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Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis Sermons

03/04/2020 11:03:09 PM

Mar4

For Those Beloved Who Survive Me

03/14/2020 09:50:21 AM

Mar14

For Those Beloved Who Survive Me Mourning by Harold M. Schulweis

Mourn me not with tears, ashes or sackcloth.
Nor dwell in darkness, sadness or remorse.
Remember that I love you, and wish for you a life of song.
My immortality, if there be such for me, is not in tears, blame or
self-recrimination.
But in the joy you give to others, in raising the fallen
and loosening the fetters of the bound.
In your loyalty to...Read more...

March 30 Adult B'nai Mitzvah with Rabbi Schulweis

12/06/2015 02:34:00 PM

Dec6

Torah Study with Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis, March 30, 2013

Excerpt taken from a sermon by Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis, given March 30, 2013.

A Prayer Before I Pray

07/07/2015 01:34:00 PM

Jul7

Before I open the prayer book, or embrace myself in a tallit prayer shawl, and give praise or thanksgiving or petition, it all begins with me. 

I cannot petition God without petitioning myself.  I cannot pray for health or peace or love without involving myself, my heart, my thought, my spine.

I cannot pray God for peace while my arms are folded, my mouth sealed, my feet dragging.

I cannot pray for health...Read more...

All in the Family: Bridging the Secular and Religious in Judiasm

06/07/2015 11:46:00 AM

Jun7

VIDEO: Rosh Hashanah 2013/5774 sermon from Rabbi Schulweis

 

"All in the Family: Bridging the Secular and Religious in Judaism"-part 1

Rosh Hashanah 2013/5774 with Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis


 

 

"All in the Family: Bridging the Secular and Religious in Judaism"-part 2

Kol Nidre-Yom Kippur 2013/5774 with Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis

Addictive Culture

06/07/2015 11:42:00 AM

Jun7

On Yom Kippur I spoke of the penetrating honesty of Judaism that does not flinch from the dark side of human nature. I referred to a book Renewed Each Day, Volumes I & II, published by Jewish Lights Publishing, (800) 962-4544 which I commend for your reading. My own article in three sections are reflections on the Jewish way to understand and overcome the roots of addiction.

Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav told of the king who received...Read more...

Self-Revelation: Hiding and Seeking

05/31/2015 12:01:00 PM

May31

Shavuot - Yizkor

by Harold M. Schulweis

The holiday of Shavuot is dedicated to revelation. Revelation implies that something is concealed. The human thirst and hunger for revelation is pervasive.

Somehow we sense that there is something more beneath the surface of things. The world is not what it appears to be. There is something deeper, hidden beneath the appearances of the world.

The world is too flat. Is...Read more...

Secular Science and Jewish Faith

05/31/2015 11:53:00 AM

May31

Yom Kippur 2002

by Harold M. Schulweis

A special welcome to you who have returned home to us, to your families and your synagogue from the world of academic culture, college and university. 

Zayde persuaded my parents to send me to Yeshiva. When I told him that I was indeed accepted as a student at Yeshiva College, he was taken aback. Yeshiva, he understood. But Yeshiva college was for him an oxymoron like jumbo...Read more...

A Second Look At Homosexuality

05/31/2015 11:45:00 AM

May31

The rabbis in the Talmudic era declared that two bachelors are permitted to sleep beneath the same blanket because Jews are not suspect of homosexuality (Kiddushin 82a). Were the rabbis treating homosexuality in the first centuries the way we once dealt with drug addiction, alcoholism, wife abuse, declaring, "This is not a Jewish problem"?

We can pretend that it is not a Jewish concern, though a number of scholars have speculated that...Read more...

In Search of Comfort

05/31/2015 11:36:00 AM

May31

Yom HaShoah Service – April 28, 2006

by Harold M. Schulweis

We have come together to search for comfort. We see so much evil, so much injustice, so much sorrow in the world. Is there a person with eyes and ears to the world who is not ashamed? Is there a person that is not embarrassed by the violence, hatred, libels against religions, races, ethnicities?

Religion has let us down. The impotence, the lethal silence, of...Read more...

The Sculpture of George Segal: Skirball Museum Lecture

05/31/2015 11:31:00 AM

May31

May, 1997  

INTRODUCTION

Every civilization has its myths, stories, narratives and legends. They search for meaning and significance. What is real, not ephemeral but enduring?

In modernity, myths are recognized sources of truth. This explains the popularity of James Campbell, and of the renewed interest in the anthropology of Malinowski, Levi Strauss, Carl Yung, Martin Buber and Sigmund Freud.

Freud put is...Read more...

Santa-Claustrophobia and Hanukkah

05/31/2015 11:26:00 AM

May31

There is a folk saying that holidays have to have "mazel.” For example, one of the biblical holidays is Rosh Chodesh, the celebration of the new moon. Rosh Chodesh is the first day of the Hebrew month, but you don't hear much about Rosh Chodesh. If you walked on Ventura, and asked somebody at random whether today was Rosh Chodesh, you would likely get a very interesting response.

Hanukkah has no book in the Bible named after it. On...Read more...

Salvador Dali's Moses Statue

05/30/2015 08:48:00 PM

May30

There are no statues of Moses from his own time, but we have statues by Michelangelo and another one by Salvador Dali. We don't know how Moses looked or how he sounded. But Hollywood cast Charlton Heston as Moses, and Heston has a deep and commanding voice. But Moses, from what we know from the Bible stories, was a stammerer, a stutterer, a heavy tongue. It may not do for Hollywood to have a hero as a stammerer. But it is brilliantly Jewish....Read more...

Sabbath--The Sabbath of Yom Kippur

05/30/2015 08:41:00 PM

May30

Yom Kippur, 1997

by Harold M. Schulweis

The Chasidic tale is told of Rabbi Elimelech and Rabbi Zushia who wondered whether the holiness they felt was due objectively to the Sabbath day itself or due to their own subjective attitude. Is it the day which introduces holiness. or is it our own intentions? They decided to test the matter. "Let us make the Sabbath on a week day and we will see whether we will find the same sense of...Read more...

Resurrection Through Organ Transplantation

05/30/2015 08:29:00 PM

May30

Yizkor means "He will remember.” The prayers appeal to God's memory. God is He who remembers. "Lord what is man that You should notice him? What is mortal man that You should consider him?"

The prayers express anxiety lest we leave this world without having cast a shadow on the earth. The terror of death is to discover at the end of our lives that we have not lived. Not to have lived is the unspoken dread of dying. Not to be...Read more...

Restructuring the Synagogue: The Creation of Havurot within the Synagogue

05/30/2015 08:24:00 PM

May30

It is now some 20 years since our teacher, Abraham Joshua Heschel, alav ha-shalom, addressed this assembly and spoke these strong words: "The modern temple suffers from a severe cold...the services are prim, the voice is dry, the temple is clean and tidy...no one will cry, the words are still born." The criticism was directed against the metallic services, against the lugubrious tones of the ritual master of ceremonies intoning the Siddur...Read more...

A Response to the Assassins of Rabin

05/30/2015 08:08:00 PM

May30

In one of the strangest passages in the book of Ecclesiastes, the book of Gehelet in the Bible we are told "Better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting. Do not be hasty to the spirit of anger for anger rests in the hearts of fools." It is important to mourn in truth because the name of God is truth. The prayer we recite before we rent the kriah ends with the word "emet". The name of the cemetery in Hebrew is bet emet,...Read more...

Repentance Out of Love and Repentance Out of Fear

05/30/2015 08:03:00 PM

May30

Yom Kippur, 1994

by Harold M. Schulweis

I remember a passage of rabbinic imagination. Rabbi Yochanan in the Talmud asserts that God also prays. What does God pray and to whom? "May it be My will that My mercy may suppress My anger and My mercy may prevail over My other attributes and that I deal with My children in the attribute of mercy and beyond the lines of justice." God prays that the quality of love within Him should...Read more...

The Rabbi as a Sacred Goat

05/30/2015 07:44:00 PM

May30

Selichot, 2003 by Harold M. Schulweis

The Kotzker Rebbe, a most enigmatic and troubled tzaddik, spent the last twenty years of his life depressed and in seclusion. Once, when visited by his friend and greeted with, "Peace be with you, Rabbi," the Kotzker Rebbe responded by saying, "Don't you recognize me?" I am the "sacred goat."

Why a sacred goat? The Kotzker told the tale: "Once an old Jew lost his snuff box made of the horn...Read more...

Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik

05/30/2015 07:41:00 PM

May30

Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik

Selichot, 1993 by Harold M. Schulweis [Note:   J. B. gave his Shiurim, lectures for periods of two hours. The lectures at the Yizkor were four hours. Forewarned is forearmed.]

Once my father entered the Synagogue on Rosh Hashanah, late in the afternoon after the regular prayers were over, and found me reciting Psalms with the congregation. He took away my psalm book and handed me a copy of the tractate...Read more...

The Pursuit of Success

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Yom Kippur, 2003 by Harold M. Schulweis

We are gods to our children. We have given birth to them. They are helpless and dependent upon us. We are their gods: omnipotent, all-powerful, omniscient, all wise, ubiquitous, all present. Our children are created in our image. We shape our children.

And who shapes us? What drives us? Who teaches us right from wrong? Who tells us for Yom Kippur what is sin and what is...Read more...

The Prince and the Turkey

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Selichot, 2000 by Harold M. Schulweis

Rabbi Nachman of Brotzlav, the great grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidim, taught his followers through stories, parables and tales. He himself fell into periods of deep despair and learned and taught that every ascent is preceded by a descent. One of his celebrated tales concerned a prince and a turkey.

The royal prince was convinced that he was a turkey. So, he sat...Read more...

Is Prayer Magic?

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Most people don't pray, not in the synagogue, not at home, not on the golf course, except for a divine expletive or in response to a sneeze – "gesundheit." God bless you.

The reasons that are normally given are not real. "I don't know Hebrew."

(Then read in English.)

Most people don't pray because for them prayer doesn't work. Prayer has no cash value. Ours is a pragmatic society, a utilitarian culture. Things have...Read more...

Prayer Expectations - 1995

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

What you pray, whether you pray, depends upon what you expect of prayer. Different answers arise out of different expectations, and expectations in turn reflect different theologies. What role does God and the worshipper play in prayer?

The conflict of expectations is not a modern one. It is evident in the discussions of the rabbis within the Talmudic tradition. In modern form, it is presented with incisive wit by the modern Jewish...Read more...

In Praise Of Italy: In Gratitude and Appreciation

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

What do I know about Italy and Italians?

As a child, I was raised in the Bronx, in an Italian neighborhood where all the kids played stick ball and stoop ball. We had a lot more in common than stick ball. Our families were very much alike. My immigrant parents from Poland exchanged Borscht for Spaghetti with our immigrant Italian neighbors.

