Rabbi Scolnic shares his favorite sermons.

The recent passing of Mary Travers, famous for being a member of the folk-singing group Peter, Paul and Mary, made me think about that group and the songs they sang, such as “Puff, The Magic Dragon," "Blowin' In The Wind," and "If I Had A Hammer." I happened to see a special on the Public Broadcasting System about this group, filled with interviews and memories. What caught my attention was that these three singers, who seemed to be such a wonderful unit, were not close at all.

My grandson Alexander has a book called That’s Not My Tractor. I’ve read the book approximately two hundred and sixty-five times. It’s a Touch and Feel book, and it is exactly six pages long with one sentence per page. It says, “That’s not my tractor, its engine is too bumpy,” and Alexander touches the bumpy engine. “That’s not my tractor, its trailer is too rough. That’s not my tractor, its funnel is too smooth. That’s not my tractor, the tires are too squashy.” And Alexander touches the tires. “That’s not my tractor, its seat is too scratchy.” And then on the last page it says, “That’s my tractor! Its headlights are so shiny.” Alexander loves the happy ending. He touches the shiny headlights on his very own tractor. And he smiles at me for being a wonderful grandfather, and then he tells me to read the book again.

I ran into Louise on the street; I was wearing a blue, pinstriped suit and black shoes. She asked me where I was going. I said that I had to officiate at a funeral in forty-five minutes. She asked me where the funeral was and I told her it was about twenty minutes away. She said, “Good, you have enough time. Go home immediately and change those shoes. You cannot wear those shoes to a funeral.” I asked why not. She said, “A navy blue suit must be worn with cordovan shoes.” I asked why. She said, “They say you must wear a navy blue suit with cordovan shoes.” I said, “Who’s ‘They’?” She said, “I am.” I said, “How long have you been ‘They’?” She said, “Since fifth grade.”

Pete and Donald were brothers. Pete, the older brother, was a successful real estate broker in Santa Cruz, California. He and his wife worked hard and earned every penny they made. Pete had two daughters, a sailboat, a house near the ocean and friends who were also successful.

The younger brother, Donald, on the other hand, never married, owned nothing, worked on and off painting houses, and only got deeper in debt to Pete as the years went on.

One of the great Broadway musicals is Man of La Mancha, which concerns, if you’ll pardon my lack of a Spanish accent, Miguel de Cervantes and perhaps the greatest novel of all time, Don Quixote. In this play within a play, we see how the Spanish Inquisition persecutes Cervantes and we also see his character Don Quixote, the man who has read so many books about chivalry that he thinks he’s a knight, roaming the countryside with his squire Sancho Panza, tilting at windmills because he thinks they are giants, calling a serving girl the great lady Dulcinea.i

I’d like to talk today about our relationships with our loved ones and the people in our lives, and I’ll start with a quick Hebrew lesson that symbolizes what I want to say.

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