habit of saying thank you. You will notice the sunny spots a lot more often, and not just the gray skies and storms.

Ask, "What's the hurry?" Have some fun. We're always so busy going somewhere, we miss just enjoying the moment. If an opportunity comes your way to do something fun, take it.

Take a deep breath. When you feel the stress getting to you, take a moment. Get away, even if it's just for an hour, to be with yourself and your thoughts. Some people like to take a walk, meditate, lock themselves away in a beautiful bath, or go to church. Find the peace and the silence.

Keep it simple. Simplify where you can. Does Junior really need to be in 78 activities at the age of 5? Do you have to go to every little party or gathering you're invited to?

Turn of the TV. A lot of it is bad news anyway, and it robs us of hours that we could use to be getting other things done. Since everyone complains that they have no time, get some by unplugging from the tube.

Sleep. If you're rested, you have a better shot at handling things. Not to mention, you may not stress out as easily if you have a chance to recover at night.

Drink water. I have said it before: Americans consume 21 percent of their calories through liquid consumption. Hydrate with water. Help you entire system function better just by drinking enough water. Oh, and by the way, if you don't think that weight loss and proper hydration have a relationship, think again. Shift the paradigm on its side -- don't think about exercise and nutritional eating just as something you have to suffer through to get into those jeans. Instead, think of them as armor that will protect you in this crazy world, with all of the bazillion details you deal with every day.

News reflections

Quote: "Martin Buber and Mordechai Kaplan converge when they claim the ultimate task Judaism imposes upon us is to conduct oursleves with loving-kindness in the world."
Rabbi Feinsteins new book

Reflections on the news
The Kibbutz is coming back, not as a socialist entity but as a kind of suburban living. NYT Forward had an editorial of Israel's hidden crisis in the huge number of unworking Haredi fanatic men-cause huge numbers of children to live in poverty and do not serve in the armed forces. One started as socialist, hardworking secular movement, the other fanatic non working. Oh Israel is so interesting.

Chines pollution is so bad marathon runners last week gave up trying to finish. NYT
Rabbi Reflects: should make for an interesting, an unhealthy, Olympics.

New Florida Charter school is Hebrew language immersion. It's being fought on the Costitutional grounds of separation of Church and State. Question is-can you teach Hebrew and no Judaism?
Rabbi Reflcts: Early part of century, and still existing in small numbers, where secular Jewish Yiddish schools. They wee not paid for by tax dollars. In Brooklyn there is an Arabic charter school. Question there is being raised is will it foment terror. Principal was just fired for not protesting comment on jihad.

New Videos on youtube

New video on this week's parasha
Parashat Ki Tovo-Optimistic future depends on "If"JewU 205
New videos on the news
Rabbi Reflects on the news ed.1 Jewu 206
Rabbi Reflects on the news ed.2 Jewu 207

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For GAIL'S website all her spiritbuilders and upcoming classes
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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I helped ordain a minister

Sunday, I had a very interesting experience. I participated in the Ordination service of a Presbyterian Minister. Jews get Ordained by the schools. Protestants by a Church.
I wore two "kippot" there. One was as the President of the Niles Township Clergy Association and the other was as a Rabbi. The candidate wanted Psalms read in Hebrew. I was even on the official body that recommended his ordination. The service was very moving. He was the only one ordained. They do it one at a time. We do it as a group. All ordained laid their hands on him. We got a handshake from the Chancellor.
I wasn't sure whether I should do that laying of hands since I can't Ordain a Christian minister. This ordination business is supposed to be an unbroken link from Rabbi to Rabbi. But, I did not want to offend. The head guy there suggested I do it, so I went up and stood with them and put one finger on the shoulder of the person who was in front of me who was touching the new minister.
The charge from the presiding minister of the Church to him could have been a fine charge to any Rabbi, with a few words changed.
My version of it would be
1.Teach Torah at every opportunity
2.Even though the Synagogue pays me, I work for God, never forget it.
3.Worry less about pleasing the members, and more about pleasing God
4. Always be prepared to teach Torah
5.Never pass up an opportunity to teach something if you can
6. Keep on learning
7. Be always humble, modest, calm, and strive for holiness.
8. The society waters down our message all the time, we shouldn't.

Rabbi Reflects on the news Aug. 28

Reflections on the News
1. Venezuelan dictator wants to move clocks back half an hour to help economy.
Rabbi Reflects: Wish we could move clock back half an hour after something regretful happens. We can't So, we need to be careful and fix whatever happens the best we can.

2. Article in paper about making lists of ten things we do before we die-visit here and there, write a book etc.
Rabbi Reflects: The High Holidays are about assessing where we are, what we've done, repenting, and making a plan of what we want to accomplish and be, spiritually, ethically, religiously before we die.

3. Real Estate section had piece about people of many faiths using religious criteria in home buying.
Rabbi Reflects: For Jews its big enough for two sets for milk and meat b. living room dining room combo for shabbat guests and Pesah sedar for 40 c. backyard space for Sukkah. d. display area for Jewish ritual items and books. Key though is e.d. make sure spiritual quality fills house

Monday, August 27, 2007

Animal Rights and Jewish Law

A congregant asked me to mentor their nephew do offer a a Jewish studies course on line. He wrote this really good paper on Judaism and animal rights.

Alex Martin

Animal Rights and Tza’lar Ba’alei Chayim

Today, people have begun to grow concerned with how humans treat animals, wild and domestic. Most countries have extremely low standards for treatment of animals, and in places that have many laws protecting animals, a lot of the time the laws still allow cruelty to animals, such as the hormones American farmers inject into cattle. Even in places like India, where cows are supposedly holy and respected above all other animals, they are malnourished, dirty, and are allowed to wander through cities, where their diet is mainly garbage, as I have seen in every Indian city I’ve ever been in. In Thailand, there is no animal control. There are an extremely large amount of stray dogs on the streets that are diseased and dangerous. The dogs hang out in packs and chase motorbike drivers, causing them to crash. Furthermore, I have seen a dog cause a car crash for the same reason. Because of low animal control standards in Thailand, diseases are spread from ticks, there are way too many sick and malnourished dogs, and the dogs harm humans.
These situations show how necessary it is to treat animals well. When animals are treated badly and are hungry, they become desperate and will do whatever is necessary to fulfill their needs, regardless of what effect it has on humans. Furthermore, A huge source of our food comes from animals, so like G-d, the sun, the earth, and the universe, and nature, we should respect that which sustains our life. Also, every animal is necessary for a functioning ecosystem and through this connection every living thing relies on another in some way.
Even though a lot of the world still hasn’t caught on, Judaism has actually taken animal rights seriously for a long time. There is a concept in Judaism called Tza’lar Ba’alei Chayim, which means preventing cruel treatment to animals. In the Bible, many heroes are noted for their well treatment of animals. In the Talmud, it is noted that Moses was specifically chosen by G-d because of his skill at caring for animals. People such as Judah Ha-Nasi, was punished for years because he was apathetic to the fear of a calf that was about to be slaughtered.
Animals are subjected to the same standards of Halachah as a human is. For example, an animal is not permitted to work on Shabbat, but should rest as any person would. Also, we are permitted to break Shabbat if it is to help an animal in pain. Deuteronomy expresses that because humans need to eat during work and reap the benefits of working in the fields, farm animals wouldn’t be muzzled and would be allowed to eat as much as they needed while working in the fields. Furthermore, the Torah states that a person must send a mother bird away before taking her eggs because of the distress the bird would feel seeing its young carried away. This is actually a pretty important law because it relates to the importance of a mother and child bond. The Torah says that a person who respects the bond of a mother bird and its young will be rewarded with long life.
In Judaism, vegetarianism seems to be considered ideal. The Torah states that Jews didn’t eat meat until after the great flood, and before G-d supplied us with fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Traditional, meat has been used in Jewish cooking in many places, but Jews have developed many laws for how we slaughter and eat animals. Kosher laws for how we prepare and slaughter food have exempted many kosher butchers and slaughterhouses from USDA regulations because it is so clean.
Judaism has also practiced what is said to be the most human way of slaughtering for centuries. The way a Jew slaughters an animal is through cutting a quick thin artery on the neck, which is painless and causes unconsciousness in two seconds. This is because Halachah states that causing an animal suffering is extremely wrong and that a person should do everything they can to relieve an animal’s suffering.
So, why is this so important for Jews in a religious sense? First off and most importantly, the Torah stresses the importance. Secondly, it fits into the whole Jewish worldview of paying proper respect to all living and nonliving things. A Jew understands that everything on earth is a creation of G-d, therefore everything should be respected at treated in accordance to the fact that it exists under and because of G-d.
This shows an even more important aspect of Judaism, because it reflects a very important Jewish worldview. The way we act in connection to the Torah stresses the fact that our rituals are practical as they are religious. Slaughtering an animal as least cruelly as possible is only religiously just because it is morally just. Jews don’t use religion as a reason for morals, but because of their morals, we’ve realized that conducting ourselves in this sort of way is what makes our every day life holy and sacred.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Friday night Shabbat experience at Reform Temple.

I wrote last week about a prospective convert's email to me about the bad experience first time he went to his local Conservative Synagogue-(not EHNTJC G-d forbid) being screamed at by the first person who spoke to him. Here was his report about the Reform synagogue.

"Friday night Shabbat experience at Reform Temple.
What a night and day difference from last week that I wrote you about.
First off, I was greated at the door by a man and woman wishing me a Good Sabbath. They have volunteer greeters every week. They immediately struck up a conversation with me.
Once inside the Chapel (oh what a beautiful chapel) I took a seat in the back and to the side. I had over 20 people come and introduce themselves to me! Not only did they introduce themselves, but they wanted to know about me and I had lots of conversations with them. The Chapel was packed and they had to bring in more chairs.
The service was also wonderful. Afterward there was an Oneg where I met another 10 or so people. I just can't get over how nice everyone was. I introduced myself to the Rabbi, who was quite interested in meeting me. He told me that he was sending me tickets to the High Holidays, for free, and he really wanted me to come to that.
I'm thrilled and reinvigorated. What I relief! I had been distraught for a week. I've spent so much time studying and learning this past year. I had thoughts that I had wasted my time. What a difference a week makes! I am more determined than ever now to convert.
I do plan on giving the Conservative Synagogue another try. I will let you know how my second try with the Conservative Synagogue goes."

Rabbi Reflects on the News Sunday

Rabbi Reflects on the News Sunday
1. Northwestern is providing water bottles to incoming students to wean them off the environmentally hazordous purchased plastic bottled water.
Rabbi Reflects;good move. Must have learned it from EHNTJC which now has the cutest water bottles for sale $10 with our website, Hebrew initials and hands holding up the world. Help Save the universe-buy our water bottle. As someone said, If you think you are too small to make a difference, ever been in bed with a misquito? Every little bit helps.
2. Tribune Real Estate Section today has big story about religious considerations in buying homes. It mentions severaql cultures. It states that Orthodox Jews want homes near their synagogues, large sinks, dual appliances (meat and milk) large dining/living room combos for Shabos and Holiday meals, and Shabbat clocks. (They forgot backyard for Sukkah.)
Rabbi Reflects-Judaism is Learning, Living and Loving Jewishly. This is part of living Jewishly. Jewish home should not only display Judaica, they should have living Judaism. My Yom Kippur day sermon explores this.

Tribune editorial endorsing nuclear power plants as part of the needed mix. Great strides in efficiency and safety have been made. It states "with energy consumption and concerns about global warming rising, more nuclear power is a must." Plus story that 1% Chinese cities have safely breathable air now.
Rabbi Reflects-we must stop fossil fuel pollution, and the Arab, Venezulean and Russian domination of the fossil fuel world.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

More reflections on the news

More My Take on the News from the New York Times

1. A NYT story this week about hotel alarm wake up calls problems-calls don't come, alarm clocks too complicated. Causes big problems for business travelers. Hotels are changing their method.

Rabbi Reflects: The SHOFAR Ram's Horn is our wake up call (as Maimonides/Rambam states) Miss it and big problems

2.A NYT piece by Retired economic prof. Rich op ed piece arguing to keep teaching economics simple. "Just as a few simple sentence patterns enable small children to express an amazing variety of thoughts, a few basic principles do much of the heavy lifting. If someone focuses on only these principles, and applies them repeatedly drawn from familiar contexts, they can be mastered easily in a single semester." Great Talmudic story about Hillel tbeing asked to teach judaism standing on one foot. Guiness world record of balancing on one foot Sri lanka set in 1997 is 76 hours and 40 minmutes. Can teach alot of torah but we still talk of a few principles: For Shoftim portion we focus on
TZEDEK TZEDEK TIRDOF -Justice Justice shall you pirsue

3.News stories a. Google Maps now can show your house and backyard. b. New satellites can see underground to find tunnels and bunkers etc. privacy?
Rabbi reflects: God can see anywhere-even into our hearts

4. Tiger Woods blew a few shots at Major this week. "I just did some serious yelling at myself, just to get back into what i do.Put it where I need to put it and bear down."
Rabbi Reflects: High Holidays we do some serious yelling at ourselves to bear down next year

5.Oxford philosopher Nck Bostrom in NYT this week interview believes 20% chance we are inside some computer simulation and aren't real. Computers mid century we create will be able to do that. Still have choice in that simulation. Why then behave? You can still desire to live as long in thius virtual world.
Maybe that means following traditional moral principles, if you think the posthuman designers share those morals, and would reward you for being a good person.
Rabbi Reflects: On the High Holidays,the Mahzor sets upm,a drama of simulation game where we are being judged for our lives.

Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg synagogue my site my blog conversion program
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My Take on the News

My Take on the News
1.Personal effects might lead to accidental legacy-Chicago Tribune
Amy Dickinson | Ask Amy:
August 25, 2007
Dear Amy: Recently I was cleaning up around my place when it occurred to me that I have certain personal belongings that I might not readily like others to know that I have.

I realize that life is fleeting, that death might happen at any moment. I could get hit by a car or struck by lightning. What happens when someone dies unexpectedly and those belongings that one would normally hide become discovered (e.g. that stack of Hustlers; that love letter to someone who isn't your spouse in the desk; that baggy of cocaine hidden in the bookshelf)?How do these discoveries by those family, friends and significant others clearing your personal belongings after you are gone change the way they think of you or are going to remember you?

What steps can be taken by the living to minimize this, beyond the obvious one to not possess anything that one might think would upset those who may discover it later?

Rabbi Reflects-don't have things that you are ashmaned people might find. The "real" you and the presented you should be as "close" as possible. The High Holidays are an effort to move the two closer together.

2. New law Illinois first time drunk driving offenders now have to install machines to breathe into before car will start.
In 2006, Illinois recorded almost 500 deaths from alcohol-related crashes, according to information from the Illinois Department of Transportation. Supporters of the new law hope it will decrease that number, citing a 12 percent drop in alcohol-related fatalities in New Mexico after that state implemented a similar law in 2005.

Rabbi Reflects-parasha Ki Teze has many example of improper mixtures, ie; ox and ass plowing together, mixing linen and wool, -here is a contemporary forbidden mixture-drinking and driving

3. Tribune editorial declared a unilateral end of summer because we are all sick of the constant rain, heat and humidity. Ok, I declare a unilateral end of hate, intolerance, injustice.

4. Mrs Crick died this week. She was the wife of the co-discoverer of DNA> She was the one who drew the famous drawing of DNA that we know. DNA proved-we are all alike.
One ADAM concept=-the Bible begins with one guy so, as our ancient Sages taught, no one can say, my father is greater than your father.

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Video comments

Rabbi, i've watched alot of your videos and i'd like to comment on how much clarity there is in the message you're trying to get across. You've got this intense Jewish serenity(intense and serenity may sound incompatible, but anyways).
I'll keep watching your videos and hopefully start asking good questions on them as well. Keep it up, you're doing a fantastic job.

I want to say many many many thanks. (Wounldn't that be tov tada, tada, tada?) Your videos are a love of work and great pleasure us who watch

That was a very nice video Rabbi, I like your videos they are very informative and educational.