Jews and Italians enjoyed the uninhibited gesticulation of their hands and a great love...Read more...

Post-Holocaust Recovery: An Appeal for Moral Education

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

The Holocaust, the Shoah, is seen as a primitive fissure in the human species, a primordial split between "them" and "us"  —  between "them,”  the perennial persecutors, and "we," the eternal victims; between “them,” the children of darkness who carry the genes of Ishmael, Esau and Amalek, and “us,”  the eternal scapegoats, the hated descendants of Isaac, Jacob and Israel. Dichotomous thinking exploits the...Read more...

The Passover: Physics, Magic, Mystery and Authority

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

I sit with open-mouthed incredulity before the television programs featuring "psychics.” I watch and listen to people who appear on the growing number of programs featuring persons willing to pay for the wisdom they receive from the psychics and offering testimony to their effectiveness. Earnest people confess that when it comes to important decisions in their lives, be it in the affairs of the heart, the choices of mates, decisions in...Read more...

Passover: Exodus and Redemption

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

From the Keruv Series: The Uniqueness Of Judaism - Lecture II  (1998)  

by Harold M. Schulweis

Every religion has its master story, some core event that captures the spirit and the thrust of its faith.

For Christianity, it is the story of the birth, the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus. It is around the story that the theology, the liturgy, the ritual is spun. The birth of Jesus is important and it...Read more...

After "The Passion"

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Shabbat, March 13, 2004

by Harold M. Schulweis

Claire Luce Booth, the wife of the owner of Luce Publications, reported a frank conversation with a Jewish friend. Booth said, "I must admit being positively bored by all this talk of the Holocaust and its constant repetition of Jewish suffering." The Jewish friend replied, "I know just how you feel. I feel exactly the same way about the Crucifixion."

Each would like to...Read more...

Outreach to Jewish Secularists and Atheists

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Yom Kippur 2004

by Harold M. Schulweis

Philosophers and theologians agree you can't define God, and sociologists agree you can't define Jews. We Jews are a singular people. Race? Nation? Religion? Have you ever heard of an Episcopalian agnostic or a secular Baptist or a Jehovah Witness atheist? Such contradictions are oxymorons. but secular Jews, atheist Jews and agnostic Jews produce no shock. In fact, they comprise the...Read more...

Obedience and Conscience

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Rosh Hashanah 1999

by Harold M. Schulweis

The rabbis selected the Biblical story of the binding of Isaac for study on Rosh Hashanah.

Here is one of the most influential stories in world literature, central to an understanding of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. It is a story that has puzzled not just religious commentators, but secular philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, Soren Kierkegaard, and in...Read more...

Nietzsche and Passover

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

What does Friedreich Nietzsche have to contribute to the celebration of Passover? Nietzsche, the philosopher of proto-Fascist sentiments, is considered to be one of the great philosophical intelligences of the late 19th century. In preparing for Passover, I found it helpful to reread Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals and Beyond Good and Evil. It clarified the revolutionary character of the Passover experience. To understand the heart of Moses,...Read more...

Multiple Loyalties

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

First Annual State of Humanity Forum,  October 17, 2006

by Harold M. Schulweis

The question is whispered, and must be answered in a forthright manner: Darfur or Israel? Is your loyalty to your people, or to humanity? Is your loyalty to Judaism, or to mankind? Are you essentially a Jew, or a human being?

Be wary of the framing of the question, because it forces a strangle-hold on us, a hard disjunctive "either-or" choice....Read more...

Moses: A Portrait of Spiritual Audacity

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Our generation needs authentic heroes, particularly in an age in which popularity is taken for heroism and celebrity refers to someone who is known for being known. There is a need for spiritual heroes through whom we discover who we are and who we may become. Heroes serve as guides and goads, and in their careers, embody the ideals of a culture.

Every religion has its own heroes. Their lives, and the legends they inspire, incorporate...Read more...

Mordecai M. Kaplan's "Soterics" as a Metaphysiscal Theology

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

The critics of Mordecai Kaplan's philosophic efforts were persistent in their accusations of his purported neglect of metaphysics. Of what value is "an account of the psychological and ethical consequences" of affirming a theology without the metaphysical substructure which deals with "things as a whole" and without the belief that there is "something ontological, some affirmation...concerning the ultimate nature of things" ?  A theology...Read more...

Morality, Legality and Homosexuality

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Rosh Hashana 1992

by Harold M. Schulweis

Judaism is wedded to creation. We are in this world and of this world, and not of another. Judaism promises no escape from the sand and rocks of reality, and its idea of salvation counsels no flight to another world.

The very first line of the Bible speaks of creation: “In the beginning God created.” We begin with the creation of this world. We are to be concerned with the...Read more...

Money, Motivation and Holiness

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Yom Kippur 2009

by Harold M. Schulweis

Looking back over the last year, I must confess to you that I am overwhelmed by the flood of new vocabulary which is unfathomable to me:  Hedge funds, leveraged buying, derivatives, economic meltdown, recession, toxic assets, phantom stocks, banking bailouts, subprime mortgages.”  And you thought  that my sermons were unintelligible?   I’m overwhelmed by this...Read more...

The Mitzvah to Encourage the Convert

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Rabbi Dana Kaplan's informative essay enumerates the lamentations of "the ever dying people," a dirge supported by surveys and studies in the last decade and reiterated in sermons and lectures from the pulpit and platform. The bête noire has been misidentified as intermarriage. While rhetorically we admit that intermarriage is a symptom, not a cause, our institutional projects commit a fallacy of misplaced concreteness. De facto, we treat...Read more...

The Mitzvah of Conversion

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

As far as intermarriage is concerned, the surest antidote is anti-Semitism. Anti-Semites don't want anything to do with Jews. They want to keep them our of their neighborhoods, out of their businesses, out of their recreational clubs. Anti-Semites don't want to marry Jews. In an anti-Semitic society, intermarriage and mixed marriage are no serious problems.

In recent polls, 87% of American non-Jews welcome marriage to a Jew. A Jew has...Read more...

The Mirror of Inreach and Outreach

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

I am perplexed by the tortuous arguments that have managed to twist the so called “inreach-outreach debate” into hard disjunctive options. I have myself announced and implemented a public outreach program for the unchurched and persons of other faiths who are discontent with their inherited traditions and search for alternative faiths, including Judaism, that are more compatible with their intellectual convictions and spiritual...Read more...

Memory and Anger

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

I know the Rabbi who normally occupies this pulpit. I listen to him often. Never missed any of his talks. I try to understand him, and it has not always been easy. I wish him and you better luck tonight.

I sense, as I look about Jewish life, a mounting anger in our people. A barely concealed resentment. Anger leaked in public statements of many of our leaders – religious, political, secular, in Israel, at home. There is an "anger,"...Read more...

The Measurement of Man: The Quest for Spiritual Intelligence

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Rosh Hashana, 1996

by Harold M. Schulweis

The zodiac sign for the month of Tishri is scales, Libra, maznayim. It is a symbol of measurement. We are measured and we measure. It is important to remember the injunction from the Bible, "You shall have honest scales, honest weights, honest measures in your homes" (Deuteronomy 25).

From the cutting of our umbilical cord to our interment in the ground, we are measured. From...Read more...

Me and We

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Yom Kippur 2008 - 5789

by Harold M. Schulweis

You begin Yom HaKippurim not with a prayer. It’s with a statement, a plea for absolution, and with a plea for expiation. You begin, strangely enough, “By the authority of the Heavenly Court, by the authority of this earthly court, with Divine consent, and with the consent of this congregation, we hereby declare it permissible to pray with those who have...Read more...

Master and Slave Morality

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees. You can sometimes be so immersed into detail that you do not understand the purpose. You can sometimes limit yourself only to questions about how, when, where, how much, and miss the important question "what for?" 

What lies behind the search for chamatz and the search for the afikoman?  Passover is a revolution of ideas and ideals. It is a Jewish festival of the birth of a...Read more...

Lucy Cohen's Father is Jewish

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

1993

by Harold M. Schulweis

Jeffrey sees no one but non-Jewish women. When you ask him why he gives a dozen excuses:  "It's just a date.  It means nothing," or , "After all, we Jews are not bigots," or "I'm not the religious type.”

One day Jeff comes to his parents to announce "I've found her.” They ask "What's her name?" He answers "Lucy Cohen.” Their hearts leap with expectation. They ask "How do you...Read more...

Love with a Bearhug Around My Soul

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Sometime toward the middle of our heated encounter, he threw his arms around me, protesting his love for my Yiddishe' neshama, my Jewish soul whose root is traced to Father Abraham. With a firm arm lock around my shoulders, he insisted that theology and observances aside, we are, through a spiritual genealogy, connected. I felt caught. To free myself from his grip would appear a rude rejection – who can spurn another's declaration of love?...Read more...

The Loneliness of the Rabbi

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

On the Occasion of the Installation of Rabbi Daniel Satlow

by Harold M. Schulweis

I was not born a rabbi. My father was not a rabbi, nor was his father. A rabbi is not a rebbe, someone who inherits the status and mantle of his ancestry. I was born a layman, and as a layman I had felt from the start a certain mystique about the rabbi. Not merely the mystery in that the rabbi was invisible during the week and incomprehensible during...Read more...

Leprosy of Words

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

President Clinton, in the wake of Oklahoma City bombings, focused on the purveyors of hatred whose angry verbal hammerings create “by their very words, that violence is acceptable.” His concern with the contagion of reckless speech brought me back to the scriptural chapters on leprosy, and the new relevance those arcane chapters have come to play in our era. It recalled for me an incident in my seminary days.

In my senior year at...Read more...

Keruv: Reflections on Dying, Death and the Hereafter

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

The Uniqueness of Judaism - Lecture IV

1998

by Harold M. Schulweis

Following of the death of his son, Absalom, King David arose to rend his garment. When Jacob saw his son Joseph's coat of many colors drenched in blood, he presumed that he was killed and he rent his garment. When David learned of the death of King Saul, he rose and rent his garment. When Job, who knew so much grief and of the death of his children, he...Read more...

Keruv: "Passover, the Master Story"

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

The Uniqueness Of Judaism - Lecture II (1998)  

by Harold M. Schulweis

Every religion has its master story, some core event that captures the spirit and the thrust of its faith.

For Christianity, it is the story of the birth, the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus. It is around the story that the theology, the liturgy, the ritual is spun. The birth of Jesus is important and it shapes the Christian calendar....Read more...

