The Juggler

(Sermon given at the Bar Mitzvah Ceremony of Max Garsten, son of Bryan and Anna Garsten)
The Juggler
Our custom here at Beth Sholom is for the rabbi to ask the Bar or Bat Mitzvah for a topic to talk about at their service. Max has been interested in juggling, so we decided on this subject.
I don’t know anything about juggling colored balls or bowling pins, but I did once see a movie, that no one else ever heard of, called, “The Juggler”. The Juggler is a 1953 drama film starring Kirk Douglas as a survivor of the Holocaust. After World War II, Hans Müller is one of a shipload of Jewish refugees who disembark at Haifa in 1949 and are placed in a refugee camp. Like many other concentration camp survivors, Hans has many emotional problems, including survivor guilt. At one point, he mistakes a woman and her children for his murdered family. (more…)

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Passover in the Middle of COVID-19

I’m not alone in saying that Passover has always been one of my favorite holidays. Now, I know what you are thinking – but you have to eat all of that matzah, the Seder takes a long time, and you get hungry, and there are so many limitations on what you can eat. Every year, I think about the Passover Seder in the context of that year. How can you celebrate Passover in
the middle of COVID-19? (more…)

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Judith Edidin Scolnic II

Last month, our website Editor, George Alexander, was kind enough to place my eulogy for my mother in this space. That was very meaningful for me personally, and it allowed me to share my feelings with the congregation. I always have found that the most personal is the most universal, and that my experiences and feelings relate in different ways to different people. (more…)

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Judith Edidin Scolnic

This is my eulogy for my mother, Judith Edidin Scolnic, given at Beth El of Montgomery County on Jan. 13, 2022

In one of the most popular movies of all time, half the population of the universe disappears in what is called “The Snap.” Thanos, the personification of death, snaps his fingers. The people are there, and then in a flash, they’re gone. (more…)

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(Sermon given on the 75th Anniversary Shabbat)

It’s a famous story in the Torah. There are two brothers, twins, Esau and Jacob.

Esau goes out hunting and he doesn’t kill anything,

and he’s really tired, and really hungry, and when he comes back to the camp,

he sees his brother Jacob cooking something. He wants what’s in the pot,

and Jacob offers to give it to him in exchange for the birthright. (more…)

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Cancel Culture

There was a special gift that G-d gave us at the dawn of creation. It was the gift of speech. Speaking is an important part of being human.

There is a famous story in the Torah that tells us how we almost lost that Divine gift. The people after the Flood built the Tower of Babel. And they were punished. We know the generation of the Flood sinned and was therefore punished. (more…)

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The TBS Book Club

When bad things happen, you must try to turn them into good things. So our shul took the terrible, lonely, bizarre months of the pandemic and came up with programs that promoted togetherness. (more…)

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Rosh Hashanah

“Let the old year end and the new year and its blessings begin!” Certainly, this year, these words resonate for us.

In the last year, some of us suffered and recovered from COVID, while others sadly lost loved ones. Many of us have stayed physically well but have had to deal with anxiety or depression. Some of us have lost jobs or economic security. Others were worried about their kids, their young adult children or the elders they could not even visit in person. There is a sense of collective grief over all that has been and may be lost, as well as anxiety over the divisions in our society. (more…)

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Turn On The Lights

I would be willing to bet that most people, when asked what the symbol of the state of Israel is, would respond “the Magen David – the Star of David.” But while the Star of David adorns the flag of Israel, the fact is, it is not the symbol of the state of Israel! The symbol is found in the Book of Numbers, in the Torah portion, Behaalotecha – “to kindle,” kindling the menorah in the Tabernacle. (more…)

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The Message of the Pandemic

The earth does not belong to us. It belongs to G-d. This is what the Torah teaches us. We are but temporary sojourners on this earth.

Now think about the corona virus and the terrible pandemic that turned our lives upside down. People ask me on a regular basis, “Rabbi, why is this happening? Why is G-d doing this to us?. What is the message of the pandemic?” I have heard the same answer from numerous people. “G-d is trying to tell us something about our relationship to the earth, and our relationship to nature. Stop!” (more…)

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