Main Synagogue site WWW.EHNT.ORG
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For GAIL'S website all her spiritbuilders and upcoming classes
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Friday, August 24, 2007

SHABBAT TREAT VIDEO-Beatrice 1 Shabbat Dog Blessing JewU 204

NEW VIDEO Beatrice 1 Shabbat Dog Blessing JewU 204

Chicago Jewish Conversion -Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg

A very interesting development in our conversion to Judaism program which serves Chicagoland. An Hispanic fellow, watching my youtube videos, who lives two hours from North Suburbs of Chicago contacted me and told me his family have been Anosim-Jews who were forced to convert to Christinaity in Spain 1992 during the Inquisition have remained loyal Jews since. He has a very large family and is communication with such people all over the world. He is converting with us and then wants to study for the rabbinate. He says these people really need and deserved to be served. We are so proud of him. He sits with a large screen tv and hooks it up to my youtube videos and simultaneously translated them into Spanish for his family. Yasher Coah

Another fellow, an African American is devoting himself to working on Black-Jewish relations. He has converted with our Jewish Conversion Chicago program and also wants to study for the rabbinate and serve the African American community. Yasher Coah &
cybershull +blog -search JewU

CNN's anti Jewish pro Moslem bias


"God's Jewish Warriors" vs. "God's Muslim Warriors"

"God's Muslim Warriors" provided an informative look at various segments of the Muslim world, how they view and practice their faith, their thoughts on women's rights and the role of religion in government, how some Muslims seek to bring about the return of the Caliphate - a Muslim theocracy - and how some Muslims are inspired to commit violence to further their religious goals. There were several Muslims interviewed who spoke out against the Islamist extremism and the danger it poses to moderate Muslims and to the West, and Amanpour did mention that these people now had to have constant protection against attacks from extremists.

The 3-part series,"God's Warriors," is ostensibly about the growing number of people around the world who center their life around their religious beliefs and how they want religious law to be the law of the land. Amanpour introduced the series with:

"Over the last 30 years, each faith has exploded into a powerful political force, with an army of followers who share a deep dissatisfaction with modern, secular society and a fierce determination to bring God and religion back into daily life, back to the seat of power. We call them 'God's Warriors.' "

Since there are very few Jews who are known to want to create a modern day theocracy based on Jewish law, one would assume that would leave Amanpour with a lot of time to explore the beliefs, practices and life stories of devout Jews. Or perhaps to discuss the tensions between religious and secular Jews in Israel regarding religious influence on marriages, divorces and Sabbath activities. One would assume wrong!

What is most striking about "God's Muslim Warriors" vs. "God's Jewish Warriors," is the different way Amanpour approaches the two programs. In the "Jewish Warriors", Amanpour focuses primarily on:

* blaming Israeli West Bank settlements (and their supporters, called "Jewish warriors" repeatedly by Amanpour) for the violence and discord in the Middle East and even for "inflaming Muslims worldwide," despite the fact that organized Muslim terror attacks against Jews (and moderate Muslims) began in 1920, long before there were any settlements in the West Bank. Long segments are devoted to discussing the settlements' alleged illegality under international law and how Jews who support or live in the settlements are allegedly defying international law. Though authorities such as former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Meir Shamgar and other international legal experts consider them legal, there is no alternative legal expert cited.

* focusing on tiny fringe groups and the few individual Jews who pursued terrorism. They are so few in number that Amanpour had to do stories on people who were involved in terror long ago and have since renounced violence or on individuals who planned an unsuccessful attack. Since these few Jewish terrorists are so widely condemned by the settlers themselves and Jews worldwide, one wonders why she felt this topic was relevant.

* presenting American pro-Israel activists as allegedly all-powerful scheming bullies, distorting U.S. foreign policy contrary to American interests and ganging up on anyone who criticizes Israel.

Meanwhile, in "God's Muslim Warriors," even though Muslim extremists number in the millions and there have been thousands of terror attacks by Muslims across the globe, Amanpour provides very little context on the scope of the violence. A few terrorist attacks are highlighted, similar to the few terrorist attacks that were highlighted in Part One.

She has playful discussions with spokesmen of Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. She points out that they are striving to create a theocracy, but says they are non-violent and makes no mention that they are deeply anti-Semitic, anti-American and support terror attacks on Israelis and violence against Americans in Iraq.

In Part One, Amanpour refers again and again -- 20 times -- to "Jewish warriors," clearly a pejorative term in the context of the series. The effect is striking, even jarring, as viewers are reminded time and again that there are distinctly Jewish warriors who present a threat to the world -- expansionists whose "settlements have inflamed much of the Muslim world." (Never mind that among those labeled a "Jewish warrior" is Chanan Porat, a religious Jew residing in the West Bank who explicitly states that "religious belief as a fuel for violence is wrong.")

Amanpour also freely uses the term "warriors" in Part Two of the series, but with a difference; she much less frequently directly pairs "warrior" with "Muslim." Thus, while Amanpour harps on "Jewish warriors," repeating the phrase 20 times in the first episode, she refers to "Muslim warriors" just four times in the second program. Why does she utter the words "Jewish warrior" five times more often than "Muslim warrior" when violent Muslims have inflicted thousands of times more death and destruction in the world than violent Jews have?

Amanpour devotes two segments (one each) to two young Muslim women who are not described as being involved in anything political, who simply speak about why they wear a head covering, and how Islam enriches their lives. There is no such segment in the Jewish episode.

What would have been an appropriate counter-part to American Muslim Rehan Seyam speaking about how her hijab is a public statement of her faith and her belief in the importance of modesty? Perhaps an American Jewish man talking about why he wears a kippah and how Judaism enriches his life. Or a Jewish woman who wears modest clothing, covers her hair and finds comfort and spiritual meaning in her religion.

And in contrast to the huge focus on the so-called "Israel Lobby" in "God's Jewish Warriors," in "God's Muslim Warriors," Amanpour doesn't mention the powerful Oil Lobby operating in America and advocating for Muslim, Arab and Palestinian perspectives. She doesn't highlight any of the numerous activist Muslim/Arab organizations that lobby and propagandize to influence American public opinion and foreign policy.

Related to this is the minimal discussion or outright omission of several key factors in the rise of Islamist extremism and increased support for terror:

- thousands of Saudi-funded mosques and schools built worldwide, including many in the U.S., that spread an extreme supremacist form of Islam. Saudi Arabia has also funded extremist training for those who want to work as Muslim chaplains in the U.S. military and the U.S. prison system.

- Saudi-funded Middle East Studies chairs and departments in universities all over the world, including the U.S.

- Saudi-funded organizations whose goal is to provide American elementary, middle and high schools with slanted curricula and books about the history of the Middle East and Islam

- Saudi-funded student activists and organizations that indoctrinate and propagandize against Israel, the U.S. and for extreme Islamist causes.

- extremist websites, online videos, and satellite TV networks that foster Muslim supremacist values and support for terrorism among Muslims across the globe.

Instead of examining any of the above reasons for the spread of Muslim extremism, Amanpour includes two highly questionable explanations: reactions to alleged Israeli brutality and feelings of hopelessness. She commendably does mention repressive Arab/Muslim governments as a factor, but doesn't note how these same governments often intentionally use propaganda to fan the flames of hatred for Israel and the West to deflect attention away from their repressive regimes.


While overall, "God's Muslim Warriors" is informative and covers a number of vital topics, there are several flaws:

* Amanpour's description of the Muslim Brotherhood as non-violent:

"But the group has now officially renounced violence and today's Supreme Guide claims it was never condoned."

But this isn't true. According to translations of articles by MEMRI, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Muhammad Mahdi Othman Akef stated "...the bombings in Palestine and Iraq are a [religious] obligation. This is because these two countries are occupied countries, and the occupier must be expelled in every way possible. Thus, the [Muslim Brotherhood] movement supports martyrdom operations in Palestine and Iraq in order to expel the Zionists and the Americans." "If the gates of Jihad in Palestine open before the [Muslim] Brotherhood, we will not hesitate a single moment, and we will be with them on the battlefield." "In Israel, there should be no [differentiation between] a civilian and a member of the military. All are enemies of the Arab homeland and of Islam. They are occupiers and have no right to one handsbreadth of the land of Palestine." "We have no relations with the U.S. It is a Satan that abuses the region, lacking all morality and law." (Memri Special Dispatch Series #655, Feb 4, 2004) Akef has also stated that the Holocaust is "a myth." (BBC News, Dec 23, 2005)

* Lack of examination of how widespread support for terrorism is in the Muslim world (other than a mention of one poll about American Muslims). Amanpour says, "Muslims, like people everywhere, abhor terrorism. The small minority who resort to violence is symptomatic of something many of us have failed to understand."

While it would certainly be accurate and fair to say that not all Muslims support terror, it is questionable to imply that all Muslims "abhor terrorism" and a small number are compelled to "resort" to violence. According to the Pew Global Attitudes Project poll published on July 24, 2007, the percentage of those surveyed in predominantly Muslim countries who agreed that "suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets are never justified" ranged from only 6% (Palestinian Authority) to 77% (Indonesia). That leaves a significant number of Muslims who don't appear to "abhor terrorism."

After all, most of the winning candidates in the most recent Palestinian legislative election are members of Hamas, a terrorist organization. And who can forget the Palestinians who celebrated in the streets when America was attacked on 9/11? Amanpour herself notes that if Egypt were to hold elections today, the Muslim Brotherhood would "win, hands down". And the Brotherhood praises the terrorists murdering Jews in Israel.

* There was also a lack of appropriate follow-up to some inaccurate or highly questionable statements, such as that made by Taji Mustafa, spokesperson for Hizb Ut-Tahrir, an Islamist organization:

"Under Islamic rule, under the caliphate, there was stability even in Palestine. Jews, Christians, Muslims lived in harmony under an Islamic political order."

Under Islamic rule, non-Muslims lived a life of severe discrimination, humiliation and fear. While some years were more peaceful than others, violence against Jews was a constant thread in the fabric of life under Islamic rule. Discrimination included being forced to wear a special tag on their clothing identifying them as non-Muslims, paying a special tax required of non-Muslims, deferring to Muslims in all situations, such as moving off the sidewalk into the dung-filled street if a Muslim approached where they were walking. In court, the testimony of a Muslim would always be accepted over that of a non-Muslim. For more info and compelling accounts of the hardships suffered by Jews under Muslim rule, click here.

For CAMERA's initial analysis of "God's Jewish Warriors", click here.
For a transcript of "God's Jewish Warriors," click here.
For a transcript of "God's Muslim Warriors," click here.

Continue to check CAMERA's Web site for updates on this issue.

With thanks,

Lee Green
Director, National Letter-Writing Group

new video on youtube

Status of Jewish children JewU 203

Gail's great spiritbuilder on Ki Teze

Spirit Builder for August 24, 2007
"If, along the road, you chance upon a bird's nest, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, and the mother sitting upon the young, or on the eggs, do not take the mother with the young. Let the mother go, and take only the young, in order that you may fare well and have a long life." (Deuteronomy 22:6-7)
This coming week in my World Religions class at Oakton Community College, I will begin teaching a unit on the religious beliefs and traditions of indigenous peoples, focusing on the Lakota Plains tribes.
Indigenous peoples generally have quite a different understanding of, and relationship to, wild creatures. When Lakota hunters needed to kill an animal so their tribe could eat, they made an offering to animal, as well as giving thanks to the animal for sacrificing its life. The respect and love shown for non-human beings was deep and substantial. Joseph Campbell, the late scholar of mythology, pointed out in The Power of Myth that hunter-gatherers often viewed animals as being superior to human beings.
Our hierarchy of life puts human beings squarely at the top. This view is clearly presented in the Torah. Psalm 8 says "You made him (humans) a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas."
Yet Jewish tradition does teach respect for the creatures. The bird's nest commandment tells us to spare the mother. While you could read this to mean that we want her to lay more eggs for us to eat, many commentators have pointed instead to the feelings of the mother bird. The laws of Kashrut can be understood to some degree as displaying an ethical approach toward eating.
Our ancestors lived in much closer contact with the natural world than do we. They were close observers of nature because their lives depended on it. Whether they saw themselves in relation to animals as hierarchically above or below, they did respect and draw spiritual meaning from their understanding of non-human creation.
In this age we are much more distant from the source of our food. Few if any of us hunt for meat or gather eggs from wild birds for food. We go down to the grocery store and buy a pound of hamburger from a meat processing plant or a dozen eggs laid by chickens wholive several states away. How then can we show respect to those creatures who provide us with sustenance?
One option is envisioning the laws of kashrut in a new way, keeping the old, while adding dimensions of ethical eating to the mix. For more information on this idea, check out this website:
Shabbat shalom!
Gail Ginsburg

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Jews Not For Jewish Videos

I received several requests from video viewers to rerspond to the Jews- for- Jesus/Messianic Jewish" videos on youtube. Here are my first 3 new videos on it.
Jews Not for Jesus 1 JewU 200
Jews Not for Jesus 2 JewU 201
Jews Not for Jesus 3 JewU 202

Cnn and 3 segments

What do you think about the CNN series on terror?
One Rabbi wrote
"I see it as an attempt to say that all three religions produce
and terrorists, and one may not be singled out from the rest. Typical
CNN, in my opinion. The Muslim segment is IN BETWEEN the
Jewish and
Christian segments, lest we think they put the most egregious offenders
first or last. Something that won't be shown are the reactions from the
mainstream in each religion toward the extremists. The overwhelming
of Jews publicly decry Jewish terrorism, and the same holds for
who generally wish those few extremists who have bombed abortion
clinics rot
in jail for life. But there could never be a report about how the
of Muslims publicly denounce any and all terrorism Muslim terrorism.
Carter said last night that while the actions of terrorists (Muslim and
others, he added) must be denounced, there wouldn't be any if it
weren't for
the settlements. Of course Amanpour could have taken the opportunity to
question why there is still terrorism emanating from Gaza where there
are no
Jewish settlements any more, but why make things difficult for Mr.
Muslim extremists behead while shouting Allahu
Akbar. Then we could compare the beheadings done by Jewish extremists
Christian extremists. None"

Islam video ok'd

My new video on Islam was given tis endorsement by a Moslem. Guess I was fair.

"I thought that your video on Islam and Judaism was very good. I hope that you can do more video on Islam & Judaism so that more people know what is the real situation between Islam & Judaism. Muslims and Jews may differ or disagree on politics but that should not be the reason to hate each other"

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

New Videos on youtube

Asceticism, Puritanism, Enjoying Life Jew U 199
Islam and Judaism Jew U 198

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Response to sad story

Nice seeing you on Shabbas, great sermon.

re: the sad story of the guy in conversion class, it
was nice of you to raise the point to sensitize the
congregation to be nice to guests. The Rabbi in the
city where he attended should be notified that his
congregation should be put on notice to be especially
nice to guests.

But, in the interest of full disclosure you might want
to let prospective converts know that, when it comes
to intellectual and ritual issues, as every kid who
sat at a Jewish dinner table knows, Jewish
conversation can be a contact sport. I guess that's
how we show our love for each other. No surprise that
Freud was Jewish and that we're all a little neurotic.

Recently, I sent out an e-mail with a "liberal" bent
to friends at my shull. The Rabbi responded by
warning me to be prepared to be heckled at kiddush the
next Shabbas. I responded by asking, "is there any
other reason to stick around for kiddush".

