Monthly Archives: March 2017

Shabbat Shalom

The gifted Shai Sebbag shares Shalom Aleichem on his guitar.


Shalom Aleichem- Peace be with you, our traditional liturgical greeting of Shabbat dating back to the mystics of Tzfat (Safed) from the 16th or 17th century.

The story goes that two angels accompanied us on our way back home from the synagogue for Shabbat Dinner on Friday night.  If the home was ready for Shabbat, the good angel blessed that next Shabbat it should also be so, and the bad angel would respond “Amen”.  If the house was not ready for Shabbat, the roles were reversed.

Peace upon you, ministering angels, messengers of the Most High,                                      of the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.
Come in peace, messengers of peace, messengers of the Most High,                                     of the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.
Bless me with peace, messengers of peace, messengers of the Most High,                           of the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.
May your departure be in peace, messengers of peace, messengers of the Most High,       of the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.

American Jews in Turbulent Times


Lighthouse John Lund

Being a rabbi in Turbulent Times was the theme of the annual convention of reform rabbis. Indeed we live in particularly turbulent times. But it is times like these that can give us perspective and renewed commitment to our ideals.

Life in modern America is arguably the best that Jews have ever experienced. Our liberty and prosperity are superior to any other time in our history. Our forebears fought for our place here and American Jews have now full access to the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of being a citizen. We embrace these blessings and have worked toward expanding them to include others. However, the path forward has not been smooth. There have been times when our achievements and extraordinary blessings have been threatened. But these threats are opportunities that challenge us to do better, examining our resolve and commitment to our values.

Living in turbulent times forces us to ask difficult questions. How do we champion ethics and morals, protecting and preserving them when civil conventions are challenged or dismissed as unimportant? Ethics and morals, however, remain the fabric that keeps us together, binding us, enriching us and keeping us strong. Promoting these is the work that needs to be done now more than ever; this is the seminal and imperative challenge of our time.

The contemporary American landscape has parallels in Judaism; like the Jewish people, America is a nation of laws. The law’s purpose is to create a civil society where people live together respectful of differences and all citizens enjoy equal rights and protections. These laws are also a reminder of the work yet to do. Judaism teaches that changing hearts and minds is an evolutionary process. Compassion in our tradition has developed from the laws we are commanded to follow. We pray that the teachings underlying the laws will eventually be inscribed upon our hearts, but until then, the laws guide us. We recognize these laws and uphold them.

We rely on strong institutions and deeply ingrained principles to safeguard against assaults on these laws, believing that they will withstand the pressures. However, based on the history of our people, we are naturally wary of threats to our way of life. Even for those who believe in this New World, the idea that history might again repeat itself gnaws at us. Our patriotism is deeply intertwined with our Jewish identity. Therefore we become activists to protect and preserve this remarkable American way of life against threats, foreign or domestic, internal or external.

We have learned that however strong our institutions, they require dedication and nurturing by we the people, lest they wither. So now is our time to recommit to the noble purpose that is our country. We affirm the prophetic vision of the Promised Land. Despite all the progress we have made, we know we have so much farther to travel before the dream is fully realized for all. We stand at the threshold, challenging us to move forward toward a vision of what still could be. This dream gives us the courage and the strength we need at this moment in our Jewish and American history to move onward together. So now we redouble our efforts with renewed vigor and purpose to keep forging ahead. Let us be the change we want to see.





Shabbat Shalom

This past weekend, I had the honor of attending a wedding. In typical Orthodox fashion, it seemed the immediate world was invited. Friends and family from across the globe came to celebrate. It was an evening of unbridled joy; food and drink were in abundance, but most importantly there was dancing and music.

The Tisch was raucous and the men escorted the groom in a fever pitch of singing and dancing so he could veil his bride. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the crowd gathered to the chuppah to escort bride and groom out with the same energy and fervor.

The band was amazing, keeping everyone on dancing for almost the entire evening. The large dance floor was crowded to overflowing. At first, I tried to watch from the sidelines, clapping to the beat of the music, but an elderly chossid grabbed my hand and pulled me into the circle of other old men dancing and jumping in merriment.

The entire spectrum of Jewish practice was in attendance Sunday night. We were all united in the joy and celebration of a wedding, that magical moment of hope and light shining in a world so desperately in need of it, the central message of the Sheva Brachot. It was amazing to behold and to participate. May it always be so.

Shabbat Shalom

Gad Elbaz beautifully sings the final verse of Lecha Dodi, welcoming the bride to the music of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.  Enjoy.


Shabbat Shalom- A Reflection from Mt. Carmel

I have just returned from Mt. Carmel Cemetery to provide presence and support to the volunteers who came here. I was moved, being with people honoring the past and affirming their identities.


As Americans and Jews, we arise with a sense of unity and rededication of purpose. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, we stand arm in arm with all victims of hatred and domestic terrorism. Our values bring us together.


Although disturbing acts underlie this awakening of spirit, we need to focus on the good that has come from these cowardly and ugly actions. From ugliness comes beauty, from despair comes hope, from aloneness comes community, and from hatred comes love.


We stand together against hate.

Hate has no home here.

Shabbat Shalom.