Rabbi Scolnic shares his favorite sermons.

Jailbreak

Our custom here at Temple Beth Sholom is for me to ask the Bar or Bat Mitzvah about their interests so that when I give the sermon at their
ceremony, it will be about something that they can relate to. So when I asked a recent Bar Mitzvah, Marco Donato, the first thing that came up was Jailbreaking. This is not because Marco has been arrested and needed to break out of jail. Although I want to say for the record that if, for any reason, Marco is ever falsely accused of a crime and is erroneously put in jail, I promise that I will visit him and bail him out. No, Jailbreaking is a term for the process by which full access is obtained on all the partitions of the Apple TV, iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. It is done by patching a formula to mount the System partition as ‘read-write’. Jailbreaking is the first action that must be taken before things like unofficial activation and unofficial unlocking can be applied.

XENOCIDE

As we are about to celebrate Pesach, I want to think about a word I associate with the High Holidays. On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, when we repent for our sins and mistakes in the last year, we have a confession called the vidui that uses every letter of the Hebrew alphabet to name a sin or a fault. When the English translators wanted to duplicate this Hebrew acrostic, they did not know what to do with the letter “x”, which does not exist in Hebrew, so they came up with Xenophobia, which is fear of the strange and the alien, fear of the other. At first, people I know mocked this translation, but they don’t mock it any more.

Lies and Truths

It might seem strange that we are at a point in time that we need to talk about telling the truth, but we are clearly at that point in time.

The Torah says: “You must not carry false rumors; you shall not join hands with the guilty to act as a malicious witness.” (Exodus 23:1)

A Wall In Your Heart

Following the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (70 C.E.), the outer western wall of the Temple Mount became Judaism’s most holy and sacred space. The Western Wall, or the Kotel was never abandoned by Jewish people and there was always a special veneration for that holy space.

Fighting Chaos

I keep thinking about the hurricane season that passed, because for a lot of the victims of those terrible catastrophes, the nightmare is far from over. After I continue to send funds to those who need, I try to understand these events. And I think about the story of the ancient Flood and how Noah survived: “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened” (Genesis 7:11).

Visiting The Sick

A recent Bat Mitzvah, Rachel Goldstein, does a wonderful mitzvah: she visits the Ronald McDonald House in New Haven to play with children whose siblings are being treated in near by hospitals. Rachel and her mother Tanya have gone to the house to do craft projects and play games with the kids while the parents are in the hospital with their siblings. A mitzvah is not just a good deed. It is a commandment: We are commanded to visit the sick.

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