Keruv: "In Search of Oneness"

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

The Uniqueness Of Judaism - Lecture II (1998)  

by Harold M. Schulweis

The Sh'ma must be recited so that it is audible to oneself –Lhashmiah ozno.  It is the one verse that must not be slurred but clearly enunciated, especially the last word. I recall my zayde with his hand covering his eyes, elongating the e-c-h-a-d. Echad serves as a magnet drawing together the iron filings of our value system.

Echad is...Read more...

Keruv: The Image of God

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

The Uniqueness Of Judaism - Lecture I  (1998)  

by Harold M. Schulweis

These four lectures are invitations to a pluralistic outreach that comprises seventeen lectures for two sets of seekers of Judaism , (1) for unchurched non-Jewish persons of other faiths who have indicated an interest in Judaism and some of whom have considered the possibility of themselves becoming Jews by Choice; (2) for Jews who have been...Read more...

Keruv Shabbat 1997: In Appreciation of Jews by Choice

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

We have to know who we are and we have to know what we believe. We have to believe what we pray and we have to understand what we pray. To begin with, we want to look at a prayer that is recited three times a day and it is found in the Amidah, the central series of benedictions that are recited daily. On page 233, at the bottom of the page, we find the thirteenth benediction. A prayer that the tender mercies of God be stirred toward the...Read more...

Keruv, Conversion and the Unchurched

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Outreach Lecture I

by Harold M. Schulweis

Who are we to each other? What have we in common, you and I? And what may we hope to achieve? These four meetings are introductory.

By way of introduction I am a rabbi –  and if you want to know what a rabbi is and what a rabbi does, you are not alone. To many, the rabbi during the week is invisible and on Shabbat incomprehensible. Rabbi means “teacher,” no more, no...Read more...

Keeping Faith in an Insane World

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Rosh Hashana, 2007

by Harold M. Schulweis

Rabbi Nachman Bratzlav, the renowned 18th Century Hasidic master of stories, called his disciples together and told them a gripping parable:

Once upon a time, a king received a shocking report about the new harvest.  “Whoever eats of this crop will become mad.”   The king then said, “Since there is no other food which is available, we must eat of the harvest,...Read more...

Judaism Without Authoritarianism

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Rosh Hashana, 1993

by Harold M. Schulweis

The two pieces of literature I hold in my hand are a secular daily newspaper and an eternal sacred text, the Bible. How do they read together? What background does this biblical text provide for the understanding of the banner headlines that bombard us?

Today, we are challenged to think globally because on Rosh Hashanah we commemorate the creation of the universe and the birth...Read more...

Jonah and the Whale and In Us

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Selichot, 1994 by Harold M. Schulweis

“It ain't necessarily so.
It ain't necessarily so.
The things that you’re liable
To read in the Bible
It ain't necessarily so.”

Sportin' Life's agnostic hymn is followed by the chorus

“Jonah he lived in a whale,
Jonah he lived in a whale.
He made his home in
A fish's abdomen,
Jonah he lived in a whale.”

Sportin' Life's lyric is correct if...Read more...

Jews in Crisis: A gathering at VBS, with Rabbi Michael Melchior

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

May 13, 2002

by Harold M. Schulweis

Rabbi Melchior, we are honored by your presence and moved by your presentation. You have come to us from Zion with a message of urgency. We recognize the gravity and the consequences of our response.

We are gathered here not as spectators nor auditors. This is not a lecture, not a discourse on current events.   This is a matter of life and death in which the character of...Read more...

Jewish Spirituality and Jewish Fundraising

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

What has Jewish spirituality to do with Jewish fund raising? Everything. I am a fund raiser for Judaism. I am a fund raiser because there is no division of labor in Jewish life. One cannot espouse spiritual values from the pulpit and refuse to become involved in the material conditions which realize those values. I am a Jewish fund raiser because my knowledge of Judaism tells me that “The body is Thine and the soul is Thine.”  Body...Read more...

How Do You Pray, Rabbi?

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Rosh Hashana 2010/5771

by Harold M. Schulweis

What happens here in the sanctuary is not what happens in my study. The sanctuary is public domain – reshut harabim. Here is where I preside: I ask the questions, and I answer those I choose to answer. Here, in the sanctuary, I am protected by the shield of the pulpit — ten feet above contradiction. 

But my study is a private domain — reshut hayachid. When George...Read more...

How Do You Begin?

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Selichot 2002

by Harold M. Schulweis

 

How do you begin?
With whom do you begin?
With what do you begin?
Where do you begin?
When do you begin?

The first word in the Torah is “beresheith,” beginning. The first word is not “God” or “world” but “beginning.” It led the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hassidism to declare, “The whole world is for the sake of beginning.” If...Read more...

Honoring the Adult B'not Mitzvah 5764

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Passover Shabbat 2004

by Harold M. Schulweis

There are two ways to read the biblical text. One is external, exterior, historical ­ past tense. The other is internal, interior, existential ­ the present tense.

The text before us (Exodus 32) deals with a moment of crisis. Moses has descended from the mountain holding in his arms two tablets of the laws ­ the Ten Commandments - which he was to give to the...Read more...

High Holiday Response to the Outreach of Pope John Paul II

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

October 17, 2000

by Harold M. Schulweis

“Jews can't take 'yes' for an answer.” This quip attributed to the Israeli statesman Abba Eban is usually met with a smile of recognition. But what stands in the way of an affirmative acceptance of good news? Why such reluctance bordering on negativity toward the outstretched hand?

I have in mind the reluctant reaction of many Jewish leaders and organizations to the bold...Read more...

Hide and Seek: The Serious Game Of T'shuvah

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Yom Kippur 2010/5771

by Harold M. Schulweis

It is told of the Rhiziner Rebbe, that once when he came home from his shtiebel, he found outside his home a little boy crying. "Why are you crying, my son?" 

"Because I was playing hide and seek," the boy answered. 

"Why the tears, then?" 

"Because I was hiding. But no one was seeking." 

Later, the Rhiziner sensed in the child’s...Read more...

Gun Control and Violence

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

The raw datum is dramatic enough. A child is killed every two hours by guns in the United States. Fifty thousand children from 1979 to 1991 were killed by guns, more than all the American soldiers killed in Viet Nam.

We need true wisdom to deal with this tragic phenomenon.

The poet, Robert Frost, once wrote: "True wisdom is the ability to act when it is necessary on the basis of incomplete information." We do not have complete...Read more...

Gossip and the Havurah (Tazria-Metzora)

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

A havurah depends upon people, not texts, not books, not money. The essence of havurah is people and therein is its uniqueness. For is you consider the bulk of our relations in the general society in which we live, they are mostly practical, pragmatic, utilitarian. They represent the relationship between lawyers and clients, doctors and patients, entrepreneurs and customers, employers and employees. But the soul of the havurah is a...Read more...

Globalism and Judaism

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Rosh Hashana 2004

by Harold M. Schulweis

Don't throw away the newspaper! Newspapers are the day-to-day records of history. Judaism has a passion for meaning. Events have meaning. What do events mean? How do changes instruct us? Look around at the world. Every event has something to teach us. As the Zohar instructed: “There is nothing in the world empty of God.”

When the Industrial Revolution took place, it...Read more...

Get Out of the Cave

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Rosh Hashana, 5762 / 2001

by Harold M. Schulweis

This is not the sermon I prepared to present to the congregation.  September 11 changed all that, and much more. You don't select the sermon. Life selects the sermon. I looked at my original sermon and realized that it could not be given on this Rosh Hashanah. The night before I could not sleep. Nor did you. Insomnia is a Jewish trait. As someone once noted, “Jews can't...Read more...

The Fundamentalist Mindset �" People from God's Grace

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

I am myself an aficionado of televangelism. One of my favorite channels features the 700 Club of Pat Robertson. Every rabbi has to have his diversion. Mine is the 700 Club.

Rev. Pat Robertson ran for the Presidency in 1988, a man of considerable influence and tremendous charisma. He invited to the 700 Club the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who was the former head of the Moral Majority, on the program after September 11. They offered a...Read more...

The Fourth Son

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Rabbinical Assembly Conference, 2000

by Harold M. Schulweis

Three weeks from tonight around the Seder table we will come face-to-face with the typology of our Jewish family: the wise, the wicked, the simple and especially the one who does not know how to ask “sheayno yodea lishnol.” More than any other, the silence of the fourth son unnerves me. I believe that he represents the major constituency whom we have to deal with...Read more...

Forgiveness and Reconciliation

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Rosh Hashana, 2000

by Harold M. Schulweis

The Rabbi of Belz, Shalom ben Elazar Rokeach of the 19th century, wrote: There are three types of exile. The first is when Jews are in exile among the nations. The second is when Jews are in exile among Jews. And the third is when a Jew is exiled within himself.

There are Jewish families whose members are in exile; alienated from each other, families whose members do not speak...Read more...

Forgiveness

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

From a Jewish perspective what should be the problem? The biblical ethos is clear enough "the fathers shall not be put to death for the children neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers.” What have the children to do with the atrocities of their ancestors? Is genocidal persecution transmitted in the blood? Is racism traced in the genes or in the chromosomes? Is guilt inherited? "You shall not take vengeance or bear a...Read more...

For The Sake of Our Children

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

It is long past the denominational caricaturing that depicts the Orthodox as crazy, the Reform as lazy, and the Conservative as hazy. The old stereotypes have been supplanted by a more serious fragmentation that tears at the fabric of Jewish identity, continuity and character.

The most serious challenge to Jewish living does not come from without, from anti-Semitism, the missionary or the cult –  but from within. The threat...Read more...

Farrakhan and Jews

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Louis Farrakhan,  Benign Neglect, and Jewish Self- Interest

by Harold M. Schulweis

“Benign neglect” is the wisdom rekindled in the wake of the dark diatribes of Khalil Abdul Muhammad and Louis Farrakhan. Who can deny it? Surely there is a limit to Jewish forbearance of the vicious attacks on Jews, Catholics, Asians and gays.

The bible of black racism and anti-Semitism is The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and...Read more...

Ethics of the Neighbor

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

May, 2004

by Harold M. Schulweis

In a Fifth Century Midrash, Pesikta Derav Kahana, commenting on the first words of the Ten Commandments, I am the Lord thy God, some sages ask, “How is it possible that 600,000 Israelites stood at the foot of Sinai and one Voice addressed an entire people, yet every individual was convinced that the Voice was addressed to him personally?”

To this Rabbi Levy answers, “The Holy One...Read more...

Either/Or

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Yom Kippur, 2007

by Harold M. Schulweis

I received my most valuable lesson in philosophy from Tante Esther. Tante Esther was my family’s “Auntie Mame” — a strong, smothering, irrepressible woman.

