Kol Simcha - קול שמחה

Kol Simcha - קול שמחה

 

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Statement & Prayer for the Sikh Memorial Service

on Sunday, 12 August 2012. Posted in Community Events

My friends, what is it that most clearly allows us to see?

They say that love is blind, but that is not quite right. For love actually opens our eyes to qualities and aspects that mere sight misses. Love allow us to see the essential God-given humanity, the tzelem Elohim, the image of God, as well as the divine soul, the neshama present in every human being.

No, it is not love but hatred that is blind. Hatred blocks out our ability to see that innate quality in every creature. Acts of hate are by nature blind, a darkening of the divine light that otherwise shines from every one of us.

Eikev 5772: Cardiac Judaism - The Lessons of the Heart

on Friday, 10 August 2012. Posted in Sermons

Do you know this classic joke? There used to be a lot of them like this.

An Orthodox, a Conservative, and a Reform rabbi are each asked whether one is supposed to say a brochah over a lobster.

The Orthodox rabbi asks, "What is this...'lobster'...thing?" The Conservative rabbi says that some say no, some say yes. The Reform rabbi says, "What's a brochah?"

Here's another one:

What are the main differences between Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Judaism?

At an orthodox wedding, the mother of the bride is pregnant.

At a conservative wedding, the bride is pregnant.

At a reform wedding, the rabbi is pregnant.

Weekly Torah Talk on Eikev 5772

on Wednesday, 08 August 2012. Posted in Torah Talks

The Simple Formula for a Good Life

You know, as a people we Jews are good at many things: at kvetching, of course; at lashon hara, gossip, telling people things we shouldn't. We're also good at eating. And, perhaps most importantly, we Jews are good at asking questions.

Perhaps the greatest of all the Jewish questions was asked in this week's Torah portion of Ekev, the third sedrah in the Book of Deuteronomy. It reads:

V'atah, Yisrael, mah Adonai sho'eil mei'imach?

Which means, "And now, Israel, what does God ask of you?"

The passage in Ekev then answers this great question, "That you have awe of the Lord your God, and walk in all of God's ways and love God, and serve the Lord your God will all your heart and all your soul."

It's Time to Arise

on Wednesday, 01 August 2012.

from the August E-Temple Times

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.

-- Albert Einstein

Fear not, be not ashamed... for a brief moment I turned My back on you. But with eternal love I will gather you to Me.

-- 2 Isaiah, 54:4, 54:7

The past four or five years have been trying times for most Americans. If you don't believe that, just watch any political speech or ad in this presidential election year... The Great Recession was deep and the Not-So-Great Recovery has been slow. Things are getting better now, but it's a gradual process. Our Jewish tradition has a great deal to teach us about overcoming disappointment, and that reassurance can help, both now and whenever we feel low, collectively or personally.

Devarim/Chazon 5772: Olympic Vision

on Friday, 27 July 2012. Posted in Sermons

July 27, 2012

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon, Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, AZ

This is the Shabbat immediately before Tisha B'Av, called Shabbat Hazon, meaning the Sabbath of vision, and it is named for the Haftarah that is chanted tomorrow. That prophecy is the first from the greatest of the literary prophets, Isaiah, and it begins its somber words of warning of imminent destruction with the phrase Chazon Yishayahu ben Amotz, this is the vision of Isaiah... It is always chanted on the Shabbat of Devarim, the beginning of Deuteronomy, and it always precedes Tisha B'Av, the 9th of the Hebrew calendar month of Av, perhaps the saddest day on the Jewish calendar.

Actually, tonight, technically begins the actual 9th day of the month of Av. But when a fast day that is not Yom Kippur falls on the Sabbath we move it a day, so that our Shabbat joy is not diminished. After all, the Oneg Shabbat on a fast day would be quite limited...

Matot-Masei 5772: Finding Pride Inside -- Learning Talmud in Korea?

on Friday, 20 July 2012. Posted in Sermons

A question about Jewish life in the Diaspora, particularly America: why is it that if you want Jews to feel good about their Judaism the best way to do it is to have someone who is not Jewish compliment us or imitate us?