I just read a beautiful anecdote in the book, "A
Bintel Brief", a collection of letters from the first
half of the twentieth century from the advice column
in the Daily Forward. Seems that there was an
apikores who showed up at shul every shabbas. Someone
asked him why he bothered, didn't he feel like a
hypocrite. He answered, "I grew up with and love the
people at the shul, especially Silverberg who is a
tzadik. Every shabbas, Silverberg comes to shul to
speak to God, and I come to shul to speak to

FOR VIDEOS, pictures and audio sermons

The importance of everyone in shull being nice

The importance of everyone in shull being nice
A fellow emailed me about his experience in another city
"I'm not looking at you to solve this in any way. I'm just venting.
Last Thursday I went to my first conversion class. It went alright, interesting topics and I learned a lot.Saturday I woke up early, put on my suit and headed out to the Conservative Synagogue in XX. I was sitting there on the back row, a little before services started. I always hold a ball point pen in my hand when I am nervous. It's just a habit. Some people tap their feet, others twirl their hair. I hold a pen. No big deal.
I basically know no one at this Synagogue other than Rabbi Y that I met in my initial meeting and then the thursday class. In addition to holding my pen, I was also holding the prayer book in my other hand. From behind me comes a man and he taps me on the shoulder and in a very loud voice he told me not to put marks in the prayer book. All 20 or so people that were already seated turned to look at me. I told him that I wouldn't and was just holding my pen. Again in a loud voice he said not to have a pen out. I understand his concern that someone would desecrate a prayer book, but couldn't he just have handled it in a more subtle way? I put the pen in my pocket and wished him a Good Shabbos. Talk about embarrassed! I was extremely angry about this. Also, no one greeted me when I came in either. Wouldn't it have been nice for someone to say Shabbat Shalom, or Good Sabbath when I came in? A smile would have been nice. I said Good Sabbath to one lady and one man. Smiled at everyone, but in the end only received a curious looks, but not a peep. Throughout the experience I was glanced at, but when I made I contact, they looked away. This is a very small congregation. I would think they would like to have as many warm bodies as possible. It is the only Conservative Synagogue in town. I would have to drive to , about two hours away, to find a different Synagogue. There is a large Reform Temple here,but I have never been there. I sat there through most of the service, then decided to leave early.
I am so disappointed. I've spent a year studying on my own and having Shabbat dinners at home with my family for an entire year.Now I don't know what to do. I feel lost.
I do plan to try again. I will also be talking to Rabbi about this experience. This Thursday is my second class. As I said at the start of the email. I'm not looking for anyone to solve this. This is my job to fix. I just wanted to vent. "

How about at a synagogue when one of the members said to a conversion student at services-
"what a cute little shiksa"
The operative mizvah is hachnasat orchim-be nice to guests

3 new videos on this week's parsha

New videos on this week's parasha
Deuteronomy 21-25 Kiteze 1 JewU 195
Deuteronomy 21-25 Kiteze 2 JewU 196
Don't make a mess in God's CampJew U 197

Indictment of Conservative Judaism

This attack on the Conservative movement was sent to me as a comment on my video. My response follows.
"the Conservative movement is no longer conservative and it is no different then reform judaism. Rabbi Ronald Price an Ordained conservative Rabbi now associated with the Union of T the Conservative movement is no longer conservative and it is no different then reform judaism. Rabbi Ronald Price an Ordained conservative Rabbi now associated with the Union of Traditional Judaism predicted once the Conservative Movement Ordained women eventualy they would accept Gay and lesbian rabbis. How right he was! The next thing that will come will be same sex marriages done by a Conservaive Rabbi! Next thing down the pike will be patralienal descentand kashrut will be optionalas reform judaism.You made up your own rules by allowing one to drive to syangouge on the Shabbat FIRE?
Conservative Judaism has no inherent truth and if there is a conflict with halscha and modern society. Modern society or history always wins! Infact some conservaive leaders say the movment should abandon haalcha
There was always a tradtion of Mechitza in Judaism. Reform Judaism was the first to jetson it and Conservative Judaism did it. My former Conservative syangouge has some seperate seating. Some conservaive syangouges are even trying a tii service with partial seperate seating
The Conservative movement is loseing their right wing to Orthodox Judaism and left wing to Reform Judaism.

My rersponse-You are right Conservative is "losing" (market share} but it still represent the best and true Judaism. Orthodoxy is founded on basic errors, of the Mosaic authorship word for word of the Torah. Some even believe literally in the world being 5767 years old, and that there was actually an Adam and Eve. That is all nonsense and make it impossible for a thinking person to accept.
Judaism has always changed. It changed in the Torah, see my videos on change and bnot zelophad. See Deut 17:9 and Talmud Rosh Hashanah 25. The Pharisees opened up a hugely different kind of Judaism than the Torah. You have to be in fairyland to believe the Mishneh is exacly what was passed down from God to Moses. Most of us can't tolerate the unequal treatmjent of women that Orthodoxy espouses. Its insane that women can't count as witnesses or in a minyon, lead services or read Torah.
The mehitza was never part of early Judaism. That is an error. The ezrat Nashim in the Temple was a mized place. We probably borrowed seperate seating it from Christians and Moslems. There is no mehitza in archeological excavations of early synagogues or at Massada. Conservative Judaism has made changes, some too much for me, but when I look around at the alternatives-one Movement stuck in the 16th century and another bringing pork into their youth group programs, it is still where I have a home, albiet on the far left edge. Why is there no music in an Orthodox service on Shabbat? See psalm 150. There was in the Temple. In my opinion,Its ghetto thinking-its just because the Christians did it. If you find a better home there. Fine. We all need to find a proper spiritual home and there is much that is wonderful about more traditional Judasim, as well as Reform too.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Tikkun Olam in Chicago

Since its inception, Ezra-Habonim Congregation’s Social
Action/Tikkun Olam committee has provided our
congregation with programs exemplifying Tikkun Olam.
Involvement in the Tikkun Olam, both within and beyond
our congregation, is seen not only as an obligation but also
an invaluable opportunity to rebuild our community and
repair the world. Won't you join us?
Jewish United Fund/Volunteer for Tov:
Contact 312-357-4762 or Many projects for
helping the needy.
Jewish uptown cafe: Kosher meal program for the poor
at 909 W.Wilson, Chicago. Feed the hungry. Volunteers 12
& over, serve & converse. Call 312-357-4762.
Maot Hittim: Provide Pesah food for needy.
Feed The Hungry: We collect food and distribute it to the
Ark which serves needy folks in the West Rogers Park
area. Bring food to the synagogue on the High Holidays.
Helping The Elderly: Jewish Council for the Elderly
offers many services, including facilities, at home services
and meals. To volunteer or inquire, call 773-508-1005 or
Gemiluth Chesed: Our synagogue maintains an
Emergency Fund to assist congregants in time of need.
Contact Rabbi Ginsburg.
Ways to Get Involved:
Bring non-perishable food or money for the
Donate your hands for home building.
Consider a Yahrzeit contribution to the Gemiluth
Chesed Fund.
Create party centerpieces of canned goods or
books to donate.
Write a letter to your legislator on an issue of
social justice
Fill Tzedakah boxes & bring them to EHNTJC
Donate blood

Support Israel with Bonds

Supporting the Future
Investing in Israel bonds makes us conscious of
our shared faith, responsibility and heritage as a
people. Whether a time of dubious calm or
unrelenting terror, we must continue to be
steadfast in our financial support for the land and
people of Israel.
Make no mistake about it; your commitment to
Israel bonds is an investment, not Tzedakah. Since
its inception in 1951, State of Israel Bonds has
secured $25 billion in loan capital. Israel has
repaid this money to investors who submitted
bonds for redemption and has made every
payment of principal and interest on time and in

Our Conversion to Judaism Chicago Course

A 16-Week Course for Interfaith Couples,
Potential Converts, or Those Who Want to
Learn More About:
God, Holy Books, Holidays, Life Cycle,
Values, History, Kashrut, Kabbalah, Israel
The class meets throughout the year on
Sunday, 9:30 – 11:30 AM beginning Oct. 28/ Long distance conversion program too.
Students are accepted on an ongoing basis.
All are warmly welcome.
Location: Ezra-Habonim, the Niles Township
Jewish Congregation
4500 Dempster Street in Skokie
Plus a fee of $100 for books and supplies
Faculty: Gail Ginsburg, Program Director
Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg
Contact Information:
Introduction to Judaism
Street Address___________________________
City________________ Zip________________

Want to go to Israel with us?

Study & Experience the Many Faces of Israel, Celebrate Israel’s 60th Birthday
$ 2350+Air/person double occupancy, Space is limited – register now!
10 days touring, Round trip air Chicago/Tel Aviv on E1 A1 Airline. 6 Nights Jerusalem – 2 Nights Galilee – 1 Night Tel
Aviv – (2 Nights Elilat – optional) All breakfast, 5 Dinners
Kabbalat Shabbat at the hotel, and private Friday night
Tour Massada and swim in the Dead Sea.
The Galilee, Golan Heights, Mystical and artistic Tzefat,
Haifa, Tiberius, ancient ruins and new mansion of Casarea…
Tel Aviv tour, museum and Farewell dinner.
Shabbat services and kiddush brunch with an
Israeli Congregation.
Old City of Jerusalem – Jewish past, archaeology,
and city of three religions.
New City of Jerusalem – city of today – politics,
an everyday life Knessert, Yad Vashem, Supreme
Court, and more.
A day in the Judean Mountains – enjoy nature,
military, history, and Mini – Israel.

Optional extension to Elilat.
For more information contact Rabbi Ginsburg

Learn to lead prayers, read torah and haftarah

I am trying to develop a do-it-yourself Jewish opportunity


Here are great ways to learn and hear prayers, Torah and haftarah reading listed on my site there

To hear the Torah or Haftarah portion chanted, or to read it in hebrew or english, go to Click on English, then either Torah or Haftarah, then the Torah book we are currently reading reading. Choices Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy

Then click on the specific portion of the week. You can find out whatever the specific portion is for the week with a traitional Jewish calendaror go to and fill in the date you want and you'll find out.. If you want to hear the whole thing chanted in traditional cantillation, click on the horn at the top. If you want a verse at a time, click on the horn next to the verse.

Transliterated prayer book is available at

Learn prayers for shabbat to sing at

Download the service to your ipod from

Great site

Check out for a ton of great prayer material and resources

Hebrew Afternoon/evening/Birkat hamazone at

To learn Torah and Haftarah trop go to

Q and A on Repentance

On video 39 Repentance, someone asked about repenting for murder. My answer

People who commit sins against other still must be accountable to the society for the punishment of the society-death penalty or imprisonment, as in the example you give. Once you pay the price, and properly atone, repentance is possible. We still face reward and punishment by God in the afterlife, based on our deeds in this world.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

New video on Gen 22

Genesis 22 a close reading of the binding of IsaacJewU 193

Yiddish series videos

My Mother has done some yiddish vocab videos
The 4 Passover questions in Yiddish -Yiddish 1
Yiddish 2 Greetings in Yiddish
Yiddish 3 Being Polite in Yiddish
Yiddish 4 Body Parts in Yiddish
Yiddish 5 Days of the week in Yiddish

and one by me Some Yiddish expressions jewu 167

7 New Videos on youtube

Geography of the Synagogue JewU 186
Tfillin Phylacteries JewU 187
Destination High Holidays JewU 188
Prepare for Rosh Hashanah-Elul JewU 189
Blessings for Home Rosh Hashanah JewU 190
Books for your jewish Library 2 JewU 191
Books for your Jewish Library 3 JewU 192

Saturday, August 18, 2007

New videos

New Videos on youtube
Geography of the Synagogue JewU 186
Tfillin Phylacteries JewU 187
Destination High Holidays JewU 188
Prepare for Rosh Hashanah-Elul JewU 189

Friday, August 17, 2007

3 new youtube videos

New videos
Long distance conversion JewU 183
Parashat Shoftim Judges JewU 184
Virtual synagogue JewU 185

Why we need long distance learning conversion

Dear Rabbi,

My name is X. I am currently a double major at X I study psychology and Religion. I grew up in a home with my moms side of the family being Baptist and my dad's family being Lutheran.

I greatly enjoy my studies but during my studies here, I feel that G-d has really moved in my life and confirmed feelings that I have had toward Judaism as being Truth.

There are no Synagogues around me and I am greatly interested in conversion. I have been reading over your websites and the other night I got so captivated by your videos I stayed up till 3 in the morning watching some of them.

I am writing to see if you would help me and guide me in the conversion process and my learning till I can get near a Synagogue. I have been circumcised and am currently going through Reshith Binah by Sidney Fish in order to learn to read Hebrew. I've also purchased Rosetta Stone for Hebrew (for my computer) well as Pinsler's Hebrew Series (that I listen to in my car) and to add to the Reshith Binah, I was given Biblical Hebrew vocabulary cards.

If there is any guidness or help that you are able to give me it would be of great help and blessing in my life.

Thank you for your time and your wonderful resources that have so richly blessed my life.

Christopher Ryan Jones

"When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and I could say that I used everything You gave me."

My response:

Thanks for writing. Wonderful and inspiring. Yes. We can do it long distance. We just set this up since so many like you have asked. Check out and

You'd have to make one trip here to Chicago for the religious tribunal and immersion. You'd also need a ritual circumcision pin prick at that point. We can handle the counseling over the phone. I'll send the full curriculum with assigned readings.

In lieu of classtime, I'd ask you watch as many videos as you can. I have them, organized by weekly classes on the conversion website. I'd welcome your calls whenever you wanted to talk .

My wife said you are welcome to stay with us when you are here to save money, or elsewhere. The most important thing the bet din will want to make sure is you do not believe Jdesus is God, the son of God, the Messiah etc.

Let me know if you want to pursue this

It would be important to settle in a Jewish comunity and develop a relationship with a Rabbi and Congregation as soon as you could.

The Orthodox Rabbis will not accept this conversion, most likely. They only accept Orthodox,abut that is extremely difficult to do and we have many come to us after giving up trying the Orthodox route

Very sincerely

My 6 High Holiday sermon drafts

5768 Sermon Drafts Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg

Sermon Erev Rosh hashanah starts with asking good questions

So who’s the smartest person who ever lived? Many people say Einstein. Jewish tradition suggested King Solomon. But actually, in a book about genius, Einstein is rated number ten. Shakespeare is number two, so who is the smartest, overall genius who ever lived? According to that genius book – Leonardo DiVinci.
I just read a new book called “How to think like Leonardo DiVinci.” Seven steps to genius every day. If that’s any book, Leonardo DiVinci certainly is one of the most amazing people ever. He thought of submarines, airplanes, helicopters and weapons that weren’t introduced in the battlefield for four hundred years. He helped reorganize biology, study of plants and animals, and the human body. He painted the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, anticipated evolution, the law of gravity, and the sun not revolving around the earth way before the people that were credited with it anticipated it.
The thing I wanted to mention most about this book was that in the seven steps to think genius like Leonard DiVinci, guess what step number one is. It is something that a lot of Jewish mothers know intuitively. Because when a child comes back from Hebrew school, a lot of parents would say “What did you learn today?” But the Jewish mother is supposed to say to her child, “Did you ask a good question today?” Judaism is full of questions. Sometimes the questions are sometimes more important than the answer. Leonard DiVinci was a fellow that asked questions constantly, never stopped questioning. So this book calls the Italian word for curiosity the step number one in genius.
Yom Kippur demands we ask questions to begin the search for answers. Jews joke that a basic Jewish conversational style is answer a question with a question. How much did that cost? Why do you want to know? Or how much do you think it cost? Question after question was considered a key method of obtaining wisdom in ancient Greece, and is the basis of the Socratic school of learning.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said that coming to God is possible only after wonder-when we look at the universe and wonder how and why and what,

The bible really begins with a question. When Adam and Eve do the first naughty thing by violating G-d’s strict command not to eat from the tree, G-d asks a question. The question is the Hebrew word aleph yud chuf hay, ah yecha Where are you? That is the preeminent question that is asked in the ten days of awe. The basis of the question we must ask ourselves. Where are we? Where do we stand in relationship to the best that we could be. Where do we stand in relationship to G-d’s desire for how we’re supposed to live? Where do we stand in our relationship to our responsibilities to ourselves, to our family, to our community, to the world?
In the next generation after Adam, another question by God plays a central role in the story. When Cain killed Abel and so disappointed G-d. G-d simply said, “Where is your brother?” To which Cain gave the wrong answer, asking another question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” And the answer is obvious – “Yes, you are”. It reminds us of Moses challenge to the 2 ½ tribes in Numbers when they wanted to stop short of the land and Moses asked “will your brothers go to war and you stay here and do nothing?”

The first stage of thinking like a genius, like Davinci, is to ask the right questions-to always be wondering, asking, questioning.
Jews never had been content, even with respect to God. We question everything-even God. So many of our converts come to us with the frustration that in their prior religion, they could not ask. I have to admit that in my early Jewish education too, my parents were often frustrated when I reported that my questions were often answered with “because its geshribbin-its written-it’s a test of faith etc.
But that is not the true Jewish way. When God told Abraham in Genesis God was planning to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham asked him a question which was really a challenge-would not the Judge of all the earth do justice?
In Numbers, when the five daughters of the good man Zelophad died, they did not think it right that there dad’s land should be lost and challenged a law they thought unjust, and asked Moses who asked God, and God affirmed their challenge.

The most widely celebrated jewish experience of the year revolves around questions-the Torah says when you settle in the land your children will ask why do you observe these rituals? That came to be the basis of the 4 questions of the passover seder. No answer until you get a question

Feeling abandoned and hurt prompted questions-such as by the psalmist who said "I lift up my eyes to the heavens and wondered wherein comes my help" or Isaiah expressing god’s question-God looked down and saw injustice and wondered why there was no one to intervene.

It seems as though Yom Kippur is about answers-, not questions. We sinned thisly and thusly. Rabbi David Woznica is a prominent rabbi in the Los Angeles area,
Formerly the director of the Center for Jewish Life at the 92nd Street Y.
He is fond of telling the story of how, when he was a child,
His parents -- mistakenly -- informed him that the tradition was
To strike one's heart during the Al Chet
Only for the sins that one had actually performed.