When I was a child of four or five, Tante sat me on her ample lap and whispered into my ear, “Tell me the truth, Hershele. Who do you love more: Papa or Mama?” I was flustered. My mind was trapped. Should I answer...Read more...

Ecological Conscience and Kashrut

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Rosh Hashana 2009, 5770

by Harold M. Schulweis

Today is different. Today we do not greet each other today with “Chag Sameach,” as we do on Passover or Sukkot or Shavuot. Those holidays celebrate Jewish history — the Exodus from Egypt, the wandering in the desert, the Revelation at Mt. Sinai. On those days our study, our prayer, our thoughts are all focused on the God of history. 

But during the Days of Awe,...Read more...

Echad

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Rosh Hashana, 1997

by Harold M. Schulweis

A personal note. This past summer I had the last of my wisdom teeth extracted by an oral surgeon. I tell you this not to apologize beforehand for any diminished wisdom in my talk, but to tell you that during the entire procedure I found myself repeating again and again the six words of the Sh'ma. On the doctor's table I was a Jew by extraction. I wondered about that reflex, that...Read more...

Dying We Live

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Yom Kippur, 1995

by Harold M. Schulweis

When last I spoke to my teacher, Abraham Joshua Heschel, he asked if he could borrow my kittel. He was not at home in New York but here in California and it was before the High Holidays. "You know,” he explained "the kittel is part of the tachrichim -- the shrouds in which the dead are clothed for the funeral. You know on Yom Kippur I face my mortality." When, more than on Yom Kippur,...Read more...

Does God Hear Our Questions?

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Children's questions about God. 

by Harold M. Schulweis

We are going to be talking tonight about children, and about questions that children ask and about answers that parents and teachers are supposed to give.

Questions are the most important thing in the development of a human being and his mind. And you have to answer a question in such a way that you don't shut up the questioner. It's possible for parents or...Read more...

The Death and Dying of Moses

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Moses did not go gently into the night. When God in wrath against Moses and Aaron vowed "Therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them". Moses did not take it to heart. He decided not to implore God to do away with this sentence because he remembered the precept "Do not attempt to dissolve thy neighbor's vow in the moment that he has made it". So, Moses waited forty years before he approached God with the...Read more...

Darfur Vigil

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

July 21, 2005

by Harold M. Schulweis

The philosopher Bertrand Russell once remarked "the mark of a civilized person is to be able to read a column of numbers and to cry."

The world knows the math. They know how to read a column of numbers but they do not cry. To know and not to cry, to know and not to act is a vain knowledge.

It is not enough to know that 500,000 people of Darfur were slaughtered; that women...Read more...

On Cremation

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Yizkor Passover, April 24, 2003

by Harold M. Schulweis

Our parents are living longer and with longevity comes vulnerability in sickness. Increasingly, we are faced with the awesome decisions "to pull or not to pull the plug."

For many families, the pain of such decisions is countered with denial. We will postpone the issue of the preparation for death and moreover, as some have said to me, "I don't want to play God."...Read more...

Creating Pariahs in the Jewish Community

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

March 3, 2000

by Harold M. Schulweis

Pity the children. Rabbi Simeon Bar Yochai declared. "Throw yourself into a blazing furnace rather than shame a neighbor in public." (Talmud Berachoth 43b)

In the light of these passages, the Statement of Religious Qualifications for Children which declares that Ramah Conservative Camps may admit only halachically Jewish children disturbed me. This is the first such public written...Read more...

A Courageous Christian Friend

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

October 2004

by Harold M. Schulweis

The Reverend Doug Huneke is one of our people's great Christian friends in our time. I do not regard myself as an alarmist. To the contrary, I look for the goodness of humanity and am inspired by the most consequential verse in the Bible, the one that asserts that every single human being, whatever belief, race, ethnicity or gender, is created with a Divine potentiality that reflects the...Read more...

Conversation with the Angel of Death

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Rosh Hashana 1991

by Harold M. Schulweis

The letter from Lillian came between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

"I am writing to you as both my friend and my rabbi, driven by the deep sadness and sense of disconnectedness that has gripped me since this morning's Rosh Hashanah service.

Until this morning. I know the central liturgy of the holiday well, but before this year I had approached it in an abstract,...Read more...

Conscience

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Tishrei 5769 / Rosh Hashana 2008

by Harold M. Schulweis

I’m Harold Schulweis, and I approve of this message.

I make no endorsement, I hold no partisan view. I speak as a Jew addressing the world, offering a “Jewish State of the Union” address on human conditions in our century.

Today, we celebrate the creation of the world and the birth of humanity. How will history remember us, and how will we remember...Read more...

Confessions from the Rabbi's Study on Intermarriage

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

It is one thing to face a book. It is another to face a person. When you open a book you find facts, data, information. The book makes it easier to classify, to universalize, to pass judgment: this is legal, this is illegal, this is healthy, this is diseased, this is permitted, this is impermissible. The books that line my study symbolize stability, assurance, even certainty. But a book is not a person. A book doesn't squirm or stammer or...Read more...

The Character of Halachah Entering the Twenty-First Century

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Who is our constituency? Who is out there? Whom are we meant to serve? The late Pinchas Pelli was fond of telling a story about two Lubavitch Hasidim who discussed the nature of the Jewish constituency and its role for the future. One said to the other: "The whole world is divided into 'them' and 'us'. No point talking about 'them.' Let's talk about us. Among us, the Jewish world is divided between Ashkenazim and Sephardim. No point talking...Read more...

Catholic-Jewish Relations

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

An Evening of Understanding and Hope with Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis & Cardinal Roger Mahony, September 29, 1999

by Harold M. Schulweis

Your Eminence, distinguished members of the panel, members and friends of the Catholic and Jewish communities -- There is a stained glass window above the entrance of our synagogue greets you with the biblical verse that binds us. If you step up close to the window, you will see that each...Read more...

Catholic-Jewish Relations: Post-Holocaust

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Yom Kippur, 1999

by Harold M. Schulweis

We have lived with the generation of survivors during the Shoah, the unspeakable nightmare of the century we are leaving. We are now preparing to enter a new century with a new post-Holocaust generation. We are entering a different world that will require a renewed theology, a different spiritual statesmanship and in a globalized universe a new weltanschauung toward the non-Jewish...Read more...

Cardinal Roger Mahony

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

December 9 1994, Shabbat Service

by Harold M. Schulweis

INTRODUCTION:

Cardinal Mahony is one of ours. Born at the old Cedars of Lebanon hospital in Hollywood, raised here in the San Fernando Valley, and educated for the priesthood at St. John's Seminary in Camarillo.

Ordained as a priest in 1962, he became auxiliary bishop in Fresno, then Bishop of Stockton and ten years ago became the Archbishop of Los Angeles, the...Read more...

Can These Bones Live?

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

May 26, 2010

by Harold M. Schulweis

It is right that we should meet here, in the sanctuary. There are dreams here. And visions. And an ancient biblical vision rising from smoke, blood and ashes. 

The Prophet stands alone before an open valley, strewn with mutilated bodies, and the broken shards of the ruined Temple. Suddenly, the Prophet is addressed by an anguished voice: “Son of man, can these bones live?”...Read more...

Bulgarian Rescue of its Jews

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

April 12, 2002

by Harold M. Schulweis

We need this evening. We need this event. We need this memory. We need it for our sanity. We need it for our consolation. We need it for our faith.

The heart grows heavy. The trauma of destruction, the language of genocide, the atmosphere of Holocaust, which we all thought was over, has risen again and we are overwhelmed by the globalization of Holocaust.

We need a new...Read more...

Buber's Origins of Chasidism

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Philosophy is not autobiography. How a man lives is no way to measure the worth of his philosophy. It is a genetic fallacy to evaluate the value or meaning of an idea by tracing it to its origin. Henry Bergson's interest in intuitionism may have been triggered by the deafness and muteness of his daughter, but his philosophy of intuitionism must be judged on its own merits. That Friedreich Nietzsche died in an insane asylum tells us nothing...Read more...

Both/And: Judaism and Christianity

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

When we met last month we were speaking about Sam, born Jewish and Jane, born Christian who sit before me as an "inter-faithless couple". They are neither/nor people who propose to raise their children as both Jewish and Christian.

Why not both/and? Expose them to both like measles and chickenpox. Why fight when one can have Moses and Jesus, Messiah and Christ, the Seder and the last supper, kiddush and communion, mistletoe and...Read more...

Bosnia, India and the Way We Are

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

"One is embarrassed to be called religious in the face of religious failure to keep alive the image of God in the face of man." I recall those words of my teacher, Abraham Joshua Heschel. Who can be proud of religion reading, examining the daily reports of violence between Christians and Muslims and the resulting slaughter of innocents in Bosnia? Mass rape camps are established to humiliate and torture Muslim girls and women. Who can be proud...Read more...

The Book and the Sword

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Yom Ha Aztmaout - May 9, 2008

by Harold M. Schulweis

He was waiting for me there at the threshold of the synagogue. He took me aside and he said, “The trouble with you, Rabbi, is that you ask too much of us. You set the bar so high. We Jews are not angels, and we ought not to be angels, because angels on earth are incinerated in the crematoria.”

Now, what did I say that gave him such agitation? It was the Sabbath...Read more...

The Body and the Pursuit of Happiness

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Yom Kippur 2006 – 5767

by Harold M. Schulweis

The sermon started with rumors, anecdotes, whispers — which I dismissed as so much titillating gossip. Then a serious and respected colleague, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the President of the Union of Reform Judaism, addressed the general assembly of his movement with urgency. He appealed to parents and the synagogue to be actively concerned with the growing number of middle-school...Read more...

The Board and the People 2002

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Shemini Atzeret 2002

by Harold M. Schulweis

(The Temple Board installation took place on the evening of Shemini Atzeret.)

What an odd holiday is Shemini Atzeret. Does it belong to the festival of Sukkot or the festival one may eat and drink in the Sukkah, but no blessing "leshev basukka" is recited. It is a festival devoid of ritual objects: no lulav, no etrog, no hakafoth encirclings of the congregation with the...Read more...

Board Installation 2000

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

You are the first Board of Directors of the 21st century. Your decisions will be made in a new world. Your agenda will reflect the revolution of a new age.

A cultural revolution has swept over all of us and affected economics, politics, government, commerce and inevitably religion itself.

The critical term for that revolution is globalization.

Globalization means that we do not live in an insular society. Yesterday's...Read more...

Blacks and Jews: Shackled Together

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

It is a statement repeated in the Torah more than any other verse. According to the Talmud, it is repeated 36 times: "You shall love the stranger for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." That verse is the rationale of our relationship with the weak, the oppressed, the afflicted. In Deuteronomy God addresses the people as "God of all Gods and Lord of all Lords, the great God, the Mighty and awesome who regards not persons nor takes...Read more...

