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Posts by Rabbi Erez Sherman

All That Jazz


As a high school student, I earned minimum wage working one of the best jobs of my life. I was the pianist in a big band, composed of the top jazz musicians in Syracuse. We would travel around the city playing the music of Glen Miller, Artie Shaw, and Benny Goodman. The audience? Assisted living facilities, community centers, Alzheimer’s centers, and community events. I watched the audience as we started each show- sleeping patients, frowns instead of smiles. Yet, as we concluded each show with “In The Mood,” the tenor of the room shifted to smiles, dancing in the aisles,…

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Pa-itis


There is a hereditary trait in our family called “Pa-itis.” It is named after my grandfather, Pa, who was born in Poland, spent time in a Jewish orphanage in Philadelphia after immigrating to America, and became a tire salesman. Pa, with no more than an elementary education, had the uncanny ability to tell his story to anyone and also illicit stories from those he came across. While it appeared annoying as a young kid, today I not only miss pa-itis, I realize it has been passed down the family tree. Our Torah teaches us, “You shall explain to your child…

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What’s In A Name?


As we make and often break our new year’s resolutions, I leave us with a Jewish version from our tradition. Our parsha this week is called Vaeira which, when translated, means “I made Myself seen.” This is God revealing God’s self to our leader, Moses. God’s name has been known as El Shaddai, the Almighty, but God’s true name has not been revealed. The Talmud digs deeper into this exchange. God said to Moses: I regret the loss of those who have passed away and are no longer found. Many times I revealed Myself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; they…

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Stop & Listen


On a short but sweet family vacation this week, I overheard this conversation in a hotel lobby between two people… “You know, sitting through a 3 hour service in a synagogue……” I was quite nervous what was to come next, so I attentively listened. “Sitting in a synagogue for three hours is very valuable…..it forces you to stop and listen.” It was destiny for this conversation to occur in front of my eyes, so as to validate our tradition and Shabbat synagogue rituals. I am grateful my ears were open to listening. As we begin the book of Exodus, Moses…

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30 Years After: Pan Am 103


Thirty years ago, I attended a Syracuse University basketball game as a six year old boy. Over 20,000 fans were about to cheer on the home team. That night was also when my world view changed… Sitting in the stands, my father told me that we just learned about Pan Am Flight 103, an airplane bombed by terrorists over Lockerbie, Scotland. 35 of the 270 passengers and crew killed that fateful day were Syracuse University students returning home from a semester abroad to spend the holidays with their families. I recall my father, a Rabbi, leaving the stadium to make…

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How Does A Rabbi Comfort His Congregants After California’s Wildfires?


The below article was featured in The Forward yesterday. I was confused as I lit the Chanukah candles this year. How could it be that I recently watched thousands of firefighters in Southern California douse out life threatening flames, while my job as a Jew on the holiday was to ignite a spark, and spread that flame throughout the world? How could it be that last month I smelled the smoke of the Woolsey fire in my driveway, prompting the cancellation of a communal outdoor havdalah, but this month, I sniffed the aroma of burning menorahs in my living room crafted…

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By Spirit Alone


The prophet Zechariah teaches us on this Shabbat of Hanukkah, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit alone.” The great Jewish composer and musician Debbie Friedman sang, “Not by might and not by power, but spirit alone, shall we all live in peace.” I thought of these words as I watched the funeral service of President George H.W Bush. President Bush was eulogized as a leader of this country, as a friend and as a father. A very telling story came from Bush historian Jon Meachem, who told of his visit to a pediatric cancer ward in…

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The Good Old Days


As a child, I recall hearing about “the good old days.” The days of the Catskill Mountains, the days of a nascent State of Israel, the days of filled synagogue sanctuaries. I would wonder, “When will the good old days be my days?” Have they passed me by or are they still yet to arrive? As I am now a parent of three young children, this same question has crept into our conversations. “Abba, what was school like when you were a kid?” This conversation is highlighted in the manner in which we light the Chanukah candles. The famous debate…

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Lights On


Our tradition teaches, “The flame of God is the soul of the human being.” Paradoxically, as firefighters extinguished rousing flames, the Baal Shem Tov explains that we bring kindness into the world by igniting a spark and creating a flame in our soul. There is a difference between a Shabbat candle and a Hanukkah candle. The Shabbat candle should be used to enjoy, oneg Shabbat, celebration and delight. Hanukkah is meant to stare into the flame. We are even prohibited to use the light for other purposes. The word for candle is ner, spelled with two letter, nun and resh….

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Toda, Give Thanks


Thursday evening, we will sit around a table full of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Many will continue the tradition of reciting what we are thankful for: family, friends and community. It appears to be one of America’s greatest rituals. As Jews, we can be thankful for our name, in Hebrew, yehudim. We are named after our ancestor Judah, yehudah. The Torah tells when Leah bore a fourth son, she named it Judah, for “this time I will thank God.” The word for thanks, toda, is encompassed in the name of our people. The Talmud teaches, “The following…

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