So, throughout his childhood and adolescence, every Yom Kippur,
He would read the list of sins, and make a judgment for each one whether he was guilty of it that year, or not.
We have sinned against you by speaking recklessly - yeah, I did that one.
We have sinned against you through bribery - no, not that I can think of.
We have sinned against you through arrogance - okay, a little.
We have sinned against you through impure thoughts -- yeah, I had a couple of those.
Until one year, when he went to a more traditional synagogue for Yom Kippur
And -- during the Al Chet, as he was choosing judiciously when to strike his heart,
He noticed - that the guy next to him was striking himself for EVERY SINGLE LINE!

And David Woznica couldn't believe it!
Get a load of this guy! What a jerk!
How could he possibly have had TIME to do all those things!?
But then, of course, he was shocked to notice the guy on the OTHER side of him
Was ALSO striking himself for every single line.
And the person in front of him.
And behind him.
And finally he came to the conclusion that perhaps his parents hadn't accurately transmitted the tradition to him.....

But YK is really about questions-we are forced to continuously ask ourselves questions
• Am I satisfied with the way I’m living my life and the person I’ve become? What would I answer if a booming voice from heaven confronted me with the question, "What do you think you’re
Doing down there with the life I’ve given you?"• What has been the quality of love that I’ve given and received?
This past year? Have I been willing to invest myself in the spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and physical intimacy that’s needed to sustain love? • What have I learned and taught this past year? Have I accepted?
The obligation to be a lifelong learner, growing in my capacity to co-produce the world with God?
• How would my community be different if all of us were committed to the vision and path of Torah? Has my relationship with my community been as a passive consumer of social and
Religious services or an active producer of a commonwealth of righteousness, truth, justice, freedom, peace, and kindness? • What has been the effect of my work on the world, both in?
Terms of the individuals I’ve touched personally and the ripple effects my work has had? Have I made doing well—acquiring position, possessions, prestige, and power—the exclusive purpose
Of my work in the world, or have I made doing good my highest priority—using the gifts I’ve been given to create more of God’s goodness in the world?

A Sage in the Talmud suggested the questioning does not even end at our death. He suggested that when we die, our judgment is based on questions:

How did we use our time on earth? Did we do our work with integrity? Did we do our part for universal peace? Did we live Jewishly? Did we raise a family? Among others.

It’s fruitful to consider what questions we’ll be asked by God. The entire purpose of these questions on this Holiest of days is obviously to help guide our next year to make it as holy a year as we can.

Its important to know what questions God will probably not ask us to and what we will be asked:

1... God won't ask what kind of car you drove. He'll
ask how many people you drove who didn't have transportation.

2... God won't ask the square footage of your house,
He'll ask how many people you welcomed into your home.

3... God won't ask about the clothes you had in your closet, He'll ask how many you helped to clothe.

4... God won't ask what your highest salary was. He'll
ask if you compromised your character to obtain it.

5... God won't ask what your job title was. He'll ask
if you performed your job to the best of our ability.

6... God won't ask how many friends you had. He'll ask
how many people to whom you were a friend.

7... God won't ask in what neighborhood you lived, He'll ask how you treated your neighbors.

8... God won't ask about the color of your skin, He'll
ask about the content of your character.

These are not tough questions. Want tough questions? watch the tv show
being as smart as a Jewish fifth grader-learn. These are life enhanciong, holiness enhancing questions.

So what are the answer to these questions? That we should be seeking everyday. The starting point though, the key to the answer is this:
It’s the answer Abraham gave when G-d called his name in the Torah reading in the second day of Rosh Hashana. It comes from Isaiah when he’s called by God to serve as a prophet. It is the name of one of the most powerful prayers of Rosh Hashana – It is: Hineni, here I am.
Let’s ask ourselves everyday, starting right now. Let’s our answer first be., heneni-here I am ready-ready to aspire to higher levels of Holiness .
Sermon – First Day of Rosh Hashanah-We are the World’s stewards.

Happy New Year, Chag Samach everyone. We come together on this first day of the new Jewish year of 5768 to celebrate as a people, an opportunity for a fresh start. One of the classic expressions associated with the New Year is Yom Horat Olam, the day of the creation of the world. Our sages said that this day marks the anniversary of the creation of the universe. Now we don’t believe this to be literally true, but it is fascinating that on the day on which most Jews come for a religious experience to the synagogue other than Yom Kippur, the main focus of our sages for this day had to do with not only the beginning of the ten days of repentance when we reflect on our own selves, but also to contemplate G-d’s creation of the universe and our role in it. I want to take the opportunity on this day and this year, to talk about our responsibility to our planet, whether we ae inflicting damaging and irreparable harm to it and what we can do.

The first question I want to address is, is it a Jewish problem? Whenever I approach a question as to whether it has Jewish aspects to it, I ask myself, “are there mitzvot involved”? The way in which Jews are to look at the world is from a viewpoint of Mitzvah. What has G-d commanded us regarding this particular issue? In reflecting on the question of the earth and our responsibility in terms of mitzvot/Jewish Observation, I come up with the following:

1. It says specifically in the Torah that we are to not only have dominion over the earth but also to guard the garden. Now that is not a Halachic legal category but it is deeply imbued in Jewish values. It is understandable that Jews have taken the lead on issues of the environment because of this intrinsic commitment and value we have, going back all the way to the beginning of the Torah. God gave us this beautiful earth and it is ours not only to take from it what we need to survive, but also to guard it and take care of it. This idea is again addressed in a beautiful, rabbinic legend, a Midrash. The text presents a powerful image: God takes Adam for a tour of the garden, and points out all the flora and fauna and says to him, “Behold My works, how splendid they are. All that I have created, I created for your sake.” It continues: “Now listen up – do not ruin or destroy my world. Sh’im kilkalta, ayn mee sh’taken achrecha –if you mess it up, there is no one to clean up after you.” (Kohellet Rabba 7:13) The point could not be made more clearly.

2. We have the concept in Judaism of Tikkun Olam, of restoring the broken world. This not only on the level of contentious issues between human beings, but if the world is broken in some way and I will suggest that it is in a moment, we have a responsibility based on the principle of Tikkun Olam, to do everything we can within reason, to repair it.

3. We have the Jewish value concept of Pikuah Nefesh, to save our lives. We are not permitted to do anything to harm ourselves. In fact, we are obligated to do things to protect our lives and others.

4. The value of don’t stand idly by while the blood of your neighbor is spilled. From Leviticus Chapter 19, the Holiness Code. If we are endangering ourselves or we see others in danger, we are obligated by Jewish Law to do something about it and not stand idly by.

5. We have a Jewish value of Ohave Habriot, to love our fellow creation. This year bald eageles were removed from the listof endangered specifies., the one great symbol of America. When the Mayflower landed, there were probably 500,000 bald eagles and now there are 10,000. But there were only about 500 a while ago when they went on the endangered species list, and it looks like that species, at least temporarily, has been saved. We have to love our fellow creatures and when our actions endanger them, we must be concerned.

6. The sixth principle in Judaism is called Baal Tashchit. We are not permitted to waste things. There is a law in Deuteronomy that says that when the Israelites were besieging a city, they could not destroy the fruit trees because they knew that after the siege was over people would still need the fruit trees. From that law, it was derived that we were not allowed to waste. And so, not wasting world resources becomes a Jewish value.

7. Tsar Baalia Hayyim. We are not to bring or inflect unnecessary pain upon any living creature. If the things that we do bring pain and discomfort to other creatures besides human beings, that is forbidden by Jewish law.

8. Bichirah Hofsheet-fre will. We have a choice in how we live and how much we add to or help this problem

9.The Jewish people celebrate Earth Day each and every week, as we are doing today, beginning at sundown each Friday. We call it Shabbat. Our beautiful tradition, long before recreational shopping existed, instituted one day a week on which we stop, look and appreciate. Rather than “Stop and Shop” we stop and give thanks.

As I see it, Shabbat is the ultimate environmental mitzvah. Living outside of Israel, none of the agricultural laws of the Torah apply to us. But Shabbat applies equally in Israel and in the Diaspora. The lessons it teaches of appreciating God’s creation are vitally significant. Friday night, we begin Shabbat as the sun sets, reminding ourselves that the ultimate master of the universe is the creator, not some corporation which decrees the work day to end according to its schedule. Some Jews have the misconception that Shabbat is a day on which everything is forbidden. The philosopher and Holocaust survivor Eric Fromm has a wonderful explanation for the forbidden labors of Shabbat. All of them, he says, remind us that it is God who is the Creator, not us. Six days a week, we create. On Shabbat, we set our physical creativity aside and admire the work of the Almighty. Rather than seeing these prohibitions as restrictions, Fromm understand them to be sigificant theological lessons, leading us to appreciate the gift of nature with which God has entrusted us.

Shabbat observance has so much potential as an environmental mitzvah.
If consuming fuel by driving our cars is a problem, doesn’t it stand to reason that not driving one day in seven, except perhaps to the synagogue, will make a positive contribution?
If buying too much is contributing to exhausting the resources of the earth, doesn’t it make sense that putting away the wallet and credit cards one day If six days a week our consumerism is stoked by advertisements on the TV, marketing calls on the phone, and pop-up ads on our computers, wouldn’t being free of all that one day a week be a blessing?
What is particularly nice about this suggestion is that even if I am wrong, and Shabbat observance does nothing at all for the environment, it will be a great blessing to you and your family.

Those 9 concepts are just a few of the ideas of Jewish traditions, commandments and values which help guide us to an understanding that environment is a topic of Jewish concern.

Secondly, I ask myself, is this topic High Holiday worthy? Well I can’t think of anything that is more holiday worthy than the issue of “are we destroying the place where we live.” Are we defiling and making contaminated, tama is the Hebrew word – the place that we inhabit? We don’t have the technology yet to move our entire civilization to another planet. And so to destroy what we have, is suicidal.

Thirdly and finally, it comes down to the science of the matter, is this really a problem? Is there anything for a reasonable price that we can do without creating greater harm to fix it?

Is this a problem? I was hard to convince. I was slow to come around to this. Some believe that global warming it is simply a issue of cycles of the earth and that if we drill down far enough into the earth, we find out that every while there is a healing and cleaning of the earth and we have had drastic flooding before. In fact, the story of Noah in the Torah shows that we have had drastic flooding. In the area around the Masada, which hopefully some of you will visit with Gail and me in May, we are going to see. Maybe global warming and cooling are inevitable cycles. Maybe this is just part of the annual cycle of the seas rising and the lakes disappearing. They wouild say if Bangladesh is going to soon be overrun by water and hundreds of millions of people will have to find another place to live. That’s just the way it is. And if the polar icecaps in Antarctica are melting. Maybe it’s just part of nature. There are some scientists who say that there is no compelling evidence that the warming trend we see will amount to anything close to catastrophe, that the earth is always warming and cooling.
But, I don’t think science supports that view. Al Gore says the oil industry is spending $10 million a year to create the impression that there is disagreement in the scientific community about global warming...He says global warming exacerbated by human activity is the subject of one of the strongest scientific consensus views in the history of science.
I don’t believe its just a simple matter of historical cycles of nature. At the very least we are not helping matters, and in fact we are exacerbating the problem.. A new global warming report issued recently paints a near apocalyptic vision of the earth’s future. More a billion people in need of water, extreme food shortages in Africa, a planetary landscape ravaged by floods and species becoming extinct. Despite the harsh version, scientist criticize it by saying the findings were watered down at the last minute by government bureaucrats seeking the fast call for action. So it is actually a lot worse than that. Even in a softened form, the report outlined arrays of devastating affects that will strike all regions of the world at all levels of society. Those without resources to adapt to the changes will suffer the greatest impact according to the study
In India officials warn that climate change could destroy vast swaths of farmland, affeting food production and adding to the woes of laready desperate peasants who live off the land. Researchers studying western Europe tempurature records have found the length of heat waves has doubled since 1880. And, of course, that directly violates the Jewish idea of God’s wrath being especially waged to those who hurt the vulnerable, who are often the widows and the strangers. The report paints a bleak picture of the future. Rising temperatures will re-configure coastlines around the world as oceans rise and sea water surges over the land. Melting glaciers and mountain ranges will release floods and rock avalanches. Streams will dwindle cutting off the main water supplies for more than 1/6th of the world’s population. Africa will suffer the most extreme effects with a quarter of a billion people there losing most of their water supplies. Food production will fall, etc.

But most scientists who study natural climate fluctuations, say the current warming trend is the result of human activity and is behaving differently from past temperature fluctuations. The rate of change is so accelerated that what is happening now seems to be unprecedented. They say that without realizing the consequences of our actions, we have begun to put so much carbon dioxide in the air surrounding our world that we have literally changed the heat balance between the earth and the sun. The average temperature will increase to levels humans have never known and put an end to the climate balance on which our civilization depends. The concentration of CL2 having never risen above 300 points per million for at least a million years, is now 383 per million and we are moving closer to several tipping points that could within ten years make it impossible for us to avoid irretrievable damage to the planets, habitability for human civilization.

Its not just about damage to the earth. There are political consequences as well. Take for example our oil dependency. Thirty years after proposels to reduce dependency on foreign oil, oil prices are higher than ever and there is greater dependence on imported oil. Every dollar we spend on oil feeds the Arabs’ Oil nations, including Iran which feeds world-wide terrorism, which threatens America, the State of Israel and Jews.

There is a very serious problem. We can’t just turn a blind eye to.

Questions: So what then do we do about it?. Well, one question is – is it cost effective to do anything? How much are we willing to sacrifice? Unless there are very severe laws, business and governments will also weigh the issue how much it costs. Do we even have the technology to fix this.

Tom Friedman, New York Times columnist, author and Pulitzer Prize winner said in a New York Times column recently “the truth is the core of our energy crisis is in Washington. We have all of the technology that we need right now to make huge inroads in becoming more energy efficient and energy independent with drastically lower emissions. We have all of the Capital we need as well. But we need public policy to connect the energy and capital the right way. That is what is missing”

The same UN panel that concluded that we are in big trouble, said the fix was within reach. They had some good news. Climate change can be limited at what scientists said would be a reasonable price. And here’s really the clincher for us today.

What about the cost effectiveness?
Top climate economists say, cutting US emissions efficiently to hold greenhouse gas concentrations could cost the US twice as much pure year as it is now spending on the war in Iraq and racing too quickly toward efforts to cut could have consequences as well. Nuclear power – we know what the consequences there could be. Planning lots of new crops for bio-fuels could accelerate the deforestation. There are costs to alternative fuels

The average citizen can make valuable contributions by making small life-style change without waiting for governments to act. The report said that by rapidly wrapping up the use of renewable energy sources like solar, wind and hydro-electric power, we can make cars, homes and factories for energy efficient. They said that the cost of tackling climate change was comparatively reasonable. By spending a little over a tenth of 1% of the world’s income each year for 23 years, they said greenhouse gasses could be held nearly in check, avoiding the worse predicted environmental disasters. Most people conclude that it could be reasonable and that we could do much more. South Korea, for example, is breaking ground on the world’s biggest Solar Power Plant and will try to diversify its power sources and use cleaner energy. There is much that we can do. One thing is use our purchasing power to impact.

It is interesting now, that big companies are starting to get on board here. The New York Times reported in July that new companies are starting positions called Chief Sustainability Officers. They are not simply environmental watchdogs, they are to keep operations safe and regulated at bay for helping companies profit from the push to go green. I’ll just tell you about two names that you all know. Home Depot will introduce a label for nearly 3,000 products like fluorescent light bulbs that conserve electricity and match insect killers that promote energy conservation, sustainable and forestry and clean water. They will have 6,000 products by 2009 to become the largest green labeling program in America retailing and persuade competitors to speed up their own plans. And, it’s joining the largest retailer, Walmart in pursuing issues of public concern like climate change that stores have left generally before to government and environmental groups. And quite often now when you open up the paper, you see an ad for a company touting how responsible it is to the environment. For example, I just saw a Bos dishwasher ad that said that if every home that was going to buy a dishwasher this year bought their product, it would be like taking 500,000 pounds off the road. I don’t know if that’s true but certainly something to think about.

I want to make some concrete suggestions that things that we can personally do before we wait for government and business to help. I've got just 16 here. Thank me for keeping it short because I read a book called 1001 ways to save the earth, so I'm leaving out 985 of those suggestions.

