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Honorable Mensch-ion

Fireworks


Each week is a week like no other. July 4th signifies independence, summer, and fireworks. Yet, tomorrow, we celebrate without fireworks, without gatherings, without the sparks in the air. The first July 4th fireworks were set off on July 4th, 1776, just one year after the founding of America. The Pennsylvania Evening Post reported the ships were dressed with the colors of the United States and streamers displayed. The evening concluded with a grand exhibition of fireworks. While we may not see the sky lit ablaze, our tradition encourages us to light a spark in our lives each and every…

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Being Present


Twenty four years ago, on Parshat Korach, my brother celebrated his Bar Mitzvah. It was not a normal Bar Mitzvah. Being a quadriplegic, Eyal could not walk or talk. The microphone would be of no help. And yet, his wheelchair was pushed onto the bima, a camera flashed his face onto a gigantic screen, and the congregation responded “Amen” to his blessing over the Torah. I recently looked at his speech from that special morning. This is what he said: “Some people never thought I would have a Bar Mitzvah because I’m in a wheelchair and on a respirator. But…

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Our Memoir


In a memoir there are two “I’s”: the character “I,” and the narrator “I.” The character is the one in the story, and the narrator is the one controlling how the story is told. A memoir is not something that happened to you. A memoir is what you have learned from your story. The Torah teaches that entering the Promised Land is not as easy as it looks. Each one of us has dreams, wishes, and goals. Yet we also face the reality and present conditions in our vulnerable world. While the spies entered the land and saw the same…

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What Do We Wear?


Today is the last day of school. In the world of yesterday, that meant a change of program from the regular school and work days, and a transition to camp. That also would mean a change of dress. From the slacks, shirt and tie to a transition to shorts and sneakers, interacting with our Sinai Temple families through the joy of sport and recreation. And while that simple change of dress code may seem trite, it is during this unique and strange time that it has a deeper message for us all. We dress in a different manner for a…

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Acquire A Friend


Acquire a friend, our Rabbis teach. Not make a friend or become a friend. Acquire a friend. I have written many times in this column of my special friendship with Pastor John Paul Foster of Faithful Central Bible Church. We dine together, we pray together. We have laughed together and we have cried together. The Talmud teaches, “I have learned much from my teachers and more from my friends than from my teachers.” To have a friend is to have a true relationship, moments when you can lean on the other, moments when they can lean on you. To have…

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Firsts


When I went looking for a fresh piece of fruit this morning, I could not find it. As I searched our home, my daughter told me the fruit bowl was in her room. It was positioned in front of the web camera, as her class was preparing for Shavuot. Shavuot is also known as Chag Habikurim, the festival of the first fruits. There is something special about firsts. The excitement, the anxiety, the fear, and the rush of adrenaline that accompanies the potential of firsts; the first time your favorite fruits appear on the shelves of grocery stores, the first…

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Jerusalem Day


In June of 1967, two college students were finishing their study abroad program in Jerusalem when most parents told their children to return home leading up to the imminent Six Day War. These two college students decided to stay in Jerusalem. After Jerusalem was unified days later, these two students witnessed a miracle; the Torah scrolls were marched to the Kotel for the holiday of Shavuot for the first time in almost 2000 years. They never left. These students are my aunt and uncle, and they began our family’s relationship with the State of Israel in a deep and meaningful…

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The Kindness Advantage


The Chofetz Chayim was the owner of a small grocery store. All their customers were greatly impressed with their honesty and the high quality of merchandise. Anything that was even partially spoiled was immediately removed from stock. All the weights and measures were accurate, and prices set according to halacha. Because of his integrity, the residents of the town flocked to the store. Instead of being pleased with his success, however, the Chofetz Chayim was worried that he might be taking away business from others and he kept the store closed in the afternoon. The Torah teaches that we must…

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Palace in Time


This unprecedented time has allowed us to speak more intimately to those we normally casually interact with. Last night I had the opportunity to be in conversation with Bishop Robert Stearns, head of Eagles Wings, an organization that sends Christian pastors to Israel, as he said, “To see an Israel where God is, not where God was.” We focused on this week’s parsha, Emor, specifically on the verse we recite at every holiday kiddush. “These are My appointed feast, which you should proclaim!” It appears obvious that God does not need to be reminded of sacred occasions. Rather, we who…

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Sounds of Our Loved Ones


As a young child, my family would vacation in the Pocono Mountains- crisp air, long days playing in the sand and swimming in the lake at Elm Beach. My parents met at Camp Ramah in the Poconos, and those mountains became a sacred place for us. The drive was only two hours from our home in Syracuse, NY, but as a 3 year old, it felt like a cross country trip. The kids would be entertained by our favorite cassette tapes playing from the stereo in our station wagon. While I cannot tell you my favorite album or song, I…

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