As I prepare to take my sabbatical I wish to express a few words of thanks and blessing to the Shomrei community.
First, I thank the Shomrei leaders, last year and this year, who worked with me in conceiving and implementing a plan for my sabbatical. I especially wish to single out our Past President, Fern Henig and her committee, and our current President, Sara Ann Erichson, and the Sabbatical Committee, co-chaired by Geoff Sadow and Dan Winter. The Shomrei Board has been thoughtful and supportive throughout this whole process, as they always are in tackling all matters that affect our congregation.
And I also want to thank so many of you who have communicated your hopes and good wishes for this new adventure that I and Zelda (- and Kasha, too!) are undertaking. Continue reading
Editor’s Note: This message was originally sent out on Sunday, Oct.28, the day after the tragedy in Pittsburgh.
Oh, if only my head were a spring of water and my eye a fountain of tears! I would weep all day and night for the slain of my dear people.
Our grief is overwhelming as we process the tragedy that has befallen the worshipers at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. This tragedy has swept over the entire Jewish community everywhere and has spread to affect all decent people in our country and beyond.
The news on Shabbat arrived as we were in the midst of celebrating a Bar Mitzvah with one of our cherished families. Our sanctuary was filled. We sang together that out Torah is a “tree of life to all who hold it tight.” The dissonance between our own prayers – identical to those offered at Tree of Life Synagogue – and the murderous violence inflicted there could not be more extreme.
A few years ago a project was started to gather readers in Israel and around the world to undertake reading a chapter of the Bible each day, from start to finish. There are 929 chapters altogether, so the project is called 929.
It started in the winter of 2014 and the first cycle was completed this summer. As with our yearly reading of the Torah, the cycle has begun again and is presently in the middle of the Book of Exodus.
Editor’s Note: Rabbi Greenstein originally gave this sermon on Yom Kippur 5779 (Sept 2018).
“Why is this day different from all other holidays of the whole year?” For, on all these other occasions, including celebrations of the New Moon, Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot, we sing psalms of joy and praise, called Hallel.
But we don’t sing the Hallel on Rosh Ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur. Why not? The Talmud presents this question in dramatic form. The sages imagine the angels of heaven using this omission of ours as a chance to criticize the people of Israel. The Talmud relates:
“The angels inquired of God, ‘Master of the Universe, why does Israel fail to sing the Hallel songs of praise before You during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?’
And God replied, ‘When the Ruler sits on the throne of judgment before the books of life and death, could Israel utter such songs?’” (BTRosh Hashanah 32b) Continue reading
Editor’s Note: Rabbi Greenstein originally gave this sermon on Kol Nidre 5779 (Sept 2018).
A new rabbi arrives in town and the congregation eagerly awaits his first sermon. They are all ears as he eloquently speaks about the importance of observing Shabbat.
After services the President of the shul approaches the new rabbi and confides to him, “Rabbi, you can’t speak about observing the Sabbath to this community. No one observes the Shabbat here. You’ve got to know your audience! Believe me; I’m trying to help you out.”
The rabbi is suitably grateful. The next Shabbat he gets up and gives an impassioned sermon, citing chapter and verse, on the virtues of keeping kosher.
After services the President goes up to him. “Rabbi, you can’t talk about keeping kosher to us. Keeping kosher is not who we are!”
The rabbi apologizes and promises to do better next time. Continue reading
Editor’s Note: Rabbi Greenstein originally gave this sermon on the first day of Rosh Hashanah 5779 (Sept 2018).
So you’re driving along with your beloved – maybe on the way to a movie or something. All is well. You’re talking about this and that. You approach the quiet intersection and the light turns red. But you give some gas and make the turn.
And then you hear the siren and see the flashing lights drawing up behind you. Your spirit sinks. You pull over. You are in a foul mood now. Maybe your beloved shoots you a look or lets out an expletive. Who are you more upset with? The officer, your beloved, or yourself? Continue reading
A thoughtful Jew is always challenged to hold multiple thoughts and perspectives in mind simultaneously. As I have discussed before (see “Easy Livin’,” Kol Emunah Summer, 2012) our modern experience of summer is contradictory. The summer is the time of trips to the shore (- “beach” in my language), going to camp or just sleeping late. It is a time of barbecues and parties. But, in traditional Jewish culture it is the time of the Three Weeks, a period spanning from the 17th of Tammuz through the 9th of Av (Tisha B’Av). And during those three weeks partying is not done. By the week of Tisha B’Av meat is avoided. Why the contradiction?