1. Every time a light bulb burns out, replace it with a compact fluorescent light bulb. It is one of the easiest ways you can save the planet. Replacing one regular bulb in our home with a compact fluorescent would have enough energy to light more than 2.5 million homes for a year. They cost a little bit more but they last up to six times longer.
2. Hand cranked flashlights. Crank it for 30 seconds and it lasts up to 60 minutes of power. And they have AM and FM radios.
3. Go vegetarian or cut back on your meat consumption. Besides all the other health reasons, saving money and easier to keep kosher, it takes eight times more energy to produce a pound of meat as it does a pound of tofu. Now this is from a long time carnivore who ate meat every day. Now living with Gail has changed that and I eat meat very rarely until I sneak off to Ken’s kosher diner for a strip steak. But think of all the advantages in terms of Kashrut, saving money, health, and now the environment.
4. If you’re buying a new home, or you’re moving, go smaller. Houses between 1500 and 2000 square feet consume 40% less energy than McMansions. In over 4000 square feet, I get a kick out of people who are building 30,000 square feet homes, but making them green. Use a smaller house. Or next time you are in the market for a car, downsize it. Every hundred pounds a car weighs requires 2% more fuel to move it. Not every idea is a good idea- some believe that the US forcing lower gas mileage won't yoeld less miles driven-car owners, knowing that, in studies claim they will then feel fre to drive more. Some believe the key here is to raise the tax of gas to discourage driving.
5. Fly direct if you can. The take offs and the landings burn most of the fuel.
6. Or when you are not using an appliance, pull the plug. They estimate that 95% of the energy consumed by cell phone charges are when they are left plugged in. Between 2-6% of our electrical home energy consumed comes from wasted energy like that.
7. Don’t keep buying bottled water. Buy one bottle and keep refilling it. The amount of plastic used to produce those bottles and the amount of non biodegradable plastic we put in the ground hurts the economy. The US Conference of Mayors in June had a resolution calling for a study to examine the environmental impact that millions of empty water bottles have on municipal garbage operations.
8. When you are buying a TV think about it. Televisions account for about 4% of the energy consumption in the United States and the old TVs use a lot less energy than the new ones.
9. For people who say “I’m buying 5 pairs of organic blue jeans”, it actually uses a lot less energy if you buy one pair of non-organic blue jeans. Buying less: I I read an article recently about people who decided they are not going to buy anything for a year. Instead of just recycling, except for food, health and safety items, the group would go through an entire year by reusing, repairing and regifting or doing without. Long after the rest of us, the editorial said, have given up our vowels to spend more time on the treadmill, and less time in Dunkin Doughnuts, these people are debating whether to buy a new toilet brush was necessary or in the spirit. Haircuts, movies and meals out were ok. Buying a new Ipod instead of fixing an old was not. All of this seems a little overwrought, the editorial said, but there seems to be something to be said about living below you means. Maybe you don’t lie awake at nights worrying about how much you are contributing to landfill overflows. Maybe we are too busy worrying about the credit debt run up over the holidays. Either way, if we have a nagging sense that we are acquiring too much, we probably are. We could use the extra money, the extra closet space, and the earth could use a break.
10. Walk or bike more and drive less.
12. Continue recycling. We now proudly recycle our office paper
13. Plant a tree-one tree takes away the pollution of 13 cars
14. When we buy, buy green friendly products. The businesses will get the message.
15. Priuses are becoming status symbols. When buying a car, ask what kind of car Hillel would have bought.
16. When you grocery shop, bring along your own bags so stores don't add more unnessessary plastic and paper bags to the world. (Hope I haven't offended any bag salespeople).

Just as our body continues to repair itself and replace itself, so that we have a completely new body, every cell is changed every seven years. So the earth has the remarkable capacity to renew itself. They say creation happens every day. Lakes and rivers that were so befouled by pollution, that seemed to be dead, remember when Lake Erie caught on fire, now have revived, the same way that bald eagles that were once near extinction have been taken off the endangered list. There is a capacity for renewal. But it becomes a tipping point when things are so bad, they cannot be renewed or are lost. So we have to avoid that tipping point and let the earth restore itself to be healthy. There is a very famous expression in the Talmud that says to save one life is to save a universe. That always helps us understand the preciousness of each human soul. I never thought about this until now that the other side of that is how valuable the universe is. And not only if we don’t do anything while hundreds of millions of people maybe die, but surely the universe itself has undeniable value and must be preserved.

We well could throw up our hands saying al this is futuile since as the developing nations econimies grow, so does their use and forcasts for huge increases in neds of energy and cnsequently further adding to this problem.

The Torah contains two versions of the story of
creation. In the first, found in Genesis chapter 1,
mankind is the last thing created, except for Shabbat.
Humanity is the pinnacle of creation. The sages
compare this version of creation to when someone moves
into a new house. The furniture is moved in first.
Only when everything a person might nee dis in the
house does the family themselves move in. Thus the
last is the most important. God commands us to
multiply and fill the earth and subdue it – conquer it
– use it for our own purposes. The world is here for
our benefit. For this reason the sages taught that
when we die one of the first questions we will be
asked is Why did you not partake of every legitimate
pleasure and benefit in the world?

But chapter two of Genesis tells a different story of
creation, one in which mankind is created first, so
that God makes sure there is a caretaker before he
creates the garden. Following the same analogy then
here it is the garden, that is, the earth that is more
important. And indeed in this version the Torah is
very explicit. God places man in the garden in order
l’ovdah ul’shomrah, to guard it and to serve it. It is
the world that is of ultimate significance. Our
purpose in life is to take care of the world and to
sustain it. Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra, a 12th century
Bible commentator wrote, “The ignorant have compared
humanity’s rule over the earth with God’s rule over
the heavens. This is not right, for God rules over
everything. The meaning of but the earth He gave over
to humanity is that humanity is God’s steward over the
earth and must do everything according to God’s word.”
Rabbi Haim Berlin of Volozhin went so far as to state
"Then man became a worker of the earth (i.e., a
farmer), and thereby the purpose of creation was

Through these two stories the Torah teaches us that
God obligates us to maintain a balanced relationship
with the world. We can and should derive benefit from
the world and its resources but only to the extent
that we are also able to preserve and maintain that

The rabbis bring this teaching home with a beautiful
midrash, found in Kohelet Rabbah, in which God takes
Adam by the hand and leads him around the garden. God
says to Adam: See My works, how fine and excellent
they are! All that I created, I created for you.
Reflect on this, and do not corrupt or desolate My
world. . Sh’im kilkalta, ayn mi sh’taken achrecha.
For if you do, there will be no one to repair it after
you.” What a profound teaching, coming to us across
the ages from some 1700 years ago.

The Torah is replete with laws about our environment.
We must allow our fields to lie fallow every seventh
year, the Sabbatical, so that they can rest and
rejuvenate. Fruit trees cannot be harvested until the
fourth year, as acknowledgement that their bounty is
from God, but also so that the tree is able to
properly mature. Even in warfare the Torah prohibits
cutting down fruit trees. From this the rabbis derived
a broader prohibition – baal tashchit – against
wasteful destruction of resources. They taught, for
example, that one must not adjust a lamp to burn too
quickly, for this would be wasteful of fuel. That
prohibition was laid down two thousand years ago, yet
can be applied today to how we set our thermostats and
what kind of automobiles we purchase.

In his treatise on Asthma, Maimonides as a physician
saw the ill effects environmental degradation could
have on the health, and he proposed regulations to
counter them. Joseph Caro, author of the Shulchan
Aruch, the most accepted code of Jewish Law, wrote
about the responsibility of communities to plant
trees. Various responsa of Rabbi Yitzhak ben Sheshet
(Ribash), of the early 14th century, deal with urban
pollution issues and their effects on urban dwellers.
Jewish philosophers such as, Rav Nachman of Breslov
and Rav Abraham Isaac Kook, Rabbis Shimshon Rafael
Hirsch and Abraham Joshua Heschel, all taught us about
the importance of our relationship to this earth and
the fact that God expects us to be stewards for this
creation He has loaned us for our benefit.

This is the season for taking stock, for asking
ourselves how we measure up to the expectations God
may have of us. On this day of all days, the day on
which we celebrate God’s creation, we should be asking
ourselves: How are we doing in relation to our
responsibility as shomrim, guardians, for this good
earth? Are we doing our job? Do we recognize that if
we allow this earth to fall into ruin, there is no one
to set it right after us? On the subject of global
warming, the answer is an abysmal “no.” If we are
serious about teshuvah, then one place to begin is
right here, by acknowledging the sins we have
committed by damaging Gods world, and by committing
ourselves to seeking to repair the damage that we have

One of the reasons for sounding the shofar, according
to Sa’adia Gaon, is to remind us of Creation, and of
our obligations to preserve that creation. This Rosh
Hashanah I invite you to join me in doing teshuvah for
all the ways in which we have hastened global warming.
I say join me because I acknowledge that I too have
done my share of ecological damage. When
it comes to global warming we are all guilty, but we
have to begin somewhere.

And like all teshuvah, this teshuvah requires more
than beating our breasts. It requ

So, my friends, on this day of Rosh Hashanah, when we celebrate creation of the earth, we have a solemn obligation to manage, by God, both in law and in values. to think carefully about what we personally can do. The great wisdom of our sages from the Mishnah say it is not up to us to finish the task, but neither are we to desist from it. Hillel reminded us that we can care for ourselves, if no one will be for us, who will be, but also if we are only for ourselves, what are we?

It is the story of the two fellows in the row boat. One fellow looks over and sees another one drilling a hole under his seat. He says “what are you doing?” The other fellow says “what do you care? it’s my side of the boat.” We are all in the same boat together. God gave us this beautiful universe. God does not want us to destroy it. We clearly have the capacity to destroy it. Somewhere between the two values of the torah and genesis, between having dominion over the earth, which we have, and having to tend and guard the garden, we will perhaps erred on the side of dominion, and lost sight of our responsibility to guard the garden. For the sake of all those animals who don’t have a voice, and for the sake of this planet that speaks to us and cries as it shows us what is happening. Let us personally do what we can with these suggestions to make a difference.. And let us use our power of voting and complaining and kevetching to help our government to move in the direction it should move in to balance and rebalance to save the earth. _(Hebrew)__________________ God’s spirit and grandor fills the whole universe. ----------

God says help me, be my partner, do not let me down. Save the earth.

Sermon draft for the second day of Rosh Hashana-Kol Yisrael

I take the opportunity every year on the second day of Rosh Hashana to offer my thoughts about the state of the world Jewry. Jews the world gathers today, and as much as this is a holy time to reflect on our relationship to God, we sense kinship to fellow Jews everywhere and to our heritage.

I want to start with Jews abroad, because it is more human nature to be concerned about our neighbors and our family, it is more challenging to be concerned about Jews elsewhere. The place to start is the disheartening study of a Jewish sociologist who says that half of American Jews don’t respond positively to the Jewish value of all Israel is responsible one for the other. We need to remember the powerful story in the Torah, when two and one half of the twelve tribes wanted to stay outside of the land of Israel and Moses challenged them with the challenge “Will your brothers go to war while you stay here?.” They finally agreed that it was their responsibility to help settle Israel. That lesson serves as a paradigm for the Jewish value-kol yisrael aravim ze baze- we have a responsibility to our fellow Jews.

We aren’t, of course, only concerned about Jews. Jews, more than any other group of people, are at the forefront of raising consciousness of tragedies elsewhere, in Darfur for example. While Jews are responsible for all, and reminded constantly to help the oppressed, today we speak about our lansmen.

How are our Jewish brethren fairing?

Israel- . The Middle East constantly in our lifetime seems to be on the verge of warfare. The proclivity to war and to terror has little to do with Israel. It is a product of culture and history. Arabs have and do fight Arabs. Sunnis and Shiites, Iran vs. Iraq, etc. When the reversal of decline of the Arab world set in, and the ascent of the west and its power and achievements in every area of human endeavor, has spawned a lust for terror that will not end until the Arab Moslems come to terms with the west. No matter what Israel does, to some extent it will never be enough unless Israel disappeared and even then the violence and terror would not stop. Even after Israel departed from the Sinai, Gaza, Lebanon, and billions of dollars of American aid to Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians, there is not that much progress toward peace. Of course, there is a kind of peace with Egypt and Jordan, but Israel’s past magnimity many in that region see as weakness. Israel’s recent diplomacy has earned it rounds of kidnapping, ransom and rocket attacks. Terror impacts Israel, though the security barrier has greatly cut that down, but still faces regular rocket attacks from Gaza and the North.

We can ask ourselves all day long what if:

-if the Arabs had accepted the UN partition plan in 1947, dividing the mandatory Palestine into a Jewish state and Arab state.

-if the Arabs had created a Palestinian state between 1948 and 1967, when Jordan controlled the West Bank

-if the Palestinians had accepted the Clinton parameters in 2000 calling for the creation of the Palestinian state on more than 90% of the west bank, all of Gaza, and East Jerusalem as its capitol.

You can ask all day long what ifs, but shouldn’t young Palestinians be asking why at every opportunity why their parents choose conflict over compromise. Now Gaza and the West Bank as we speak are split – with Hamas determined to destroy Israel and control Gaza. At least PM Omert has been conducting discussions with Abbas of Fatah, and we never stop hoping for progress. Tom Friedman wrote an interesting article in the New York Times talking about how the first three Israeli approaches to peace have been exposed as failures

One-the way of the left: the land for peace is discredited by the collapse of Oslo,

Two-the way of the right permanent Israeli occupation of all the land of Israel has been impossible by Palestinian demographics and through uprisings,

Three-third way unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon and Gaza has been discredited by Hezbollah attacks from Lebanon and Hamas’s rocket attack from Gaza.

So what would the fourth way be? What do we hope for?

Of course, the largest problem is Iran with each passing day, with each triumph and pronouncement, the chance is dim that diplomacy will or can stop Iran’s juggernaut rush to develop nukes. So all the West can do is more tightly squeeze Iran, they can try military action which has very serious consequences, or they can let them go ahead and just hope that deterrence will stop them from nuking Israel and nuking Europe and nuking the West. There isn’t any really clear solution as depressing as that is.

Israel has many other challenges we are called upon to help navigate-religious domination by the Ultra-Orthodox-the government funds only Orthodox synagogues and rabbis and the religious decisions are made by them,

Poverty is a significant problem, often exacerbated by the many thousands of able bodied ultra orthodox men who study all day in lieu of employment

On a positive note, when we think about Israel, 83% of Jewish Israelis say they are satisfied or extremely satisfied with their lives and nearly ¾ of Israeli Arabs say they feel the same way. In the orthodox community it is 97%. Can you find that many people in any other country in the world say they are extremely satisfied? The Israeli economy continues to bloom, in spite of the second Lebanon war, the divestments, and the boycotts, Israel’s economy enjoyed the largest growth in the GMP in any western country at 8% in the last quarter of 2006. Lists of Israel’s amazing achievements in just the first ¾ of the year is long and phenomenal. The budget deficit was under 1%, industrial exports leading the surge, and high tech industry.

For those who follow this, it is unbelievable how often Israel comes up with revolutionary inventions that will help make the world so much better. Last year some Israeli scientists came up with a straw that you can stick into completely polluted dangerous water and it filters the water so you can drink it. Of course it will save much of the world of terrible disease, because so much of the fresh water is polluted, but some of the Islamic countries, when they heard it was Israel invented it, didn’t want to buy it because they would rather have their citizens suffer. Just in the first few months of this year, Israel found that brackish water drilled from underground desert aquifers could be used to raise warm water fish They are moving forward fast on advances in treatment of Lou Geris disease and Stephen Hawkings, one of the world’s greatest scientists came, he taught them but he also learned that they are making great progress on that disease that could help him and thirty thousand Americans. They have a new capsule that sits in the stomach of animals that sends real time information on the health of the herd. They have made huge progress in helping heart disease and a device that uses electrical nerve stimulation to treat congestive heart failure. These are just a few of the continual achievements of Israel.

In contrast to the efforts to the tiny Israel to make contributions to the world, to make better humankind, we have to ask what of those who strive to eliminate Israel from the face of the earth, ----what have they contributed, other than create hate and bloodshed, and we have to wonder what Israel could achieve if it were just left alone.

So what is our obligation to Israel, what is our answer to Moses when he said “will you stay here and sit on your seat and your brothers go to war”?

First visit if at all possible. We are planning another trip in May. We had a very successful trip last October of twenty-seven people Come with us or go on some other trip- go by yourself, but visit.

One the bright spot in this regard has been the birthright to Israel program, where Jewish young people between the ages of 18 and 26 get a free trip. Over the past 12 months the papers have reported that 45 thousand applied for birthright, which is more that the 30 thousand who have a bar/bat mitzvah this year in the United States. Birthright has become an important Jewish right of passage. While 44 thousand have applied this year, funding limitations mean only 12 to 18 thousand can go on each of the sessions. Right now, 150 thousand participants have come from 52 countries to participate, an amazing program. The evidence is already piling up about the impact that has.

