Blog: Rabbi Feinstein

Posted by Rabbi Ed Feinstein on September 11, 2019

There is a story that haunts me this time of year. It haunts every rabbi I know.

It is the story of a young Jew who lived in Germany at the beginning of the century -- a brilliant student of philosophy at the university in Berlin. All of his cousins, and all his colleagues and acquaintances had converted to Christianity, as was so common among young Jews at the time. His professors urged him to convert as well to assure himself a position in German academic life. Inasmuch as Judaism meant so very little to him, he agreed to become a Christian. But the young man had a sense of history, and decided that were he to become a Christian, it had to be as the first Christians  -- he had to do so as a Jew. So for one last time, he stepped into a synagogue on Kol Nidre night -- planning to receive baptism the very next morning... 

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Posted by Rabbi Ed Feinstein on June 12, 2019

A rabbi I know once brought a nursery school class into the synagogue sanctuary for a tour. He showed them the bima, the ner tamid, the cantor"s and rabbi's lecterns. Finally, the tiny kids stood before the huge doors of the Holy Ark.

"What do you suppose is in there?" he asked them.
"Nothing!" one child answered, "It's empty. There’s nothing in there."
"It’s a new car!" another shouted.
"An old, old Torah!" responded another.
"I know! I know" one child insisted, "It's a mirror!"

Each of the kids was right.

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Posted by Rabbi Ed Feinstein on May 15, 2019

This week, Israel hosts “Eurovision,” the international song competition. Performers from across the globe are gathering in Tel Aviv to present the best of contemporary music. For Israel, Eurovision eclipses everything. Domestic political struggles, the conflict with hostile neighbors, international affairs, all recede in the presence of the music. In fact, Israel has always had a special relationship with music. The history of Zionism, Israel’s birth, its flourishing, its anguish and its victories, are represented by its songs. Here is a brief glimpse at the history of Israel through its songs...

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Posted by Rabbi Ed Feinstein on April 9, 2019

This is dangerous religion. Taken seriously it changes everything -- the way we work, the way we play, the way we spend money, the way we vote, the way we dream. Having known the life of the slave -- brutalized, humiliated, dehumanized -- and having tasted the sweetness of liberation, how can we return to business as usual? How can we complain about freeway traffic or neglect to cuddle our children or forget to check in with our elders? How can we walk obliviously by a beggar on the street or listen placidly as some politician offers simplistic solutions to complex societal problems? Slavery and liberation radically re-shaped us.

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Posted by Rabbi Ed Feinstein on January 28, 2019

The speaker stood at the podium and announced:
    “Ladies and gentlemen, a great miracle has just occurred!”

Members of the startled audience would immediately cease talking, lean forward wondering, what miracle could have happened? What miracle did they miss? He would then continue,
    “Ladies and gentlemen, a great miracle has just taken place...the sun has gone down.”

Now they would look at him strangely, some taken aback, incredulous, other might snicker at the strange man with the long beard and prophetic manner. Then he began to speak, and as he spoke, you began to feel deeply embarrassed that the sun had gone down, and you didn’t stop to notice. What part of us has been surrendered when the sunset no longer inspires?

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Posted by Rabbi Ed Feinstein on December 13, 2018

When the angels of heaven learned of God’s plan to create the human being with the divine image, they were aghast.  

“How can God plant something as pure and holy as the divine image, in a create as deceitful, base and corrupt as the human being?” So they conspired to steal it and hide it from the human. But where, where to hide the holy image? The angels met in urgent council to decide.

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Posted by Rabbi Ed Feinstein on November 19, 2018

Thanksgiving is America at its best. Whether we arrived on the Mayflower, or immigrated generations later, Thanksgiving reminds us that we share a common history of redemption: We came from far away drawn by a dream of freedom. We met adversity with faith and persistence. We discovered opportunity and possibilities here. And now we share gratitude for the blessings of this land. That, together with turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, makes this the quintessential American festival.

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Posted by Rabbi Ed Feinstein on September 26, 2018

This is a story I tell to children. But it really isn’t for them. It’s for all of us who are tired of the phone ringing, the people who ask for just a little time, the family whose demands never end.  Did you ever wish they would all go away and leave you alone? And if they did, how long before you’d miss them? How long before you would discover that the greatest joy in life is knowing that you’re needed and you’re loved?

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Posted by Rabbi Ed Feinstein on September 26, 2018

He sat before me, a typical petulant 13-year old. It was a week or so before his Bar Mitzvah and he had announced to his family at dinner last night that he didn’t believe in God and didn’t want to have a Bar Mitzvah. They didn’t know what to do. Cancel the simcha? The invitations already went out, the caterer had already been paid, the yarmulkas were on order… Send him to the rabbi. So here he sat. 
    “You don’t believe in God?” I asked him. 
    “No,” he confessed, with eyes cast downward, like he’d just told the Vice Principal that it was his spitball that hit the head cheerleader.
    “Ok, let’s talk.” He looked up at me relieved I wasn’t going to take out a magic wand and place a curse on him. 
    “You don’t believe in God. Ok. When you say that, what do you mean by God?” 
This was a question he did not expect. 
    “You’re a rabbi, you know... God.” 
    “Yes, but that’s a slippery word. What do you mean by God?”

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Posted by Rabbi Ed Feinstein on September 13, 2018

As you drive north along the Eastern slopes of the Sierras, on the way up to Mammoth, just past the town of Lone Pine, you pass a desolate, lonely place called Manzanar. You should stop and visit. Today, Manzanar is a National Historical Site. In 1942, it was an internment site, one of ten along the West Coast, for more than 110,000 Japanese-Americans who were uprooted from their homes and imprisoned by the United States government following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Japanese Americans were said to be spies, providing information to the Japanese command. With no evidence, they were accused of sabotaging the defenses of the West Coast, and inviting a Japanese invasion.

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