The Bias Against Man

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Axel Springer is a German, the owner and publisher of the largest chain of newspapers in post-war Germany, a man with a compelling conscience. He takes his son to Bergen Belsen to place flowers at the grave of Anne Frank, and before they leave he whispers to his son: "Dig the earth with your fingers until you find some bones of human bodies. Take one of these bones with you and place it where you can always see it, where you will never be...Read more...

Beyond Interfaith Marriage

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Rosh Hashana, 2003

by Harold M. Schulweis

There is a methodological debate among demographers as to counting the number of Jews in the United States. Some demographers maintain that the Jews in the America are 5.6 million. Another group of demographers maintain that the Jewish population in the United States is 5.2 million.

I think I understand something about the conflict among the demographers. When our president,...Read more...

Behind the Twelve Steps: The God in Victory and the God in Defeat

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

Yom Kippur, 1996

by Harold M. Schulweis

They are linked together but they are not the same. Rosh Hashanah is not Yom Kippur and Yom Kippur is not Rosh Hashanah. They each speak with different voices, express different attitudes and teach different lessons. Bracketed by the same term, "Days of Awe", Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are not only different but even contradictory.

How does Rosh Hashanah start at home? With...Read more...

An Appeal for AIPAC

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

January 29, 2003 by Harold M. Schulweis

Where are we? And why are we drawn together? We are in our house of prayer -- beit tefillah. Prayer in Judaism is not for the lazy, the indolence spirit. Prayer in Judaism does not mean to fold our arms and wait for angels to descend from heaven to do our work on earth. Prayer in Hebrew, l'hitpallel, is a reflexive verb. Prayer means to move us out of our seats, our of our couches and into the...Read more...

Afterlife: What Happens After I Die

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

You ask what I believe about the afterlife, and I in turn am struck by the fact that yours is a question rarely asked by Jews. It is different with Christian audiences, where inquiries about the Jewish view of life after death are almost invariably the first questions posed. How is it that as a rabbi called upon to officiate at funerals, deliver eulogies, comfort the bereaved, I am rarely questioned about the disposition of the soul after...Read more...

Armenian Shabbat Service: In Honor of the Martyrs of Armenia

05/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

May21

In Honor of the Martyrs of Armenia In commemoration of the 92nd Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide

April 27, 2007

by Harold M. Schulweis

Your Eminence, Archbishop Hovnan Derderian — my brother …

Why should we dwell in the sadness of the past? History brings our people such grief. Memories filled with terrifying images. Starvation, rape, pillaging, torture, executions death marches through the arid...Read more...

The Priestly Benediction

04/21/2015 11:43:00 AM

Apr21

On Jennifer H’s. Bat Mitzvah by Harold M. Schulweis

Jennifer asked me an important question in the course of her study of the biblical text which she is chanting. She thought it was unseemly that the Levites appeared to be so privileged, held apart, and elevated as guardians of the Tabernacle. She sensed that here were the inklings of a caste system. And I thank her for formulating the question for my talk.

I need no...Read more...

The Jewish Sacred and The Jewish Secular: To Love the World-Yom Kippur 5773

04/06/2015 05:33:05 PM

Apr6

Rabbi SchulweisThe Dalai Lama in Tibet, himself exiled, his people frightened and decimated by the Chinese regime, turns to a gathering of Rabbis and asks them, “Tell me your secret – the secret of Jewish spiritual survival for all these millennia… ”

We...Read more...

Morale, Morals and Meaning- Rosh Hashanah 2012

04/06/2015 05:31:03 PM

Apr6

Rabbi SchulweisHerbert Gold, the American novelist, tells of an exchange between Claire Booth Luce, the wife of publisher Henry Luce, and a Jewish friend. “I must tell you, dear, that I find all this talk about the Holocaust to be insufferably boring: Holocaust,...Read more...

Between

04/06/2015 08:58:02 AM

Apr6

Godliness and Immortality by Harold M. Schulweis

God. Even alone, in private meditation,
Where then? I turn to the memory
not in me nor in you. and promise of our betweenness.
But between us.

God not in me or in you or in Himself
God not me or mine but in betweenness the evidence of
nor you or yours God's reality and our own.
But ours.

God known
not in isolation
but in relationship.

Not...Read more...

Life and Death

04/06/2015 08:56:43 AM

Apr6

Mourning by Harold M. Schulweis

What is left to be done after the dying is over?
After the earth has covered the grave
the casket lowered
the ribbon cut
the tears shed
the last kaddish recited
the farewells over
the closure formed?

But there is no final closure in death.
Life and death are locked in embrace,
So intimately intertwined that the "Keriah" of the cloth
cannot tear them...Read more...

Krieh - Tearing the Cloth

04/06/2015 08:54:04 AM

Apr6

Mourning by Harold M. Schulweis

Why rend the clothes?
So strange to a tradition
that admonishes
not to break or to destroy

It is for the sake of anger
against the unfairness of the world
anger against him or her, God or self?

Is tearing the cloth to give outer expression
to the
tattered soul within?

Or is it a parallelism
the death of a person like the burning of a Sefer Torah
for...Read more...

Returning from the Funeral

04/06/2015 08:52:36 AM

Apr6

Mourning by Harold M. Schulweis

How do they leave the funeral?
After the eulogy, after the lowering of the casket
After the earth has been gently dropped upon the grave.

They divide themselves into two rows
to allow the mourners to depart
Then walk slowly towards their cars,
A different gait than before.

A different quietness, a new recognition
of the mortality of their lives
of what is really...Read more...

Sculpting Memory

04/06/2015 08:50:58 AM

Apr6

Mourning by Harold M. Schulweis

Memory is our life 
Amnesia our death.
Memory is our strength .
Forgetfulness our attrition.

To remember is a mandate 
a commandment from within

Memory is no camera 
No indiscriminate recording of the past
impartially registered.

Memory is a 
searching for a perspective
that will illuminate the present.

Memory is
a...Read more...

Strange Envy

04/06/2015 08:49:15 AM

Apr6

Mourning by Harold M. Schulweis

Envy them
Those who stand bent before the casket
wiping away their tears.
Envy them their memories of
Warm embraces, gentle humour,
birthdays, anniversaries,
joyous meals around the Sabbath
table.

Pity those who cannot cry
whose tears have long been
dried into resignation,
surrendering the promise.

Pity the dried-eyed sadness
of those who can...Read more...

The Shiva Candle is Lit

04/06/2015 08:48:27 AM

Apr6

Mourning by Harold M. Schulweis

Closer to the grave 
The nearness changes us. 
Do we think we will live forever? 
Speech, acts, gestures 
That once enraged seem foolish now.

Before the images of shrouds,
Envies, jealousies,
Sworn vindictiveness
All shrivel into nonsense.

Before the shovel of dirt,
The sound of pebbles on the casket,
The angers and gnawing...Read more...

Where is Grandma?

04/06/2015 08:45:31 AM

Apr6

Mourning by Harold M. Schulweis

The young child asked
"Where is Grandma?"
the adults gasped
Not knowing what to say

Certainly not in the earth
Buried, covered over with soil and small rocks
Certainly not in the heavens
Distant, far off, a fantasy of the imagination.

Much closer than earth, much closer than heaven
Grandma, dear child, is within us all.
In memories of her kindness and...Read more...

The Yahrzeit Glass

04/06/2015 08:44:35 AM

Apr6

And at the end of the day
After wax is cleansed,
washed out, the plain glass remains.

I recall my grandfather
drinking hot tea from that very glass
a spoon in the glass
to prevent it from cracking from the heat.

The glass will find its place
on the shelves of glasses
indistinguishable from the others.

Using that glass becomes a sacred act
Holiness is not outside the
cupboard of...Read more...

Elohim and Adonai: Genesis I and Genesis II

04/06/2015 08:43:20 AM

Apr6

Godliness and Immortality by Harold M. Schulweis

Two names, one God
side by side

Two names
interdependent
Each with its own nature
complementary

Elohim we greet
at the opening chapter of Genesis,
out of chaos and void

Elohim, the ground of all creation,
heavens and earth
the fish below, the birds in the air
Elohim, Source of the universe
lion and lamb
eagle and dove
and...Read more...

Elohim - Adonai

04/06/2015 08:42:10 AM

Apr6

Godliness and Immortality by Harold M. Schulweis

"Blessed art Thou O Lord our God King of the universe whose strength and might fill the world"

Elohim creates day and night,
light and darkness.
Lion and lamb,
Bacteria and penicillin.
Gives power to the fowl above the earth,
To the great sea monsters below,
To every living creature that creeps on the earth.

And Elohim said,
It is very...Read more...

Who Are They To Me?

04/06/2015 08:40:20 AM

Apr6

Godliness and Immortality by Harold M. Schulweis

Who are "they" to me
I, a child of Jewish Polish parents
Haunting memories filled with
episodes of contempt for my people.

Who are "they" to me?
Stories of ten decapitated Jewish heads placed upon the SS desk
shrunken heads covered upon which skull caps are derisively displayed
"This is your minyan, Jew".

Who are "they" to me
the silent...Read more...

Godliness

04/06/2015 08:39:06 AM

Apr6

Godliness and Immortality by Harold M. Schulweis

G O D L I N E S S 

God. Where?
Not in me nor in you.
But between us.


God. Not me or mine,
Nor you or yours,
But ours.


God. Known,
Not in isolation,
But in relationship.


God. Covenanted.
Sacred claims, obligations, commandments,
Above, below, between.
Healing, binding, saving
Redeeming, shielding,...Read more...

Emotional Intelligence: Rosh Hashanah 2011 / 5772

04/06/2015 08:37:39 AM

Apr6

People of power, prestige, and privilege shuffling on the pavement with shackles on their ankles, on their way to house arrest or solitary confinement.   Smart people with high I.Q’s, and high S.A.T. scores, from highly endowed universities. Smart people with multiple degrees, fame and titles: senators, congressmen, governors, candidates for the highest offices of the law, financiers, moguls controlling world-wide media; educated...Read more...

Compassion: Yom Kippur 2011/5772

04/06/2015 08:36:29 AM

Apr6

The sacred center of the Jewish sanctuary is the aron ha-kodesh, The Ark of Holiness. Open the ark and you will find in it no icon, no statue, no sculpture, no reliquary, no chalice. Only words. Only words written on parchment.

But these inspired words shaped the conscience of Western civilization and the character of the Jewish people. What is unique about this book of books? What is distinctive about the Torah? The uniqueness of the...Read more...