Two Financial help-After the synagogue, which of course should be everyone’s number one tseddakah priority, it’s your synagogue, we need it to survive, worldwide Jewry and Israel has to be right up there, with donations to the UJA, part of our synagogue’s continuing support, Jewish United Fund of Chicago, which gives about half its money to worldwide Jewry in Israel. Our past president, Alan Carroll, give a pitch for investing in Israel Bonds, which helps support Israel’s activities-, the Jewish National Fund which plants trees, helps with water conservation and land development, women’s organizations like Hadassah and Naamat, which support so much medical care in Israel.

Three-We have to be active politically. I am so happy that when we were in Israel last year, an Israeli employee of AIPAC in Jerusalem spoke to our group, and the Hermans and the Urbans went with me to the AiPAC conference. I hope others of you will go with me this year in June and all of you could join. We need to be involved with our Congress people, our state and house legislators because you never know who is going to move up in politics. We also must explain Israel’s predicament and position to our neighbors. It makes a big difference. And now with election season rolling around again, we must make our voices heard with the candidates.

And what about our fellow Jews everywhere?

When various British organizations reach to the bottom morally and vote to Boycott Israeli academics etc, British Jews suffer. Jews in many places around the world feel ever less safe. Every week there seems to be a new revelation of a forestalled terror attack here or abroad and constant threats to kill Jews. attack on Fort Dix, Eight British Muslim doctors, who are conceiving a plot, and suicide bombing continues. CNN showed a video of a Middle East school suicide bombing graduation ceremony with nearly 300 suicide bombers graduated. And Leno’s quip was that all of them were doing the same thing this summer that most graduates do, backpacking through Europe. It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic. We are fighting people who blow up Mosques, markets, hospital emergency wards, and girls’ schools. It is a culture of death. The suicide Jihadists are so hard to defeat because they have no desire to build anything. Their only goal is to make sure America and Israel fails in its effort to help make the Middle East decent, pluristic and progressive. Argentina has a large Jewish community-hundreds of thousands. There is a growing link betwen that country and Venezuela, whose dictator, Chavez, has a very close relationship with Iran, a contry whose president continuously calls for the destruction of Isrel and is suspected of being behind the 1994 bombing of the JCC that killed 85.

What about American Judaism? The tale of 2 cities-best of times and worst of times-

We have our own terror issues to worry about. Tom Freedman of the New York Times reported on a study done of American Moslems, and the conclusion overall they are better assimilated and more concerned about the religious extremism than their counterparts in the rest of the world. And yet, what I found scary about that study was that among those under 30, despite deeper American roots, one in four young Moslems think suicide bombing in the name of Islam can be justified – one out of four American Moslems under thirty. Clearly building relations with moderate Muslims must continue, as we maintain vigilance.

In a new book about the study of Jewish future by Calvin Goldshiver, he writes convincingly about the astonishing proliferation of vibrant creative Jewish activities, the unprecedented availability of Jewish educational venues and materials. Conversion to Judaism, and I am proud to say we have the city’s largest conversion program here, run by my wife Gail, has yielded may new passionate and committed Jews. We must reach out worldwide and welcome those who might find a spiritual home with the Jewish people, much as our ancestors did until stopped by foreign powers. We have Jews-by-choice here working to build better relations with the African American and Hispanic communities. One Latino fellow who says his family were Marranos from 500 years ago in Spain is translating my youtubes into Spanish.

In clear ways we are all Jews-by-choice today. We have free choice. How can we exercise it properly?

Women’s Jewish activism well established and sweeping development has revitalized adult Jewish education in many communities.

Perhaps the most encouraging fact is the majority of Jews are not fleeing connections with other Jews in Judaism. While the book Bowling Alone a few years ago chronicled America’s diminishing sense of joining others in community, and people increasingly isolated themselves in the audio visual game rooms, instead, Jews statistically continue to have some Jewish friends observed some Jewish rituals, belong to some type of Jewish organization, have visited Israel, and have some interest in Jewish cultural, spirituality or social action. He writes in the book “in diverse ways, Jews consider being Jewish one of the most important things in their lives. Therein lies hope for the Jewish future and motivation to meet its challenges”.

College Jewish studies are a real bright spot. My son is now starting Indiana University, and for those who know, Indiana University awhile ago didn’t have much Jewish study, but today you can major in Jewish studies, living in a Jewish interest group housing program. When I went to University of Chicago years ago, they had one Jewish study’s professor in medieval Jewish history, a course in biblical Hebrew and some Biblical courses in the divinity school. Now they have a big program in Jewish learning there.

Camping and day school The Reconstructionist movement now has a new summer-camp in the East and is thriving. The Conservative movement’s Ramah camp is thriving. Chicago will formally dedicate its new beautiful Jewish High School building on the 30th.

There are many challenges. When the Development Director of the Jewish Theological Seminary of Chicago’s office came to visit me, she said I was the first Rabbi she talked to whose Conservative Synagogue’s membership wasn’t dropping, but in fact, was increasing. May it continue. But we must continue to grow. Every Jew has an obligation to the Jewish people, to God and to history to belong to a synagogue. Every one of us has to think beyond ourselves to the next generation-dor ldor and make a commitment in our estate planning to the synagogue.

We face many challenges nationally and internationally on the assimilation front. On what basis today is the average Jewish household different from the non-Jew next door?

What can we do? We can do our share. We can create the strongest, most vibrant synagogue we can, where people who comes with questions and essential human needs:

What’s the meaning in life?

Where is my community?

How do I connect?

How do I feel God’s presence in my life?

What is my purpose?

What do I do with my God given talent?

We need to support our fellow Jews in the state of Israel, and the Jews who are threatened in worldwide communities while our key task is to learn our tradition, and live it while providing a sacred, religious community here. We do that so we can help people sanctify their lives daily through prayer, through deeds of loving kindness, and we help them honor the godliness in every human being, in a sacred community of welcoming, because we are here to be God’s partner. We need to do that and to help bring God’s kingdom closer to earth.

Kol Nidre Sermon Draft

1. Maslow hierarchy of needs
Maslow, one of the classic psychologists, talked about a pyramid of human needs. At the bottom is
.A. the need for food and water;
There tragically are many without adequate of either and water will be an increasing problem.
B...above that is shelter and security;-many substandard housing and not secure-darfur, Iraq
Caboose that is love and companionship; -many feel unloved and alone (call weather)
D. Above that is the need for esteem and appreciation-kavod –much low self esteem and feel no kavod

God wants us to live abundantly with enough food, water, housing, security, love, friendship, esteem, companionship-Judaism says tikkun olam fight for the right of all for this and work towards it for ourselves. Never give up. Have faith.

E. is the question that we ask tonight, at the top of the pyramid, is self actualization of meaning and purpose in life. Many don’t feel meaningful purpose

2. Most people spend most time and concern on 1-4,
3. The largest questions in our life often focus on area 5, the least discussed, explored, or reflected upon in our culture. And as we age we concern ourselves with self-actualization-the meaning and purpose of our lives, what good have we done, has it been worthwhile, more and more.

4. Out of concern about that and concern about the future, according to studies certain Americans believe in astrology and a sixth has actually consulted psychics. There is even a new scholarly field which studies meaning. It is called “experimental existential psychology, or XXP.” It explores how people find meaning and purpose in their lives. A topic that once was the province of poets and philosophers, research now say can be granted under the cold light of science. How people deal with existential concern explains a broad specter of behavior. It is a new field of study being taught at science universities. The question is getting ever more complicated because of, for one thing development in science. Scientists believe that eventually, in the near future, we will have a do it yourself virtual reality, abandoning our own world for a made up one will an ever larger.
What do we make about our lives part of adult life? For futurist, Ray Birdwell, this is only the beginning. We are approaching the age of full immersion virtual reality. Thanks to innovations in genetics, nana technology and robotics, we will soon be able to design our own mental habitat. Those same technologies will help us overcome our genetic heritage, live longer, become smarter. It is amazing to think about that we will learn how brains operate and devise computers that function like them. The barriers between minds and computers will disappear. Then the question is what do we do with these enhanced human beings? They will become our relations to one another, but what would our purpose in life be? As we move into that kind of world over the next decades and century, we will continue to contemplate the questions that have perplexed humanity since the beginning.

As we age the question on our purpose and meaning on this earth grows greater. Has there been a purpose? What difference have I made? Can I make in my remaining time? Does it matter? The main question that we ask ourselves is about the meaning of our lives. Rabbi Harold Kushner who wrote “When bad things happen to good people” also wrote a book “When what you have isn’t enough – a search for life’s meaning.” That book, based loosely on the biblical book of the ecclesial Kohelet, begins with a story of someone who came to see him who said that he sat next to a fellow in a desk in an office for many years. They exchanged little stories about their families, they knew each other’s names, and they worked side by side for over a decade. They didn’t socialize much together. Then one day the fellow died of a heart attack. A week later, his wife came in, cleaned up his personal effects, after receiving condolences from the office, and left. A few days later, somebody new was at the desk working, as if the person never existed. So the question to Rabbi Kushner was “Is that all it is?” It’s like a pebble that drops in a pool that makes a few ripples and then disappears.

. In order to answer this question, of course, the key would be to know what our goal is, what we want to achieve, what the answer is. It isn’t as easy as Map quest, or a gps system, where you plug an address in your computer, and say where you are and where you want to go and then it gives you the exact directions for doing so.

Friends, we gather tonight on the beginning of the holiest Day of the year, a day that the Torah commands us to afflict ourselves to atone for our transgressions, so we can become, NAKI, clean before G-d. Historically, with the haunting melody of Kol Nidre, this day has been a day of intense introspection for Jews. To consider our lives in the largest possible scope, to take a break from all our activities, these 24 hours are very precious to us today, but we know how important it is to spend the day reflecting and preparing ourselves for the future. This day is a day for, first of all, clearly understanding ourselves that is the purpose of all the prayers, confession and atonement.
Life goes so fast. Over before we know it. The first answer is that there is 86 thousand seconds everyday. We sleep about 25 thousand of them-not counting naps. What do we do with rest?
Of course, for G-d, our seconds don’t mean the same thing. There is the old joke about the fellow said to G-d, “G-d how long for you is a second”? And G-d says “a million years.” “And G-d, how much money for you is a penny?” and G-d says “a million dollars.” So then the man says “G-d, can I have one of your pennies”? And G-d says “yes, in just a second.” But for us, all we have is our seconds, this time with which we live. I’m fifty-one now, and I meet vigorous people in our congregation who are 89 and 93. That age doesn’t seem as far away as it did awhile ago, what happens in one’s life? One 87 old fellow here told me his life was just like a click of a finger, and then he clicked his fingers.

Yom Kippur then, bids us contemplate “what then is the destination”? , and “how does Judaism help us on this journey”?

1. Never give up
One illustrativeexample came from the Chicago Bears and the exciting Kevin Hester. In that great play where he caught a kick from the Giants, and stood under the goal post. They thought the play was over, they started walking off the field, and he took off and tied for the longest touchdown in sport’s history – 108 yards, simply because the Giants didn’t know that you don’t walk out until the play is over. Don’t assume because your old, that’s it, or reached a dead end in career, or relationship or health.
There is a lot of Jewish thinking about aging. One of the favorites I hear is aging is not for sissies, it is tough to get old. You may wonder why nature fized it this way. There is an old rabbinic legend about why this happens. The story was that before Abraham, people did not show their age, they simply got to a certain point and died. And Abraham and Isaac were walking down the street and Abraham didn’t look any older that Isaac at that point, and people didn’t know who was the older and who they should give honor to. And Abraham mentioned that to G-d and G-d said “well if I change that and I make you look older, so they will know to whom to pay homage, you will feel older. There is no other possibility.” Abraham said, “Well, we have to teach the world respect for the elderly.” And G-d said “OK” and changed nature so that people began to show their age. And that’s the first time the work Zaken, old was used in the bible in the context of Abraham. The Torah tries to communicate that the value by saying to us that you have you have to stand before the gray haired. It is a mitzvah to show respect to the elderly. The commandment to honor your father and mother is viewed as older people and teachers as well. It is obviously though that the cry of the psalmist who said “don’t abandon me in my old age”-. The worry that old people will be neglected. But the psalmist also taught us-teach me to number my days, that as long as I am getting older, I should learn something from the experience.
It is obvious that people are always looking for the fountain of youth. In fact some pharmaceutical companies, who are not cranks or quacks, that include well regarded Harvard scientists, who believe that they are going to develop a pill that treats many feared diseases, like diabetes, degenerative nerve conditions, many form of cancer, and the only side effect is the increase of life span. That is what they are working on. May we all live to experience that little pill!!. But in the meantime, there is a lot of wisdom about how to stay younger than our chronological years might indicate-, a lot of studies show that older people who frequently visit museums, play musical instruments, play chess or have schedules packed with other brain stimulating but fun activities, are less likely to develop dementia. I’m sure if you put regular synagogue attendance in the mix it would be number one.
There is a lot of evidence that growing old doesn’t mean frailty, researchers are finding. They may not be the inevitable result of aging, rather as preventable and perhaps treatable. Weight training, even in older individuals reduces inflammation, helps prevent falls. They are studying now the question of if a combination of aerobic exercises, weight lifting and balance training can help frail, sedentary individuals retain the ability to walk at least four blocks. There are even studies that say thinking negatively about getting old and you age more quickly. But if you think good thoughts about aging, you’ll likely stay healthy a little longer. People 70 or older who have negative thoughts and beliefs about aging had poor memories as the years passed. Those with positive views lived a medium of 7 years longer, even after taking into account differences in their age and health.

But of course, there comes the inevitable point of illness. There is a book by a professor, Donald Murray, called “My twice lived life,” about coping with what life deals us and seizing control of it, about living in the moment, and also about accepting our lot. The book says life is a journey and adventure, a ride filled with obstacles that help us to see living in a new light. The other book I read about is called “Learning the? the blessings of imperfect life by a young professor who was struck with Lou Geris disease at the age of 35. That disease made it urgent for him to ask all kinds of questions that most of us avoid. What he learned from those questions is that formal consciousness of my own mortality has been my best guide to being more fully alive, live more fully in the present.

The advice to aging well is pretty documented, Dr. Abraham Weil wrote “Healthy Aging”, talking about how important it is to do exercise throughout your life, eat healthy, take vitamins, watch stress , think positively, rest, and keep learning. In fact, some scholars believe that the real question is not how old are you, but what is your real age. I love the story about a Rabbi who was asked in an interview what age he works with; he said “I work with young people of any age.” These 137 factors including, do you take vitamins, how do you handle stress, do you smoke, do you floss, are you active, do you get your fiber, do you laugh, do you learn, do you get regular checkups, do you buckle up. 137 different things that affect your real age.
These questions have a greater urgency as one becomes older in life. The old joke about a Yemenite Jew who is 76 goes to the doctor for a checkup, and the doctor says “You are amazing; you have the body of a 40 year old. How old was your father when he passed away?” The man said “Oh, my father didn’t pass away, he is doing fine, and he is 95. In fact he is getting married next week.” “Your father is 95 and is getting married! Oh my goodness. Why is a man 95 getting married?’ He said “Well, his parents thought it was a good idea, since he’s got this girlfriend.” The Yemenite Jews are notorious for long lived, but of course, even with all the increased technology, none of us are going to live forever. So the question becomes especially acute for the aging. Where do we find meaning and how does that help us in our quest for a better life but after having thought about all of this, about whether it is a little pill or all this work to try and stay young, still there is the large question of what is it all for. We want to live healthy, we want to live long, we want to be remembered well, we want to live productively and positively. Asking what is the meaning of life is even to be viewed humorously. You used to have to go to India and climb a mountain and wait 6 months to talk to the guru, who would give you a two word answer. Today you can click on the internet for a search for the meaning of life and you get more information than imaginable

But we never, ever, stop until this play is completely over. One of the marvelous books I read over the summer is the book about the smartest man who ever lived. Now, some of you probably are going to say Einstein, but according to books on genius, Einstein was number ten. The smartest man who ever lived was Leonardo Deviancy. And his book is called “How to think like Leonardo Divine, seven steps to genius every day.” One of the main points about this book that was so interesting to me was that several of the essential steps in Da Vinci’s genius are that he never, ever gave up. In the face of amazing adversity that would cower almost all of us, he never gave up. Even on his death bed, he was always curious, trying to learn. He doesn’t fear a single second wasted. But towards what end? What purpose? What goal?
The Jewish people have thought about this question for a very long time.

