Kol Nidrei Eve, Yom Kippur 5776 - The Superpower in Being Human

September 22, 2015

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon

Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, Arizona

I recently learned a surprising and strange fact.  Many of the highest grossing films in America and in the entire world are installments of some kind of superhero movie series, based on humble comic books.  In fact, six of the top 10 highest opening-weekend box office grosses of all time are superhero movies.  And we are not just talking about Superman or Batman or Spiderman, superheroes I actually heard of growing up.  These are movies about Iron Man and The X-Men and the Avengers and the Justice League and Fantastic Four and Thor and, save us, the Green Lantern and the Green Hornet.  I have never really related to comic books, but I was amazed at the variety of preposterous scenarios that spawned first the animated cartoons that used to fill drug store shelves and now the videogame-style films that fill our movie theaters.

Perhaps our fascination with heroes with impossible superpowers saving us from apocalyptically gruesome caricature villains has been animated, if you will, by the rise of real-life villains who seem quite as bizarre and evil.  I’m not at all sure Lex Luthor or The Joker or the Green Goblin are any worse than the leaders of ISIS.  Clearly we enjoy watching superheroes on the side of good triumph over evil, twisted bad guys. 

Read more: Kol Nidrei Eve, Yom Kippur 5776 - The Superpower in Being Human

Erev Yom Kippur 5776 - Oops, I Just Fell and Destroyed a Masterpiece

September 22, 2015

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon

Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, Arizona

Tonight marks the 50th anniversary of Sandy Koufax sitting out the first game of the World Series.  Some of you may remember what that meant to Jews in America, when the best pitcher in the most popular sport, America’s pastime, chose not to play in the most important game of the year.  It was considered a courageous act, and a symbol of American Jewish acceptance and pride in our heritage.

The best part of the story was that the Dodgers’ other ace, Don Drysdale, pitched in Koufax’ place.  Unfortunately, Drysdale was pretty bad that particular day against the Minnesota Twins, giving up 7 runs in less than 3 innings including two homers.  When his manager, Walter Alston came out to pull Drysdale and bring in a relief pitcher, Drysdale said to Alston, “I bet right now you wish I was Jewish too, Skip.”

But before I even start I digress…

Perhaps you saw this story, or the Youtube video

About a month ago a 12 year-old boy in Taiwan was looking at a painting in an art museum.  It was part of an exhibit called the “Face of Leonardo: Images of a Genius” in Taipei. The video shows the boy – in shorts, tennis shoes and a blue Puma T-shirt, holding a soft drink in one hand – walking past a still life.  A bit clumsy, as adolescents can be, still growing into his body, he suddenly trips on the platform supporting the 6-foot high painting, and stumbles.  He reaches out instinctively with his hand, which goes right through the painting…  Which was a 350-year old work in oil called “Flowers” by Italian baroque artist Paolo Porpora. The 17th century painting was valued at $1.5 million dollars.

At the end of this disaster the boy looks up at the canvas, freezes, then looks wildly around at the other people in the room…

“The painting’s bottom right is damaged,” the curator said.  “The boy’s hand hit the artwork and left a hole the size of a fist.”

Read more: Erev Yom Kippur 5776 - Oops, I Just Fell and Destroyed a Masterpiece

Rosh Hashanah 5776 - The Necessary Chutzpah of Saving Refugees

September 14, 2015

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon

Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, Arizona

An old bubbie limps onto a crowded bus. Standing right in front of a seated young man she clutches her chest and says, "Oy! If you only knew what I had, you'd get up and give me your seat."

The man looks at the old woman, and reluctantly, gives up his seat. The lady sitting beside the bubbie takes out a fan and starts to fan herself. Grasping her chest, the bubbie turns and says, "If you knew what I have, you would give me that fan." So the woman gives her the fan.

Fifteen minutes later the bubbie gets up and says to the bus driver, "Stop, I want to get off here."

The driver says, "Sorry, lady, but the bus stop is at the next corner. I can't stop in the middle of the block." Again, the old woman clutches her chest and says, "If you knew what I have, you would let me out right here." Worried, the bus driver pulls over and lets her out. As she's climbing down the stairs, he finally asks, "Ma'am, what is it, exactly, that you have? "

She smiles sweetly at him, and she says, "Chutzpah."

Read more: Rosh Hashanah 5776 - The Necessary Chutzpah of Saving Refugees

Erev Rosh Hashanah 5776 - Praise God & God Prays

September 13, 2015

Rabbi Batsheva Appel

Temple Emanu-El, Tucson Arizona

It was Erev Rosh Hashanah, in a small synagogue, in a small town, according to the Hasidic story. As the services proceeded, an illiterate shepherd entered the synagogue.  He was moved by the words and the music, but was unable to join with the congregation because he could not read and he had never learned the prayers. Out of desperation, out of a desire to become part of the congregation and connect with God, he took out the flute that was in his pocket, and began to play the music that he always played when he was tending the sheep. Immediately there was an uproar as many of the worshippers were outraged. Who was this? How dare he desecrate services on one of the holiest days of the year? People yelled at the shepherd to stop and there were calls for him to be thrown out immediately.  The rabbi ended the geschrei. He thanked the shepherd and explained why to the congregation, “As we were praying, I could feel our prayers being blocked from ascending to heaven. The shepherd’s prayer came from his heart and it was so pure that it helped our prayers ascend with his, straight to the Holy One.”

Read more: Erev Rosh Hashanah 5776 - Praise God & God Prays

Rosh Hashanah 5776 - It’s a Small, Small Jewish World

Introduction to the High Holy Days

September 13, 2015

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon

Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, Arizona

A mother comes into her son’s bedroom to wake him up to come to temple.

“Oh, ma,” he says, “I don’t want to go to shul today.  It’s boring and no one likes me there.  Give me two good reasons to get up and go.”

“I’ll give you two good reasons,” his mother answers.  “You’re 54 years old, and you are the rabbi!”

Read more: Rosh Hashanah 5776 - It’s a Small, Small Jewish World

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