Since you are here in shul tonight you probably already know that Judaism is a wonderful religious and cultural world in and of itself, that it has wisdom that the world needs, that our ethical teachings are the basis for all of Western Civilization, and that our holidays and rituals are beautiful, meaningful, and inspiring.

Pinchas 5772: Many Voices to Reach the One God: The Nature and Purpose of Collective Prayer

on Friday, 13 July 2012. Posted in Sermons

Jewish communal prayer has been defined as praying alone, together. We each do our own thing, but we must do it with other Jews, usually a minyan of them. So, two questions for us: what is the nature of worship in synagogues today? And what is the purpose of celebrating Shabbat together, as we are doing now?

Perhaps the best answer to this basic question is to explore the traditional understanding of the rationale for tefilah b'tzibur, communal prayer. We know that as Jews we can pray to God anywhere, at any time, and that we need no intermediary to intercede for us with the Divine Power. So when we gather for services it is not because there is very much we do together that we cannot do alone, without the trouble of schlepping to shul on Shabbes.

Korach 5772: Rebellion, Holiness, and Leadership

on Friday, 22 June 2012. Posted in Sermons

I have to admit that this is a particularly surprising Torah portion for the Sabbath on which we are installing our Temple Board.  As you are now aware, Korach chronicles the greatest rebellion in the entire Torah, the palace revolt of the Levite Korach and his followers against the divinely ordained leadership of his fellow Levites, Moses and Aaron.  As so often seems to be the case, we Jews are our own worst enemies...  The result of this insurrection is disastrous, at least for the rebels.  The earth opens and Korach and all of his misguided followers are swallowed up, never to be heard from again.  By tradition, the rebellion of Korach is the absolute worst revolt of its sort in Jewish history.

Sh'lach L'cha 5772: Spies Like Us

on Friday, 15 June 2012. Posted in Sermons

On this Shabbat of Parshat Sh'lach L'cha it seems appropriate to talk about an excursion to the Land of Israel, as this story marks the first such tour of the land—it is actually called that in our portion, "latur et ha'aretz" the sedrah tells us. The tale of the 12 mraglim, the spies who scouted out the land for Moses and ended up making a bad majority report, sets up a patter of poor PR for the land of Israel that I sometimes think has lasted until today. If you will, the 10 spies who say "it's a rich land and beautiful but full of monsters" are much like the majority of the world's press, that sees Israel's economic, democratic and cultural miracles and says, "Yes, but they are terrible oppressive people." And the two good spies today, the minority report by Joshua and Caleb, the voices calling in the wilderness, tell us "it is a wonderful place and morally pretty good; it only needs God's help to rise to a new level of sanctity."

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Temple Pilgrimage Trip to Israel: Report #9

on Saturday, 09 June 2012.

Israel has changed so much in the 36 years that I have been coming to visit and sometimes live here, and perhaps nowhere is this more obvious than in Tel Aviv. What was once a decent-sized town with one tall building on the shores of the Mediterranean has grown into a major international city of substance and style.

Its skyline is extensive with new buildings, and the cranes continue to work adding yet more high-rises to an impressive array of high-tech towers, financial centers, media facilities, hotels, and much more. In its older areas Tel Aviv still looks the same: four-story, central European looking apartments, in white and off-white, flaking slightly in the humidity of a coastal city. Gentrification is proceeding in many areas, as you would expect in a country of astronomical real estate values.

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Temple Pilgrimage Trip to Israel: Report #8

on Friday, 08 June 2012.

Sometimes when traveling in Israel you have a day that encapsulates the remarkable layering of cultures and civilizations that would make this an extraordinary destination if there were no contemporary religious or political importance to the country. Today was such a day.

We traveled through history and across the country, visiting four very different and quite spectacular archeological sites and places that could each merit a separate trip in and of themselves. The fact that we have now been fully oriented to the flow of the historical narrative of Israel helps establish context, but each place has wonderful and powerful things to teach.

