I’ve been asked many times, “What does Judaism say about miracles?” Traditionally, miracles are understood to be a theophany, when G-d shows up and intervenes in our lives to change destiny. Whether it’s cracking open the sky to flood the world, or bringing forth manna like dew upon the field, miracles, it has been thought, are G-d’s works in a human world. The Exodus is full of miracles, in its demonstrations of G-d’s power through the plagues, or G-d’s redemptive force by splitting the sea. (more…)

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Imagine the year 1621, the year of the first Thanksgiving. Imagine being one of those pilgrims who first set sail for America. Despite warning of the hazards, they sailed through rough waters, accidentally ending up in Massachusetts instead of the intended destination of Virginia. Arriving in winter, these pilgrims endured cold weather, limited food, insufficient shelter -all leading to illness and despair for many. Within a short time, many had died. As spring approached, those remaining planted wheat and corn. Neither was successful, and other attempts to replenish their supplies were equally unsuccessful. Imagine being one of those pilgrims. Would there have been much for which to feel grateful? (more…)

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Leonard Cohen Says “Here I Am”

Oct. 6, 1973. It’s Yom Kippur. Even non-religious Israelis are in shul. After the Six-Day War in 1967, six years earlier, a fantastic and one-sided victory against its enemies, Israel has become complacent.
And all of a sudden, on this holiest of days, Israelis start to hear that the Syrian army is attacking on the Golan Heights where there are very few Israeli troops and it looks like they can charge through right to Tel Aviv. Egypt is crossing the Suez Channel. Israel is being overrun. Its very existence hangs in the balance.
On that day, Jewish people in Israel and around the world were chanting the prayer Unetana Tokef: “Who will live and who will die? Who will reach the end of their days and who will not?” This prayer is supposed to be a wake-up call to think about life itself. This prayer is meant to call us to reflection. (more…)

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Trouble With The Curve

There are a lot of great sports movies but the one I’m going to tell you about isn’t one of them. The one I want to talk about is a nice, warm film called “Trouble with the Curve”. It stars Clint Eastwood as a veteran baseball scout who has always had an eye for great players in the making but now his eyes are failing, and he is having trouble. (more…)

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A Religion of Love

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)

If you grew up when I did, you probably remember the book and movie Love Story. The book, published by Erich Segal in 1970, was a bestseller. The movie based on the book, released in the same year, made stars of Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw. They play college students Jenny and Oliver from opposite social economic backgrounds who fall in love and marry. They then must deal with tragedy as she contracts cancer. This is not a spoiler; her death is the first line of the book. (more…)

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You are a Masterpiece Bulletin

I’ve met so many people who are turned off by the word “religion.” When I meet with them, I ask them why. For some, it’s the guilt they feel when they don’t live up to the expectations of their religious community. For others, the rules are just too hard, or they feel judged by religious people. And for others, it’s all the bad that religious people have done in the name of religion itself. For all these reasons and so many more, there are good spiritual people that just won’t step into religion. (more…)

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The Juggler

(Sermon given at the Bar Mitzvah Ceremony of Max Garsten, son of Bryan and Anna Garsten)

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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