Zionism and the Double Standard

04/06/2015 08:35:08 AM

Apr6

Summer 2008 

He was waiting for me there at the threshold of the synagogue. He took me aside and he said, “The trouble with you, Rabbi, is that you ask too much of us. You set the bar too high. We Jews are not angels, and we ought not to be angels, because angels on earth are incinerated in the crematoria.”

Now, what did I say that gave him such agitation? It was the Sabbath before Passover, and I had told the...Read more...

Bar-Bat Mitzvah

04/06/2015 08:32:26 AM

Apr6

Bar-Bat Mitzvah Bar/Bat Mitzvah by Harold M. Schulweis

You stand alone
while we, your parents
are seated in the congregation.
You stand on your own two feet
to lead the congregation,
to sing, to pray, to study.

They and we listen to you carefully,
They and we hear your words, your commentary.
My son, my daughter, your voice is heard,
Your wisdom addresses all of us.

You wear your own...Read more...

A Parent's Dream

04/06/2015 08:28:19 AM

Apr6

A Parent's Dream Bar/Bat Mitzvah by Harold M. Schulweis

"Protect my children from my secret wish
to make them over in my image and illusions.
Let them move to the music that they love
dissonant perhaps to me." (Nissim Ezekiel)

We have raised them, sculpted them, schooled them
Exposed them to our ways and our world.
Who can blame our parental conceit
Imposing our dreams on their heads

Give us the...Read more...

My Grandson's Bar Mitzvah

04/06/2015 08:27:14 AM

Apr6

My Grandson's Bar Mitzvah Bar/Bat Mitzvah by Harold M. Schulweis

My grandson a Bar Mitzvah
Child of my child called to the Torah
I am face to face with the future.

Geography has distanced us
I have not raised him
nor given him instruction
Bound his wounds, absorbed his sobs
rallied him to victory.

Yet from the distance
I have heard and imagined
his defeats and triumphs.

Now he is...Read more...

A Parent's Perspective

04/06/2015 08:06:23 AM

Apr6

A Parent's Perspective Bar/Bat Mitzvah by Harold M. Schulweis

You are not today as you were yesterday
Nor are we.
Something has occurred.

We sit with the congregation
You stand alone on the Bimah
You lead the congregation
We follow
You sing, pray, speak
We listen.

You are not an echo of our sand
You have your own words.
The still, small voice of conscience stands alone
Stronger in you...Read more...

Bitter - Sweet: In the Memory of a Child

04/06/2015 08:05:43 AM

Apr6

Bitter - Sweet: In the Memory of a Child Mourning by Harold M. Schulweis

Bitter-sweet
The struggle to be born
to free the infant body from the womb
to sever the umbilical cord

Bitter-sweet
the first gasping for air
listening to the heart beat
a life lived outside the body of another

Bitter-sweet
hope resuscitated out of ambiguous prognosis
love clung to in the darkness of...Read more...

Comforting the Comforters

04/06/2015 08:02:53 AM

Apr6

You who give counsel to others
must now give counsel to yourself.

You to whom others turn for wisdom
turn to yourself.

You to whom others come for comfort
must comfort yourself.

We Comforters and consolers,
the healers of others
need comfort and consolation
In sickness, in death, in tragedy
we are the same.

May the last hours not eclipse the entire life
May the pain,...Read more...

Fear of Death

04/06/2015 08:01:41 AM

Apr6

Fear -- not of death or dying but of not having lived.

Fear -- not of suffering but of suffering for no cause.

Fear -- not of extinction of life but of having left no trace upon the earth.

Fear -- not of finitude but of being forgotten.

Take heart -- make this a life not lived in vain.

Take heart -- make this a life not lived for naught.


* This document, or any portion thereof, may not be...Read more...

Touch My Heart

04/06/2015 08:01:03 AM

Apr6

Child
Touch my nose, my lips, my eyes
with your small hands.
Then touch my arms and chest.
Feel their shape
how real they are.

Now, touch my love.
No, not my chest or arms or lips.
You are puzzled.
How is one to touch love 
and where is its place?

Love is not here or there
But who would
deny its reality?
Where does love reside
if it cannot be pointed to?

Is it...Read more...

Adonai / Elohim

04/06/2015 08:00:33 AM

Apr6

Yom Kippur 1991
by Harold M. Schulweis

Baruch atah Adonai Elohenu melech ha olam. Blessed art Thou Lord our God King of the universe. Who is the Thou addressed? The Thou is modified by two names of divinity that are distinct but inseparable. Adonai and Elohim, two aspects of the same divinity.

Shma Israel. Hear Israel Adonai-Elohim is One.

In what sense One? For many the two names of God rub against each other. For...Read more...

D'var Torah For Jewish Welfare Federation

04/06/2015 08:00:07 AM

Apr6

December 12, 2007

by Harold M. Schulweis

There are mirrors and there are windows. In our tradition, you may not pray before a mirror. But the House of Prayer must have a window. 

What difference does it make? A mirror is made of glass and a window is made of glass. 

But the poet Ansky suggests "In the mirror the plain glass is covered with a little silver, and as soon as a little silver is added, you...Read more...

How I Became A Zionist

04/06/2015 07:59:38 AM

Apr6

Rosh Hashana 2006

by Harold M. Schulweis

I was ten or eleven when my zayde came forward and brusquely ripped off the pin I was wearing on my lapel. The pin said, in Hebrew, “Tzion” “Zion”; and my grandfather was angry. He told me that he could not go to synagogue with me wearing a pin of Zionism. My father had given me the pin and my grandfather removed it, and I was caught between two powerful men.

When we...Read more...

How & Why Hassidim Pray

04/06/2015 07:59:10 AM

Apr6

Selichot, 1995

by Harold M. Schulweis

The Hasidim tell the story of a deaf man who passes a large window of a house. He looks through the window and sees a circle of people waving their hands and their legs, using odd gestures and fierce motions. He concludes that this must be an asylum of mad people. Because he is deaf he cannot hear the music to which they are dancing. Because he cannot hear the music he cannot know the...Read more...

My Eighty-Fifth Birthday

04/06/2015 07:59:00 AM

Apr6

April 16, 2010

by Harold M. Schulweis

Rabbi Feinstein was born on April 16. I was born on April 14. What a difference only two days can make. 

My colleague, co-celebrant and dear friend, Rabbi Feinstein, and I have grown older together. Our pictures shown side-by-side on the Andy Warhol invitation was like a commercial for hair growth: "Before and After." 

Aging is irreversible and universal. And all...Read more...

"I Believe..."

04/06/2015 07:58:40 AM

Apr6

A cautionary word. The tragic record of intolerance in God's name against those who cannot or will not believe or practice as we do, the documentation of cruelty by those who raise the sacralized word to savage the lives of those who fall outside the circle of our definition, the history of religious beliefs baptized in the threatening waters of absolutism are reasons enough to temper the apodictic declarations of belief. I would gladly...Read more...

The Individual in the Jew

04/06/2015 07:58:12 AM

Apr6

Rosh Hashana 1994

by Harold M. Schulweis

I live in two worlds in the Synagogue. One is in the study, the other is in the sanctuary. My study is the private domain “reshuth hayachid” into which Jews come as individuals.

The sanctuary is the public domain “reshuth harabim” where Jews come as members of the community.

They are two different worlds, the world of Private Jews and the world of Public Jews....Read more...

Sanctified Mourning

04/06/2015 07:58:00 AM

Apr6

Mourning by Harold M. Schulweis

We have been blessed by God with the breath of life
breathed in us at creation.
The image of God is not far off but near
in our soul.
As we pray daily
God is
the all good whose mercies never fail us
whose wonders are daily with us, evening, morn and noon.

Let the healing power within you give you
strength, courage, comfort and consolation.

We cannot...Read more...

It is Never Too Late

04/06/2015 07:58:00 AM

Apr6

It is Never Too Late Mourning by Harold M. Schulweis

The last word has not been spoken
the last sentence has not been writ
the final verdict is not in
It's never too late
to change my mind
my direction
to say "no" to the past
and "yes" to the future
to offer remorse
to ask and give forgiveness

It is never too late
to start all over again
to feel again
to love again
to hope...Read more...

How to Mourn

04/06/2015 07:58:00 AM

Apr6

How to Mourn Mourning by Harold M. Schulweis

He asked of me -
Help me mourn.
An odd request from one
so learned,
Who has the mind, the heart, and tears
why does he need my help to mourn?

We spoke a while
and then his request grew clearer
He wanted to mourn
not as if he were unrelated, a stranger
to his people, to his father's people.

He wants to mourn as part of a community
with a...Read more...

Invocation for General Barak

04/06/2015 07:57:40 AM

Apr6

December 8, 2002

by Harold M. Schulweis

In my earliest youth, I dreamed of Jewish heroes who could handle swords and missiles with skill. In Hebrew school, they mentioned personalities in ancient times like Samson, the Maccabees and Bar Kochba. But I never met a blood and flesh living Jewish general. Tonight I have shaken the hands of a Jewish general and for me this handshake is symbolic of the crucial turn in modern Jewish...Read more...

Israel in Crisis

04/06/2015 07:57:18 AM

Apr6

August 21, 2006

by Harold M. Schulweis

We are here together not as doves or as hawks, but as eagles. As it is written, “I have borne you upon eagles wings.” Eagles carry their young upon their wings to protect their children from the poisonous arrows which are shot by the archers below.

We are here to protect, we are here to support and sustain our family, threatened with destruction from terrorists, bombers from...Read more...

Holding on and Letting go

04/06/2015 07:57:00 AM

Apr6

Holding on and Letting go Mourning by Harold M. Schulweis

Hold on and let go. 
On the surface of things
contradictory counsel.
But one does not negate the other.
The two are complementary, dialectical
two sides of one coin.

Hold on -- death is not the final word
The grave no oblivion.
Hold on in Kaddish, Yahrzeit, Yizkor.
No gesture, no kindness, no smile evaporates -- 
Every kindness,...Read more...

Israel & the Peace Process

04/06/2015 07:56:53 AM

Apr6

Shemini Atzeret, 1995

by Harold M. Schulweis

We are not listening to history and we are not listening to the instructions of our tradition. We have heard it said so often but it does not affect our practical lives or our attitudes. The rabbis have told us in the Talmud that the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed not for lack of observance of the laws, not because we did not study enough or observe enough, but most importantly...Read more...

Israel: The Land and the Therapy

04/06/2015 07:56:29 AM

Apr6

Why this fierce attachment to the land? Why this territorial obsession that runs throughout Jewish history? Why this negotiation in London, in Oslo, in Israel over land and territory?

We meet it first in the covenant between God and father Abraham: "Get thee out of thy country and from thy kindred and from thy father's land unto the land that I will show you." The covenant is bathed in mystery. It is a land not named yet but one which...Read more...