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Temple Pilgrimage Trip to Israel: Report #7

on Thursday, 07 June 2012.

I began today with a run on the land of our Kibbutz hotel, HaGoshrim, in the "far north" of Israel, close to both the Lebanese border and the Golan Heights. The area is simply lovely, green with fruit trees and vistas towards the nearby mountains, running alongside streams of fresh water covered by small bridges.

The old watchtowers at the corners of the fence are a reminder of the historic function of the kibbutz as a border protection settlement, but today this is a successful hotel, hosting groups, individuals and large parties for events. There was one going on last night, complete with tiki torches in a kind of Polynesian setting. Hawaii comes to the Galilee...

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Temple Pilgrimage Trip to Israel: Report #6

on Wednesday, 06 June 2012.

 

June 6, 2012

Leaving Jerusalem always feels strange to me, as though I were departing from the most important place on earth to go somewhere less significant. It's not that Israel isn't filled with fantastic places and interesting, beautiful, and compelling experiences outside of Yerushalayim.

It's just that nothing has quite the same weight and intensity for Jews, and perhaps for anyone, as this amazing place. "Im eshkacheich Yerushalayim tishkach yemini, if I forget you, Jerusalem, may I forget my right hand!" the Psalmist wrote three thousand years ago or so, and I understand. David's city still has a gravitational pull that is unlike anywhere, and leaving Jerusalem can make you feel lighter and easier, but it always also feels like you are moving away from the center of the world towards someplace less.

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Temple Pilgrimage Trip to Israel: Report #5

on Tuesday, 05 June 2012.

What an extraordinary day we just experienced! I have never before conducted a bar mitzvah in Israel, and the opportunity to do so at the Davidson Center, at the base of the Western Wall in Jerusalem, was a fabulous aspect of this trip for me, and I think for everyone present, Jewish or not.

It could not have been a better, more beautiful, or more powerful ceremony, both because of the amazing location and the way that everything came together so perfectly.

There are challenges associated with conducting a religious service in a national park in Israel, a clearly public space, and one in which you have essentially no control over many of the elements that go into creating a ceremony of beauty and importance. The Davidson Center is actually located just below the Western Wall Plaza, in an area known as Robinson's Arch, the remainder of a roadway that led to the Temple Mount and was destroyed on Tisha B'Av in the year 70 CE by the Romans. Actually, the section of wall here is no more or less the Kotel, the Western Wall, than the more famous section up above. It just wasn't accessible for those many centuries when Jews prayed to God at the holiest site in the world. While many b'nai mitzvah are conducted at the Kotel itself, it is a very, very public space, with many people walking through, and it has a particularly onerous issue for us. As the Rabbanut, the Orthodox rabbinate, runs the Kotel as a religious site, men and women must go to separate sections to pray. Thus, when there is a bar mitzvah there, the men are all close to the bar mitzvah boy, while the women must peer over a divider and try to participate vicariously—hardly an appropriate way for a an egalitarian religious tradition to celebrate a great simcha.

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Temple Pilgrimage Trip to Israel: Report #4

on Monday, 04 June 2012.

I have been to the magnificent Holocaust museum and education complex at Yad VaShem on the outskirts of Jerusalem many times, but it never fails to have an unanticipated emotional impact on me.

There are always new stories and facts to learn about the Shoah, but what is startling is the way that the power of the experience enters your consciousness in strange and surprising ways.

So it was during our visit Sunday morning to Yad Vashem, which is both a world-renowned research and educational center and a deeply affecting museum display. The pyramidal shape of the halls and the feeling of directed inevitability to the viewers' path through the museum, the varied and carefully ordered and sourced exhibits, the power of the stories told in the displays all create a coordinated pedagogical process of learning both intellectually and emotionally. You come to understand the facts of the Holocaust, the systematically directed nature of the greatest atrocity in human history and its direction against the Jews, but you also gain an appreciation for pre-War Jewry in Europe, and a growing sense of the horrific process that degraded and destroyed 6 million Jews and scarred all who remained. For both Jewish and Christian members of our group this is an unforgettable and profound experience.

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