2. It’s the journey-enjoy it. There really is no determinate ending. Part of our clear understanding on this journey is that when our little piece physically ends, the journey itself never ends. There is such a huge amount of discussion about the end of that HBO hit series Sopranos, because it didn’t seem to be really an ending. It just sort of ended without resolution. And there is even editorials in the paper about it, one of them in the Tribune said endings are hard, beginnings are easier, they are full of energy and possibility. The creator of the series invited questions, not just about the unorthodox ending, but by filling the scenario with clever portions. If we physically learn anything from the Sopranos its -- and that’d how the editorial ended. And there were even articles which compared the ending of the Sopranos, that TV show about mobsters to great works like Gone with the Wind, which didn’t really end. Scarlet vowed some day to win Rhett Butler back, but its summer vows, you don’t know if she does. Or the Samuel Beckett play, Waiting for Godot, where the two main characters wait for Godot who never shows. They keep waiting for the answer and you are left with the unresolved issue does life have any meaning whatsoever. Well, a lot of that is in the journey
3. The task on the journey is raising holiness
. G-d wants us to stay healthy. G-d wants us to use our time productively, to help ourselves and the world to grow in holiness, to repair the broken world, to work with integrity, to live intensely, Jadishly, to be part of a religious community, to do no harm, to do good and to do so as long as our breath lasts, and not to walk off the field before the play is over. We will have all of eternity to bask in glory and not worry about this world and doing good deeds. But while we are in this world, until the very last breath, it is ours to continue to grow. Even Deviancy on his death bed continued to grow. So for these 24 hours, as we take a stock of our lives and ourselves, as we reflect on what G-d wants from us, where will we find meaning. Yes, it is true that one day someone else will take our place at the desk where we sat, doing our work that we someday will cease living physically. But while we are here, we are commanded to live holy lives, to help others, to help ourselves, to grow in love and holiness that is to have a life well lived. Moses was not able to enter the Promised Land, the thing he wanted most, to remind us that we never complete our journey, we continue journeying. At some point, our journey in this world stops and we move on to the next world. Until then, the laws of the road are to live hold lives.

. A wonderful Rabbi named Daniel Matt put it this way. A spiritual task is to discover the divine spark in each person, and situation we encounter. To become aware that single thing we do, see, touch or imagine has the possibility of being laded with holiness. Judaism teaches that we must raise the fallen sparks of the unperfected world, to make that a spiritual adventure. For Judaism it’s living the journey in a hold way, continuing to look around us to see opportunities that we have to make the world better, to do tikkun olam, to save the world.
4. Community important to help out-As Jews we are also members of a covenant of people, and that helps us understand that this search for meaning takes place in the --?—community. We ask ourselves what is the purpose of our existence, how do I respond as a Jew to the exigencies of life. Some of the authentic questions of life, we do not do this alone, we do it within a community
5. But the main thing in all of this life and the next is God. Question in parasha a few weeks ago-Moses asks at end-what does God ask of you? Who cares? Best seller book by Harris posits God and religion have just a source of evil for the world. There are even synagogues called secular human ism which don’t say shma yisrael-they pray to the best we revere in humankind. To Judaism though, there is no more important question in life that what does god ask of us. It is what gives us ultimate meaning, purpose, esteem. Security.
Interesting studies over the summer showed 1. The subconscious has much more power over us than we thought and does not limit its control to our dreams at night but can effect us all day long, and helps explain why we can be noble one minute and petty the next. Next study-can’t say “he’s a dirty rat” because rats turn out to be nicer than humans. Next study-we are closest to chimps, both can be purposely vengeful to punish bad behavior but humans alone are also spiteful for no good reason. Dogs fight in the natural world over territory-only human stoop low as to train dogs to fight for our sport, or mass murder for no purpose. We can’t rely on human spirit-it too easily duped. We need God. Almost all people believe-but if we don’t squarely face what God ask of us-it means nothing.
Micah the profit answered 2800 years ago-do justice, love mercy, walks humbly with god. Moses answered 500 years earlier, to be in awe of God, to serve God through prayer, study of torah and mitzvoth, and to love God. The punch line there-Man does not live by bread alone, but from what comes from God’s mouth.

We have a choice as we live on this planet, waiting for the next world and the next life-we deserve to have enough food, water, shelter, security, companionship, esteem, respect. If we or our neighbor do not, we must fight for it, with justice and mercy continually and never give up. But mean while, as the overreaching guide principle, the reason why we are here,, the thing that gives us and our lives eternal meaning and purpose, is to use our God given talents and abilities, with our loved ones, our neighbors, our community, our country, our world, to be in awe of God-year, to learn what God wants from us by studying the tradition, to live what God asks of us through the mitzvoth, and to love both God and our neighbors through prayer and deeds of loving kindness. That’s why we say that it is repentance yeshiva -reflecting on our errors and rectifying them, tfilah-praying over it, and tzedakah turning our lives out to help others. That is the key to this holiest of days


Yom Kippur Day-To learn to live to love”

What is Judaism? How would you explain Judaism simply? Is it we believe that G-d is one – we promote that to the world?
Or we recognize there are hundreds of commandments that G-d gave us from the Torah, the Orthodox say six hundred thirteen, and to be a Jew is to observe those commandments?
Is it Maimonides thirteen principals of faith, articulating the fundamentals of Jewish belief?
Or if you simply say it in one sentence, as the great sage Hillel did two thousand years ago when someone asked him to explain Judaism on one foot – “Do not what is hatful to you, do not do to your neighbor, all the rest is commentary – go and study.”
Is it as the great prophet, Micah, in the bible tried to summarize, to say “what does G-d want from us, to do justice, to love mercy and to walk company with G-d.?”
Or what it says in Deuteronomy-what does God ask of you? To be in awe of God, observe the commandments, serve God and love God??” What is it to be a Jew?

In one way to look at it- If Yom Kippur atones for our transgressions against G-d, the most indispensable basis of it, then is to know what G-d wants us to do, so we know what we are responsible for. All these huge classic books of Judaism on my shelves, and I could point to all those and say “This is Judaism”, but I try and think about a succinct way to sum up the essential ideas. After reviewing and reflecting on all of these possibilities, I have three simple words that I want to communicate to you today as guideposts in what I think of the essentials of Judaism. And they all begin with L.
The first one is “To Learn”. The Hebrew word for learn begins with the same letter sound – Lamad, the basis of the word Talmud, to learn. In one of the classic formulas of Judaism, from the Talmud, it is taught, “the world is based on three things, Torah, Avodah, and Gmilut Hasidim”. The first word, Torah, means learning/ instruction. It is the root of that word is the same as a parent, to instruct, to teach. When the prophet, Micah said the key is to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humble with G-d, we are not walking humbly with G-d if we think we are know-it-alls, if we think we don’t need to learn from G-d what our lives should be.
Some born Jews sadly get virtually no Jewish education and go through life without really knowing the basis of Judaism. For those who do get Jewish education, some end at thirteen.
There are some bright spots on the horizon, the fantastic growth of Jewish Day schools. When I graduated from the fist Solomon Schechter 8th grade class with 13 classmates here in 1970, there were a few schools like it in the nation. Now there are many and many non-denominational ones as well, besides all the Orthodox. The proliferation of Jewish high schools, the ground breaking for the Chicago land Jewish high school is happening and of course, you have the Ida Crown Jewish Academy, and other high schools growing around the country, you have a proliferation of Jewish study classes at universities.
The access now to the internet has made learning just about anything jut a touch away. One of activities this past year has been uploading 175 videos of Jewish educational content to youtube, and they have been watched over 50,000 times, as one rabbi’s effort to assist Jewish learning. There is a great passage that we recite every morning in our prayer service, at the beginning of the morning Jewish prayers, which goes like this – These are deeds that yield immediate fruit and continue to yield fruit in time to come – honoring your parents, doing deeds of loving kindness, providing hospitality, visiting the sick, helping the needy bride, attending the dead, making peace between one person and another, but preserves for the last, a study of Torah is the most basic of them all. Read Torah.
A founder of human secular Judaism died in July sadly of an accident. In his obituary it said that when he founded secular human Judaism, in the prayer service they don’t recite the Shema, they say they revere the best in man. I obviously disagree with that. We do need to aspire to the best that human beings can achieve, but Judaism has always believed that there is a source of wisdom and power greater than us, and that source of wisdom and power we call G-d, Adonai, and that G-d communicates with us and has things to tell us. Whatever we study in Judaism, we are really trying to understand what it is that G-d wants. That doesn’t mean that we go to it blindly. Jews have always questioned. I have a whole sermon on the High Holidays about questioning. These are faculties we challenge, each other and even G-d.
When we say at the end of the Shema twice a day, the reader says “Adonai, elohachem, abet”, G-d is a
G-d of emet that is a source of truth. The word emet, if you think about it, has the first, middle and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet, we continually want to find the truth. There is obviously so much more available now. In 1456 there were sixty copies of the Guttenberg bible which was the first book printed in Europe. But yet, less than fifty years later by the turn of the century in 1500, there were fifteen million printed books in circulation. And it has just continued to explode, now the internet, where the people have multiple opportunities to learn.
One of the things I am so proud of about the Synagogue is the opportunities we have here. On a daily basis, you can get my Torah email, if you have a computer, with a sermon or Torah thoughts, or something every day. You can even do it while we are all sleeping, 24 hours a day. Besides my Youtube videos thousands more, and websites and newspapers, periodicals, books
We have weekly classes here. You want to learn how to read Hebrew; we offer it nearly year round. You want to learn the essentials of Judaism; we offer our sixteen week class nearly year round my mother offers a monthly Yiddish class. Gail offers her weekly spirituality Pirkei Avot class. We have a monthly lunch and learn with a variety of lectures. The Synagogue is a hotbed for Jewish learning, and of course, just not here. You are in one of the biggest Jewish communities the world, with a quarter million Jews, and all kinds of activities and learning opportunities here.
I don’t know if any of you have watched that show, “are you smarter than a fifth grader.” Well, in Judaism we should be smarter than a fifth grader. We should continue to learn every day. Why is Torah study considered to be the highest value above all others on that list of the ancient list from the Talmud? Because it leads to everything else.
There are a lot of stories of the summer about people diving for sunken treasure and finding huge treasures at the bottom of the ocean. The Torah says it is not across the ocean, it is not so far away you can’t find it, it is right there.
. The second “L” is to live Jewishly. I choose that because the Torah says “Here are the commandments, Hi Bahem, you should live by them. It does mean to live Jewishly, When G-d first offered the Torah, our ancestors said Naasah Vnishma, we will do it and then we will understand why we do it. Judaism is a leap of action. Of course we are a religion of faith, but primarily a religion of doing. In the famous expression, the world stands on three things, the first is Torah, which I just talked about is learning, the second is Avodah, which is work, but it is also divine worship, divine service, living with G-d, in G-d’s ways. There is a great passage, an ancient passage which says we have to imitate G-d and all G-d’s ways, walk in G-d’s ways. How do you do that? We don’t know what G-d does. While we know what G-d does through the commandments, when G-d sent a messenger to visit the sick, when the good deeds recorded as G-d’s doing, we have to emulate them. What does that mean?
We have to pray. We have a daily minion and most of the time, thank G-d, we’re not the biggest synagogue in the world, we have a daily minion, we have ten people. Make a commitment, come to our daily minion, and pray with us. Pray daily, even if you are not in our minion, but pray. The basic way Jews pray is through blessings. We should bless G-d a hundred times a day, our tradition said, through our daily prayers, whenever we benefit from something, to live Jewishly is to pray. Don’t be afraid to talk to God.
Judaism is also concerned about what we eat, not only healthily, which is a constant struggle, but also kosher, to discipline ourselves through Torah, to inspire to eating in a kosher way.
Judaism also tells us to live in terms of Jewish time. I don’t mean being late, - it means to sanctify the Sabbath, lighting candles, making kiddish and having Hallah.
I read a book this year called “How to think like Leonardo DiVinci, Seven Steps to Genius Everyday.” Step number three of the seven is about being attuned with all your senses to life. I’m thinking about how much of Judaism is attuning the senses to G-d. We light the candles, we feel the warmth and we see the light. Havdalah we smell the spice box. Shabbat we smell the Hallah and the chicken cooking, or whatever you are making. We hear the words of the Shofar and our prayers and Jewish songs. To live, to spend our time jewishly, sanctifying the Sabbath, coming to services, observing the holidays. We are not a religion that says “I’m Jewish so I eat a bagel and lox; it is a religion of sanctifying our lives for Jewish time.
And I’ll talk more about living jewishly means Jewish life cycle rituals. There is a disturbing trend I read about in the media of not only some Americans but young Jewish couples not circumcising their sons. We’ve done it for four thousand years. Ok, so you can’t walk for a year after you get circumcised (joke), but we have never not done it-even under threats. Huge medical studies indicate it is healthful in many ways.
Our adolescent life cycle event the Bar and bat Mitzvah. There are more Jewish kids this year who have applied to go on the birth right trip to Israel, somewhere about fifty thousand, but they cannot all be accommodated for lack of resources, but thank G-d that program exists, more, than are going to have bar/bat mitzvahs this year. I encounter parents who don’t bother with Jewish education and bar mitzvah- everything else is more important. In the sad aftermath of the bridge collapse in the twin Cities there was much bemoaning of the failure to invest properly in infrastructure of roads and bridges. The classic system of Jewish infrastructure, that has made Judaism possible, has been uniform, universal education of our youth.-and the bar/bat mitzvah ceremony which celebrates one stage of it. .
Jewish marriage and Jewish weddings-the classic angst thereof course is intermarriage, but the real issue is whether the family will be Jewish thereafter-we must do whatever we can to support the couple-in married or not, and encourage Jewish living after the ceremony.
Jewish funeral practices. Cremation seems to be an increasing mode of Jewish end of life, and as you know Judaism is opposed to that. We think people’s bodies should not be burnt. They should be lovingly placed back into the earth from whence they came, and we remember that Hitler major way of disposing of dead Jews was to burn them.
We think we should live our lives in Jewish life cycle ways.
And of course, live our lives based on the ethical pattern of Judaism In the hullabaloo about the various terrorist plots being uncovered in England, the papers say the average Londoner is watched and photographed three hundred times a day by these anonymous cameras. Well, we know G-d is watching us all the time. There is a wonderful Shabbat story that goes along with the Shabbat hymn Shalom Alachem, which talks about the welcoming the Shabbat angels-the story goes that there are angels looking in our window and they are checking to see if we are making Shabbat. Well, I want to borrow this story, that we are being photographed all this time and G-d’s watching us.
One of the ways to assess if we are living jewishly or not, is to imagine when the angels look through our windows, they wonder about more than Shabbat. Do they see us creating a Jewish home? Are there kiddish cups on display, is there a Hanukkah menorah, and are there Jewish books? Are these things dusty or are they being used? Is there a Hallah cover? Are there two sets of dishes for meat and milk? Is there music on that is Jewish?
Vanessa ocks teaches in the department of religious studies at the University of Virginia. She is the author of a book called “Words on fire, one woman’s journey into the sacred.” She identifies three useful categories as to what makes a Jewish home Jewish. The first category she calls “Jewish stuff”. Religious books, coffee table art, photographs of Jews, Jewish jewelry, seduccah boxes, Jewish art work, Jewish articulate objects. Does your home have this stuff? The second category she calls “Jewish Signifying Objects.” Objects that are not in of themselves considered exclusively and uniquely Jewish, but they function in many Jewish to embody, create an express Kiddush holiness, by their sheer presence. Traditional Jewish foods like Hanukkah latkes, homintashen, gefilte fish, displays of extended families, from generation to generation, do we have an abundance of Jewish signify objects? The third set in the Jewish home she calls “ordinary objects transformed.” Material objects found in any Jewish home, but function in a Jewish way. A dish is a dish, but in a Jewish home where Kashrut is observed, the dishes may have certain colors or patterns. A telephone is a telephone, but when it is used to check on a sick friend, it becomes a holy vessel. Even cleaning equipment when it is used to clean one’s house before Shabbat, to make Shabbat special, it becomes a holy vessel. And money, too, - is money being dropped into a tseddakah box before candle lighting?
These three categories of Jewish subjects signify objects of Jewish stuff that makes your home Jewish. What do the angels see? Is the home and immediate home defined by Jewish values? Is the conversation that occurs in your home gauged by a Jewish thermometer? Our tradition says that three people who eat and not share with the Torah, it is as if they consumed idolatrous sacrifices. Even one person sitting and thinking about Jewish subjects, brings the divine presence. Dr. Arnold Eisen, the newly appointed chancellor urged all Rabbis to speak about Jewish living and mitzvoth observance these High Holidays.