Graveside Reflections

04/06/2015 07:56:00 AM

Apr6

Graveside Reflections Mourning by Harold M. Schulweis

The Hebrew word for funeral is "levaish" - which means to escort, to accompany
It draws attention to those who come to the grave
to the family and friends
who do not abandon the deceased.

We who come are witnesses of the goodness and immortal remembrances
of a life lived.
We who come to the "levaish" are Levites,
loyal attendants who serve the mourners,...Read more...

Israel Solidarity Rally

04/06/2015 07:55:51 AM

Apr6

October 12, 2000

by Harold M. Schulweis

We are an old-new people. When our people were held in Egyptian bondage, they were told to smear blood on the lintel of their door posts, so that the Angel of death could recognize that here was a Jewish residence and would pass over their homes without harming them. The sages asked, "Does the Angel of death not know without such external signs where Jews live and where Egyptians live?"...Read more...

Jealousy: The Green Root of Evil

04/06/2015 07:55:23 AM

Apr6

Why do people hate? Why do they kill? Why do they steal? Why do they murder?

The Bible records the first murder, which is fratricide — the killing of one brother of another. And it tells the story in very few words. "And Cain spoke unto Abel his brother. And it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him."

Here is the first murder mystery. No one was on the scene and...Read more...

Post Operative Prayer

04/06/2015 07:55:00 AM

Apr6

Post Operative Prayer In Sickness and Health by Harold M. Schulweis

Early in the dawn 
before the bustling of the carts 
an old prayer 
recited too quickly 
now resonates anew. 

For opening the eyes of the blind
For releasing the bound 
For raising up the bowed down 
For clothing the naked. 

A prayer with new meaning 
For clothing bent over...Read more...

Nature Pursues its Own Course

04/06/2015 07:55:00 AM

Apr6

In Sickness and Health by Harold M. Schulweis

I do not believe that sickness is divine
punishment
a malediction thrust down upon me from above
a chastisement meant to correct some
transgression
I do not believe that sickness is some
mysterious test
Strange compensation designed to build character.

Rabbinic sages observed
"olam k'minhago noheg"
nature pursues its own course.
a course independent...Read more...

Jewish Civility and Interdemoninationalism

04/06/2015 07:54:55 AM

Apr6

A perverse solipsism applies to the idolatry of denominationalism which has taken hold of us. Idolatry is the worship of the part as if it were the whole.

To overcome this idolatry requires on the part of all of us courage, love of the Jewish people and the wisdom of Judaism. What must be overcome is our self-imposed segregation. The disconnection that has reduced us to monologists. The alienation that has destroyed the sanctity of...Read more...

Jewish Conscience on Kol Nidre

04/06/2015 07:54:25 AM

Apr6

Yom Kippur, 1993

by Harold M. Schulweis

"By authority of the heavenly Tribunal and of the Court below with divine sanction and with the sanction of this holy congregation, we declare it lawful to pray together with those who have transgressed.”

This opens the revolutionary proclamation that declares the interdependence of heaven and earth, the unity between the law above and the law below, the dignity and power of...Read more...

Mi Shebeirach

04/06/2015 07:54:00 AM

Apr6

Mi Shebeirach In Sickness and Health by Harold M. Schulweis

You who blessed our ancestors
at the sea and in the desert
bless these ill friends
through us Your witnesses
Give us the wisdom to impart
to them courage and hope
Let them know that they have
in our holy community
men, women and children
who pray for the skill of the physician
who pray for their recovery
of body and spirit.

Teach...Read more...

Jewish Political Conscience

04/06/2015 07:53:44 AM

Apr6

A few months ago, two prominent advertisements appeared in The New York Times. The first, under the banner "Mazel Tov Newt," was signed by rabbis and Jewish lay leaders convinced that the Gingrich "contract" reflected the "eternal values of Judaism.”  The other advertisement, in refutation, maintained that the "core political commitment of Judaism" is the covenant to liberalism. Each claimed its own synonymy with authentic...Read more...

Jewish Spiritual Leaders Series: Mordechai M. Kaplan

04/06/2015 07:53:16 AM

Apr6

A Reenactment, January 19, 2001

by Harold M. Schulweis

When they thought I wasn’t listening they called me “Kappie” -- but never to my face. I was born on the 14th day of the month of Sivan 5641. The English date was 1881. I was born on Friday night at 11:50 PM and everyone knew the exact time because it was marked by my father, Rabbi Israel, who stopped the clock. Incidentally, Moses Maimonides' father did the same...Read more...

Jewish Spiritual Leaders Series: Franz Rosenzweig

04/06/2015 07:52:47 AM

Apr6

A Reenactment, November 10, 2000

by Harold M. Schulweis

I read, posthumously, books on the philosophy of Judaism which credits me as one of the most influential Jewish theologians in contemporary Jewish life. That, in itself, is a wonder. It is a wonder that I am here in the synagogue -- any synagogue. For my story is a story of a Jew who was one small step away from the Christian baptismal font. I was born significantly on...Read more...

Healing Insights

04/06/2015 07:35:00 AM

Apr6

Healing Insights In Sickness and Health by Harold M. Schulweis

I have recovered
and my heart is full of gratitude.
I have recovered
I give thanks to the
divine power as experienced in the
skill of the physician;
in the care of nurses
in the warmth of family
who held my hand in theirs.

Let me not forget those long days and nights
so that I will live out my resolve
to uplift the fallen
to...Read more...

Yet (For Malka)

04/06/2015 07:35:00 AM

Apr6

Yet (For Malka) The Wedding by Harold M. Schulweis

They say - we were not born together
we come from different families, different schools, different associations.
You are not me 
and I am not you

Yet -
You know me better than I know myself.
You complete my sentences, fill in the pauses
read between the lines

You are not me - and I am not you.
Yet when we are not together
my sight, my...Read more...

Wine, Canopy, Ring and Glass

04/06/2015 07:35:00 AM

Apr6

Wine, Canopy, Ring and Glass The Wedding by Harold M. Schulweis

My cup of wine poured with thine
Into one empty vessel.
Drink a new mixture,
Our wines like our lives intermingled,
Fusion without coercion,
Merger without loss,
A curious admixture,
Two into one
One into two
Union without subtraction,
Singularity multiplied

Four separate poles
Too close, the cover collapses,
Too far, it...Read more...

Twoness

04/06/2015 07:35:00 AM

Apr6

Twoness The Wedding by Harold M. Schulweis

"The whole world was created for the sake of union."
To unite the divided,
To bring together the separate.
A mysterious mathematics:
Two into one
One into two.

A self-discovery.
With another to learn my interior self.
Not in solitary revelation
With the other to whom I can say thou,
With all my soul, mind and might,
I am newly...Read more...

Glass is Broken

04/06/2015 07:34:00 AM

Apr6

The Glass is Broken The Wedding by Harold M. Schulweis

How at the height of joy
Is a glass broken.
How in the midst of song
Intrudes the noise of shattered glass

A moment past the sacred vows
Open now to fragmented lives
Bride and groom embracing time beyond
With the final promise to each other
Carried beyond the four posts of the wedding canopy
Into the blemished world.


* This document,...Read more...

Mirror Eyes

04/06/2015 07:34:00 AM

Apr6

Mirror Eyes The Wedding by Harold M. Schulweis

The mirror is not neutral
A cool, silver-covered surface
reflecting me impartially.
It has its own shape,
its own concave, convex bent.
No two mirrors are alike.

Some mirrors make me look
hard and gross.
However I fix my smile, it reflects
a grimace.
However wide I set my eyes,
it appears a squinting mean-ness.

Other mirrors see me...Read more...

Marriage the Great Choice

04/06/2015 07:34:00 AM

Apr6

Marriage the Great Choice The Wedding by Harold M. Schulweis

A different chemistry in marriage.
Not I becoming you or you becoming me,
Not I absorbing you,
Or you absorbing me.
Without loss of identity,
An enlargement of each of us.

A union, not by coercion
Not by surrender or domination
But by choice and mutuality.
Did not Ruth describe our union?
"Where you go I will go,
where you lodge I...Read more...

Reflections of a Bar/Bat Mitzvah: The Day After

04/06/2015 07:33:00 AM

Apr6

Reflections of a Bar/Bat Mitzvah: The Day After Bat/Bat Mitzvah by Harold M. Schulweis

It is over now, and I have done well.
chanted well, my voice was firm,
my speech lucid.

It is over now.
The gifts opened, the band, the music
that congratulate

It is the next day.
Is this a new stage
on a journey of self-discovery,
or will this beginning speedily halt?

Will I choose to live what I...Read more...

The Birth of Conscience

04/06/2015 07:26:00 AM

Apr6

The Birth of Conscience Bar/Bat Mitzvah by Harold M. Schulweis

You carry our name in yours
so you are called to the Torah
the son or daughter of your father and mother.
Our names interwoven
inseparable.

You stand, chant, speak alone
As close to you as we are,
you are not us,
not an echo of our sound.
You are your own voice.
You are not us and we are not you.

We who have held you so...Read more...

Whose am I?

04/06/2015 07:26:00 AM

Apr6

Whose am I? Birth/Brith by Harold M. Schulweis

Not "Who am I"
but "Whose am I".
In belonging lies the secret identity.

Who belongs to me,
To whom do I belong?
Who accepts me
Whom do I accept?
Who has claims upon me
Upon whom do I lay claim?

Who knows my failings?
Who knows the meanings
of my angers and ambitions, my fears,
My cries for love sometimes hidden past...Read more...

Parents at a Birth

04/06/2015 07:26:00 AM

Apr6

Parents at a Birth Birth/Brith by Harold M. Schulweis

We are not born enough.
When we were first born
we were not aware.
God has given us another birth,
a miracle of life
out of body and soul of us both.

Flesh of our flesh, blood of our blood,
drawn from the marrow of our bones.

Here, before us a unique being, unlike any
created in this world, a mystery of possibilities.
Who knows what...Read more...

Not Where But When

04/06/2015 07:25:00 AM

Apr6

Not Where But When Birth/Brith by Harold M. Schulweis

There are matters not subject to the senses
taste, sound, smell, sight, touch
Matters elusive to definition
yet known without doubt.
Known to make us cry and laugh
to move us to unimagined heights
to courage and self-sacrifice.

Experiences -- like love or God
Cannot be fingered, placed or poked.
Of such things
it is wiser to ask
not where...Read more...

In My Arms

04/06/2015 07:25:00 AM

Apr6

In My Arms Birth/Brith by Harold M. Schulweis

In my arms a child is held
a nameless being
possessed of unknown potentialities.

