Angel for Shabbat

A Three Year Old Bride? Thoughts on Parashat Hayyei Sarah

Students were told by their teacher that Rivka was three years old when she married Yitzhak--who was forty years old. A student asked: Is it reasonable to think that a forty year old man like Yithak would marry a three year old girl? The rabbi responded: if our sages say that Rivka was three years old, that's how old she was! There is no room for further discussion. Actually, there is a lot more room for discussion.

Recognition Hunger: Thoughts for Parashat Lekh Lekha

In his book, “Games People Play,” Dr. Eric Berne wrote of a phenomenon that he described as recognition hunger. Humans have a deep psychological need to be recognized, to be validated. It is a natural desire to want to be loved and appreciated. These signs of affirmative recognition convey a message: your life matters, you are good, you make a difference. When someone sincerely praises or thanks us, we feel better about ourselves.

Prayers that Ascend: Thoughts for Parashat Vayetsei

A story is told of the great Hassidic master, Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev. He had been visiting a town and attended prayer services in the local synagogue. One day, he stopped at the synagogue door and did not enter the sanctuary. People asked: Why did the Rebbe not enter the synagogue? Rabbi Levi Yitzhak told them: “The synagogue is too crowded.” But the synagogue was empty! The Rebbe explained: “The synagogue is full of prayers, there's no room left for us."

Thoughts for Yom Kippur

Fasting and praying are important ingredients of Yom Kippur and are signs of repentance for our transgressions against God. But, as is well known, Yom Kippur does not provide atonement for sins committed against human beings. Rabbinic tradition has it that a person can expect to be judged by God with the same standard of judgment that a person applies to others. If a person is mean-spirited and unfair in treatment of fellow human beings, these same qualities will be applied by the Heavenly court.

Above Tragedy: Thoughts for Simhat Torah

(This is the first sermon I delivered from the pulpit of Congregation Shearith Israel, Simhat Torah 1969. Many years have passed since that first sermon, and yet the ideas within it continue to ring true.)
...though we may never enter the Promised Land, we will be able to stand on a summit and see our dreams realized in the future through our children. We may never walk into the land, but we will have led an entire generation to the point where they can enter.