April 21, 2017
Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon
We Jews are talkers. We are, in fact, among the most famous talkers in all of history. We are a people renowned for our words, and our leaders are legendary for their verbosity. Even Moses, a man with a speech impediment who protests that he is a man of few words, manages to orate the entire Book of Deuteronomy, supposedly in one long sermon.
There is a reason we are lawyers, comedians, entertainers, and public speakers of all kinds. We truly have a tremendous oral tradition.
Rabbis, of course, are no exception. There is a classic Jewish joke. One friend says to another, “My rabbi is so brilliant he can talk for an hour on any subject.”
And his friend answers, “My rabbi is so brilliant that he can speak for two hours on no subject.”
But sometimes speech is actually an impediment.
Read more: Silence & Action - Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Sermon Shemini 5777
March 31, 2017
Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon
One of the most distinctive qualities of Jews everywhere in the world has always been our ability to disagree and remain in dialogue. That is, we argue but stick together. Jewish families are typically loud, contentious, and verbally energetic. Jewish organizations are active, engaged, and often contentious. But we have an ability, after thousands of years of overcoming adversity, to pull together in spite of our many, many differences. Most of the time.
I was reflecting on this fact of Jewish life the last few days. In truth, both in our homes and in our organizational life, we often sound like we are engaged in something closer to courtroom combat than the loving and harmonious lives that we aspire to living. This friction is something typical of every Jewish group I have ever had the privilege of being a part of, and to someone not initiated into the verbal thrust-and-parry natural to Jews it can seem that there is real animosity when the situation is quite different than that at heart. It’s just that in Jewish life everyone considers himself or herself to be an expert on, well, everything, and when you get more than one maven in a room at the same time he or she is each certain to be certain that they are right about everything, or at least whatever it is you are talking about at the moment.
Read more: Arguing for God and Unity - Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Sermon Vayikra 5777