The third “L” after learning and living, is to love jewishly. There are two kinds of love. The first is to love G-d. The Torah commands us to love G-d three different ways, with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our might. Now how do you love G-d?
First of all, G-d has to be first. Anything else is idolatrous. And for many people, many Jews, G-d aren’t even on the agenda. But G-d has to be first. That means we need to pray, we need to thank G-d every day for the blessings in our life. One of the ways in which we love G-d is by doing G-d’s bidding, by extending ourselves to help others, to sanctify G-d through our deeds, called kiddushat hashem. You know the word enthusiastic means to be filled with G-d. So, we need to focus as a priority on loving
G-d. Lest you imagine this as unscientific, a recent article in the NYT about science and God said “Albert Einstein mentioned God often enough that one could imagine he and the “OLD ONE” as he called God sometimes, had a standing date for coffee. To wit-“the Lord is subtle, but malicious he is not.”
The other kind of love is to love others. And that starts with us. You know in a very pivotal central verse of the Torah, which is really the key to life, love thy neighbor as thyself, a lot of people talk about the challenge of loving your neighbor, but the key to the verse begins with loving yourself, and how many people don’t love them. But G-d loves you. You are made in the image of G-d, and we can’t ever forget that. And if we don’t love ourselves, how can we reach out and react to the world with any kind of image befitting being made in G-d’s image.
And after we understand we have to love ourselves, we have to reach out and love others. We have to see G-d in everyone else. There is no room in Judaism for any kind of racism, because we are all members of the human race. The Torah begins with one Adam. I don’t believe there is literally just one guy Adam at the beginning-(if so, who did his son marry?) But one Adam as a myth is a way of saying we all come from the same person, it is a classic madras saying, no one can say my father was greater than yours.
Key words of Judaism are chased and reclaim, as Micah said, to do justice and to love mercy. One of the names for G-d is Rickman lay, the merciful one. What does it mean to have mercy? One common expression is -Oh he is a dirty rat. But you know what; they have done studies this year that show that rats are very kind to each other, even to stranger rats. Chimps are the closest to humans of any animal but a study released in August showed that while chimps and humans can be properly vengeful to punish bad behavior, only humans are spiteful. We should just be as kind to other human beings, at least as nice as rats are and chimps are to their own. Dogs don’t fight each other unless there is a good reason-its only humans who amuse ourselves by starving man’s best friend into killing other of man’s best friends for sport.
The Torah says one law for Israelite and stranger alike. Love the stranger. It is a very unique and special religion in this regard to teach human beings not to have xenophobia, fear of strangers, but love of strangers. The basis of loving others is to treat all as we would like to treated-respect them, their property, and their honor.
NYT had story about hotels trying to improve wake-up calls. With all the fancy technology, often calls don't happen, or the wrong hour. We have always had a wake-up call using the most ancient and simple device-the shofar. Rambam-wake us up from our spiritual slumber. Our spiritual slumber is not really living fully as God intended.

And so my friends, what is it to be a Jew? What is Judaism? What are the pillars upon which we should live our lives? I offer this simple formula, to go forward this year and to think about this every day. To learn as a Jew, to live as a Jew, and to love as a Jew, G-d and our fellows. Every night before you go to bed, assess your day on that basis. Did I learn today? Did I live as a Jew today? Did I love G-d and my fellow creatures today? And, of course, every day we fall short, that is what it is to be human and so we repent and we reflect and we strive tomorrow. And every morning as we say the traditional words, which are beautiful to say, thank you G-d for restoring my soul. Modeh Ani Lifanecha Melach Chai Vikiyom. We also quote the great verses from the psalm – this is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Be filled with enthusiasm for the new day. By again say with me, to learn, to live and to love.

Yom Kippur Sermon #3

On this holiest day of the year, we reflect on really what is the most important thing in life. Sometimes the most obvious and simplest things are ignored. So what I want to talk to you today is about half of Judaism, about half of life, about half of what seems to G-d the most important things in life, and about which Yom Kippur can remind us, but that doesn’t do any good. And that is what it is to be a mensch. What it is to be nice?

. There isn’t any good word in Hebrew for nice. When you say something looks nice, you use the word, Yafeh, and you can say the word good is Tov, but doing nice, being nice, acting nicely, there is really no one term. On the other hand, one can would say that half of everything concerned with G-d is about being nice.
We divide all of the Mitzvot, the commandments in Judaism, into two groups. Commandments having to do with us and G-d, like Shabbat and Kashrut, and commandments having to do with us and other human beings, we call Ben adom, La Chavaro, between a fellow and another person. In fact the Ten commandments are divided that way too. The first half, on the right side, is about G-d and not taking G-d’s name in vain, and not having idols, and Shabbat, even honoring parents #5, that is the bridge commandment between the two sides, have to do with G-d. The other side, has to do with our relations with our fellows.
The rabbis are very clear that Yom Kippur only can atone for transgressions between us and G-d, but transgressions between us and our fellows, we have to take care of that ourselves. And then G-d can forgive us. In fact, if you could distill the entire High Holiday liturgy down to one line, it probably would be: “repentance prayer in deeds of loving kindness averts the severity of the decree.” The key there is after we repent, and after we pray, we still have to do deeds of loving kindness.
I raise this today, because it seems to be a huge issue, maybe always has been. First of all, on the level of minor problems, there are articles all the time in the paper now about how it seems that basic civility between people is eroding and people are being ruder. Whether it is spitting on the street, thinking the whole world is yours, sneezing without covering your nose, swearing a lot, playing your music too loudly, although I-pods seemed to have helped out a bit, taking the place of those big boom boxes, to the level of cheating, stealing, gossiping, slandering, humiliating, hurting. All the things we do to hurt one another. These may seem to be minor things.
We shouldn’t say that they are just minor. One way to draw an analogy is the story about the fourteen billion dollar Boston tunnel project had a terrible calamity when part of the roof fell down and killed somebody and caused huge delays. It turns out that after months of investigating the problem was the wrong kind brew was used to secure a dollar and fifteen cent anchor, which caused the whole top roof to come down. Little things have big consequences.
The accumulated little things of lack of civility, and of hurting one another, have big consequences. Before we go into the Jewish aspect of this, let us talk about the science aspects. One of the most startling things that have been found by researchers this past year on this subject is that rats are actually very nice to one another. They go out of their way even for rats they don’t know to be kind. We used to say “Oh, he’s a dirty rat”. But we can’t say that really anymore because rats seem to be very nice.
Then scientists released a study that found chimp that have 98% humans dna do vengeful things as we do, but for purpose, but unlike humans, are not purposelessly __________. Scientist further found that we are our own worst enemy in this regard, even as our conscious minds try to be nice, our subconscious works continuously to undermine our high mindedness. Scientists believe that we’re actually wired for niceness, for helping others, when they attach wires to various parts of our brain, and we actually do well for someone else, the parts of the brain linked to happiness light up. So if we’re actually wired for happiness, what goes wrong? And then of course there are psychopaths who have no moral sense of life. Not just suicide bombers. Since 9-11. 100,000 Americans have been slain by guns and 500,000 assaulted with guns.

What does Judaism teach? In the twenties lots of Jews were champion boxers. A young Jew went to his parents and said he wanted boxing lessons. His mothers said “I don’t want you to do it because you might get hurt.” His father said “I don’t want you to do it because you might hurt someone else.” The question is do we really have a religious view of humanity that we are made in G-d’s image, in which case just as we were personally made in G-d ‘s image, so was everybody. The task is to see the other as somebody made in G-d’s image. Martin Buber, one of the great Jewish thinkers of the last century, most famous phrase was “I vow”, that we have to see every other human being as a vow, made in G-d’s image.
I was watching a TV commercial for the car brand Volvo and they were touting the new security system, where from a far distance, you can have a clicker, not to open your car, which they have as many cars do now, but as the ad said, to detect whether there is a human heart inside that car. Of course, that is a safety issue, is there somebody hiding in your car. How often that happens, I don’t know. But on a spiritual level detecting whether there is a human heart in that car, is like is there a human heart in that person. I think about the wizard of Oz, the story of a tin man who basically just wanted to know that he had a heart. There is a very famous Jewish ancient story about this about a Rabbi who sent his five disciples out to investigate what were the most important qualities in life. Each disciple came back with a different value. And the Rabbi said the disciple who came back and said the heart was the most important quality to have. Was the right value trait, because that encompassed all the other qualities, to have a human heart?
One of the stories I tell at dedications for tombstone monuments was a quote from Rave Kook, who was a great Rabbi of Palestine before Israel became a state. In reflecting on the western wall, he once said something that is now a modern Hebrew song, he said there is some stones that have hearts like human beings, some human beings that have hearts like stone. So what is it to have a heart like a human being? And what is it we do to hurt one another? There are so many ways.
Sometimes the greatest hurt comes from those who are supposed to love us and care for us the most. Gail and I went out to Oakton Des Plaines campus for a sculpture exhibit put together by one of our members. The curators of the museum there is Nathan Harpist. There are some very interesting sculptures and one of them was actually a cylinder and around it was paper, like tape measures, and on each blank tape measure was written phrases. All negative, and all things that people hear from parents and relatives-such as “oh, you’re too fat, you won’t amount to anything, you’re stupid, you don’t do anything right” and on and on, dozens of these sentences went around and around the cylinder like tapes in our head, things we say to hurt and afflict one another.
How is it that we can start saying things of loving kindness to one another, and not do things to hurt one another? .I was very moved by the story about a Florida school that is now not just teaching the three R’s, but to teach two other R’s. In addition to reading, writing and arithmetic, they are teaching respect and responsibility. That’s why that I started to use on my tag line of emails and synagogue literature, what I think are three of the major issues in Judaism that we try to teach. One is to learn jewishly to study Torah. The second is to live jewishly. The third is to love
G-d with all our heart, soul and might, and our fellow creatures as ourselves.
There was a story in the paper about a church where the minister gets a bus and takes his parishioners out on the bus to do random acts of kindness and the line he uses is “the church has left the building.” There is something very noble about that, on the other hand, random acts of kindness is not exactly what the Jewish theory had in mind, because we structurally institutionalize this, and the commandment system of Gmilut Hasidim , deeds of loving kindness, as well as tseddakah. Tseddakah is not based on randomness, like charity based on the Greek word keratas, of love, but of the root word tseddakah, the responsibility.
I found an article which I found meaningful in this regard, listed various qualities. For example it asked the question “what is the greatest joy?’ And the answer to this article was “giving”.
It asked-What is the most satisfying work we have? Helping others. In that regard, there was a study this year which surprised me because when clergy get together they always talk about how much burn out there is. Turns out that clergy are the most satisfying of all professions. And number two after that were other helping fields like social work. The people obviously in that field don’t make the most money, but seem to be the most satisfied. The greatest, most satisfied work seems to be helping others.
The article went on to say is what the ugliest personality trait is, they included selfishness,
What is the greatest shot in the arm, encouragement?
The most powerful force in life? love,
The most dangerous pariah? the gossiper,
The deadliest weapon? the tongue,
The most contagious spirit, enthusiasm.
These are values and ideas that we could well emulate. So from a Jewish prospective, how do we understand this? I’ll tell you a story that is from the Torah, the end of the book of Numbers, the fourth book of the Torah that makes us a point like this. 2 1/2 of tribes on the border of the land of Israel say to Moses, I don’t want to go across the land. The reasons they give him notably have any concept of G-d absent from their request, and they quite clearly prioritize in their language that their businesses, their cattle, will be better on that side of the Jordan. And the last thing they mention is their children. Moses is very upset with them and he basically, mentions G-d four times in a brief response and changes the priority by listing the children first, their families, and then their cattle. And the sages said that if you don’t approach life in a relationship to others in a meaningful spiritual way, G-d based, it doesn’t end up being meaningful and valuable, and that we can’t prioritize our business over our family and our community and our deeds. In the end, that’s not a proper value system.
Antimonies is a cousin of the great medieval sage, Rambam/ Maimonides, who is himself a wonderful important medieval sage, said that every commandment, no matter what it is, it has one of two purposes, either reminding us about G-d or teaching us to be more merciful and compassionate. The Talmud said that the basic way in which we know G-d is through deeds of loving kindness, but G-d does deeds of loving kindness, and we have to emulate G-d. The Torah begins with deeds of loving kindness, of G-d addressing Adam and Eve, marrying them, taking care of them, and providing for them. And as for deeds of loving kindness, is G-d burying Moses. In fact, that is an interesting Mitzvah when you participate in burying the dead. The Rabbis call it the ultimate form of mercy because the person obviously can’t repay you.
One of the candidates as the most important mitzvah in the Torah, the Torah gave it the center place in the middle book, in almost the middle chapter, in Leviticus 19, is “love thy neighbor as thyself.” What’s fascinating about that is that is the first time that phrase occurs in either that form or the form it occurs in the Talmud which is “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.” Subsequent to that verse from about fifteen hundred BCE, it occurs in virtually every culture, east and west. In Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Many, many religious texts have a version of that verse. Clearly somehow every culture understood that G-d, above all, wanted us to love our neighbor as ourselves.-and to not do things to others we would hate to have done to ourselves.
Now, that verse means that we have to love ourselves, but not exclusively. As the great sage Hillel said “If I am not for myself, who will be? But if I am only for myself, what am I?” In the Torah, in describing the creation of humanity says we are created in the image of G-d, but Salem Elohem. And if indeed we are created in the image of G-d, so is everyone else. And so we have to respect that. The Torah also as you know begins with the idea that there is one Adam. One person created first. Now, I don’t believe that to be scientifically true, but it makes a very important spiritual point which is we all come from the same G-d and no one can say my Dad is better than yours.
There is a very fascinating story in the media earlier in the year about a fellow who was tracing his DNA and was convinced he was one hundred percent white, Anglo Saxon protestant. And when his DNA was actually checked, it turns out that he had about twenty different ethnic groups from all over the world in his blood system. He wasn’t anything, but he was everyone and everybody. And I would hazard a guess that if anyone of us checked our DNA, we would find that we are linked deeply. In any case, differences in DNA between us and every other human being is so minor, it is miniscule, because we all come from the same origin. And therefore, that same chapter in Leviticus which says “Love thy neighbor as thy self” also says “don’t tell tales, don’t bear stories, don’t curse people who are deaf, don’t stand idly by while the blood of your neighbor is spilled.” It’s to be a mensch. And this is all regulated by commandments. These are not optional ideas; these are commandments from G-d. G-d wants us to behave this way towards one another.
The biblical story we read this afternoon, the story of Jonah which concludes Yom Kippur’s bible readings makes the same point. Jonah feels it is not his big responsibility to help the citizens of Nineveh. He doesn’t want to bother with it. God chases him around the world until he forces Jonah to agree that it is his responsibility to care about other people.
So it starts with us. It starts with us. And to be the best person we can be means to refrain from humiliating other people. It means refraining from gossip, don’t listen, and don’t participate in it. It means like I kind of hear at funeral’s eulogy preparation, if you have nothing good to say, don’t say it. It means to be positive, encouraging, and supportive, to help our neighbor as ourselves. It doesn’t mean we have to be saps and be taken advantage of, but to live with a positive outlook. We need to be conscious and considerate of others and of ourselves, because G-d talks about our responsibility to be holy. It is often in the context of these kinds of behaviors which is of deep concern to G-d. And G-d gives us obligations to behave in a particular way.
On Yom Kippur, when we are praying for our lives, and praying for our souls, and praying for more time and for mercy and capacity for G-d, G-d expects us in turn to be mercifully and compassionate to others, and to exercise that by doing deeds of loving kindness. Maimonides says that we should each view ourselves as though we are equally balanced, right now, at this moment, between deeds of good and deeds of bad, and perhaps the next thing we do will tip the scale. This is the only way to rectify the bad we brought into the world by our misdeeds is to do positive deeds to counterbalance it. Do deeds of loving kindness. And that is why every morning in the traditional prayer book, it begins with a list of kinds of acts of loving kindness that we can do to help one another.
Whether it is, in ancient times, providing a soup kitchen for the hungry, providing a wedding dress for a poor bride, or helping bury a poor person, giving tseddakah, helping institutions, not turning our back on others, giving the corners of our field to the poor, and in simple discourse, not taking bribes, not cheating anyone, paying workers a decent wage that they are entitled to at the appropriate time, employing people, being supportive and kind. It also means observing the social conventions-be respectful to the property and person of others. Who is honored-the Talmud asks-he who honors his fellow.
It seems like this is so clear to all of us, but on this holiest day of the year, we have to remind ourselves it’s a deep concern to G-d, and it is something that we need to renew and rededicate ourselves to, because we can’t effect proper atonement and get a clean slate as the Torah promises us unless we take this very seriously and take care of it.