In my arms an infant is held
Upon whom we confer in the presence of her people
A name to be known in Israel as

_____________________ bat ______________________________________________.
Child's Hebrew Name Parents' Hebrew Names

That name includes our own
We are parents...Read more...

From Where Did You Come?

04/06/2015 07:24:00 AM

Apr6

From Where Did You Come? Birth/Brith by Harold M. Schulweis

From where did you arrive?
out of the womb of Eve and the seed of Adam.

Angels show the unborn soul
the secrets of heaven and of earth
The soul pleads with God not to push him from
the comfort of the womb.

"I am well pleased with the world
in which I have been living since the day You called me to be.
Why do you desire me to enter this impure...Read more...

HaShem and Mensch: Yom Kippur 2013/5774

04/06/2015 07:04:33 AM

Apr6

Rabbi SchulweisI asked my father, “How do you say ‘secular’ in Yiddish?” My father was a Yiddish purist, and I would constantly challenge him to translate English terms into authentic Yiddish. Such as, “How do you say ‘Cornflakes’ in Yiddish? Or Shredded...Read more...

On the Miracle of Recovery

04/06/2015 07:04:00 AM

Apr6

On the Miracle of Recovery In Sickness and Health by Harold M. Schulweis

Menachem Mendel of Kotzk said
"Whoever believes in miracles is a fool;
and whoever does not believe in miracles is an atheist".
We are neither fools nor apostates

Three times daily in the midst of the Amidah prayer
we acknowledge
Rock and Shield that saves in every generation
our souls that are given in God's tender care
Three times...Read more...

Consolation

04/06/2015 07:03:00 AM

Apr6

Consolation Mourning by Harold M. Schulweis

I would comfort you, dear friend
wipe away your tears
Turn your sorrow into joy.

I would console you
With words of ancient wisdom
Of the need for acceptance of the inevitable
The inexorable course of life.

I would speak to you of
The immortality of influence
The afterlife of memory
The echo of goodness
In the cavern of our lives.

Yet...Read more...

CLEFT ON THE UPPER LIP

04/06/2015 07:02:00 AM

Apr6

Cleft on the Upper Lip Birth/Brith by Harold M. Schulweis

The infant comes
into this world with a former wisdom,
having been shown the mysteries of the universe.
A the moment of birth, an angel struck the baby
on the upper lip, left an unexplained indented mark.
With that blow, the child forgets all it has learned
in another world.

That forgetfulness is a blessing,
not the answer,
but the quest for...Read more...

Bride and Groom

04/06/2015 06:59:00 AM

Apr6

Bride and Groom The Wedding by Harold M. Schulweis

Pour my cup of wine with thine
into one vessel
Fill the emptiness
with drink of laughter, song and love
Drink together
Let us be strengthened in each other.

Our lives, like our wines, are intermingled
An extraordinary arithmetic
union without subtraction
Two persons into one
one person into two.
Fusion without coercion
merged without loss...Read more...

Brith Covenant on the Eighth Day

04/06/2015 06:59:00 AM

Apr6

Even on the Sabbath,
Even during festival or fast,
The covenant brith takes place on the eighth day.
What is the Sabbath or Yom Tov or Yom Kippur
But a reminder of the constancy
That entwines our life with God's.

On the eighth day our child is covenanted,
Having lived through the Sabbath,
No stranger to creation,
No passive particle
Thrown into the world.
Our child is partner,
Co-worker,...Read more...

Based on Psalm 77

04/06/2015 06:53:00 AM

Apr6

Based on Psalm 77 In Sickness and Health by Harold M. Schulweis

When I cry my voice trembles with fear
When I call out it cracks with anger.

How can I greet the dawn with song
when darkness eclipses the rising sun?

To whom shall I turn
when the clouds of the present eclipse the rays of tomorrow?

Turn me around to yesterday
that I may be consoled by its memories.

Were not the seas split...Read more...

Yom Kippur With Morrie

03/06/2015 12:58:00 PM

Mar6

Yom Kippur, 2000 by Harold M. Schulweis

When I put down the slender book Tuesdays With Morrie, I felt a double sadness. First, for the death of a courageous and good man whose life was ravaged by ALS, Lou Gehrig's Disease. And I was saddened because I sensed that Judaism and the synagogue had lost Morrie and Morrie's children. Morrie was so unmistakably Jewish, and yet so far removed from Judaism; so close and yet so far.

I...Read more...

Yizkor - The Passover of the Future

03/06/2015 12:34:00 PM

Mar6

Passover Yizkor 2004 by Harold M. Schulweis

Our sages spoke of two Passovers:  One is called Pesach Lishovar, the Passover of the past, and the other is called Pesach Latid, the Passover of the future. One is historic and informs us as to what has already happened. The other is futuristic; it tells you what can yet happen. The Haftorah for the eighth day of Passover comes from Isaiah. The rabbis chose this section from the...Read more...

Yizkor: The Hidden Matzah and Kosovo On My Mind

03/06/2015 12:34:00 PM

Mar6

Passover Yizkor by Harold M. Schulweis

I have Kosovo on my mind.

It intruded on my Passover Sedarim. Kosovo was a shock of recognition. Box cars, sealed trains, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of old men, women, children, frightened, wet, cold, hungry, sick, bewildered. And the reporter's consistent questions at the borders of Macedonia and Albania, "Where are the men between the ages of 17 and 45?" Where did we hear...Read more...

Yitzhak Rabin: Memorial Service

03/06/2015 12:29:00 PM

Mar6

It is the first day of our shivah. It takes seven days to mourn. For it took seven days for the world to be created. Do you not know that a person is a world and to lose such a person is to lose a world?

For whom do we mourn? For whom do we recite the kaddish? The kaddish is for God.

pity Him comfort Him console Him have pity on Him

For if the death of a child grieves the parent, the death of God's creation, fashioned...Read more...

The Wounded Healer

03/06/2015 12:27:00 PM

Mar6

A discussion in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 98a) deals with the signs of the coming of the Messiah.

"When will the Messiah come?"
"Go and ask him yourself."
"Where can I find him?"
"At the gates of Rome."
"By what signs will I recognize him?"
"He is sitting among the poor and the suffering sick."

While others untie the bandages that require dressing all at once and then re-bandage them together, the Messiah...Read more...

Which Voice Do You Hear?

03/06/2015 12:00:00 PM

Mar6

Selichot, 1999

by Harold M. Schulweis

More powerful than the text is the commentary. It is not what the text says but how you read it. The text I have in mind is read on the second day of Rosh Hashanah. It has been, for many commentators, a story prominent and ambiguous. It is read one way through the eyes of Emanuel Kant and another way through the eyes of Soren Kierkegaard; it is read one way by J.B. Soloveitchik, and another way...Read more...

Which End of the Shofar?

03/06/2015 11:54:00 AM

Mar6

Yom Kippur, 1992

by Harold M. Schulweis

There are Talmudic debates about the correct number of sounds to be blown from the shofar, the shape of the shofar, whether curved or straight, and whether the shofar should be made of a ram's horn or of an antelope's horn. But in the village of Chelm, the debate was about the proper side through which the shofar should be blown, whether from the narrow side or from the wide side. This...Read more...

With What Shall We Enter the New Century?

03/06/2015 11:43:00 AM

Mar6

I am drawn to a profound anecdote, a tale of two Lubavich Chasidim who ask each other about the Jewish condition in our century. "Why," one asks "are we so divided, so factionalized?" The other responds, "Understand that the whole world is divided into two. For example, the world is divided between 'them' and 'us.’ No point talking about 'them,’ let us talk about us."

"Among us the whole world is divided between Sephardim and...Read more...

What I Learned From the Clinton Affair

03/06/2015 11:33:00 AM

Mar6

I have learned from the Clinton affair how unprepared our technologically sophisticated society is to deal with moral issues, and specifically, how to transmit moral wisdom to our children. Parents ask, "What are we to say to our children about the conduct of the most powerful leader of our country and the world?" I suggest they sit down with their child before an open Bible and ask, "What are we to say about David, the king and psalmist, who...Read more...

Was God in the Earthquake?

03/06/2015 11:31:00 AM

Mar6

Following the 6.7 on the Richter scale earthquake in our community, the children of the Day School and Hebrew School were brought together to talk about their fears. The re-iterated question they asked was, "Why is God so angry at us?" Much the same question was asked by their parents.

Where did that question come from? Are we teaching our children and adults a theology that leads them to believe that where there is smoke, there is...Read more...

Tzedakah: The Gift of the Soul

03/06/2015 09:48:00 AM

Mar6

Selichot, 1997 by Harold M. Schulweis

Throughout the High Holy Days, both on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, there is a prayer which concludes, "Repentance, prayer and tzedakah may avert the evil decree.” So important is tzedakah that the Talmud (Yurasalmi Peah) tells us that tzedakah is the equal of all of the commandments of the Torah combined.

I haven't translated tzedakah because there are some ideas that cannot be...Read more...

Two Prophets, One Soul: Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

03/06/2015 09:29:00 AM

Mar6

More than a coincidence of calendar couples the anniversary of the births of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., January 15 and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, January 11. Two men from different geographies, color, creed, theological background were joined in a spiritual kinship whose legacy address our own times:   

Heschel, a Polish immigrant, scion of a long line of Chasidic rabbis, Professor of Jewish Ethics and Mysticism at the...Read more...

The Two Faces of God

03/06/2015 09:24:00 AM

Mar6

There is chutzpah in attending to the Achilles heel of faith that has led so many to hubble and desperately reach out for crutches. Who are we to deal with one of the perennial problems of theology when so many before us have stumbled?

I do not regard this effort as audacity, but as part of the tradition that recognizes the sanctity of the question. We cannot bury the difficult questions, for fear that dealing with them will weaken...Read more...

Torah: True or False?

03/06/2015 09:07:00 AM

Mar6

In the spirit of our times this internal theological debate is presented in the form of a trial between two contending advocates, F. Lee Bailey, presenting the conventional, more fundamentalist position and Marsha Clark, the modernist tradition. The issue before us: Is the Torah true? I will serve as the presiding judge and as such I would admonish the jury not to discuss the case during the presentation of the arguments. I would also inform...Read more...

Theological Courage

03/06/2015 08:53:00 AM

Mar6

Rabbinical Assembly Address - 2000

by Harold M. Schulweis

This is less an address than a rabbinic confession. Confession is good for the soul, if not always for the reputation. But before whom better to confess than before one's colleagues?

Late one night, after Yom Kippur I received a frantic telephone call. As soon as I arrived at the home, which was already filled with family and friends, I was told the tragic tale. I had...Read more...

Then The Holy One Came and Slaughtered The Angel of Death

02/06/2015 08:00:00 PM

Feb6

Vegetarianism and Keeping Kosher

by Harold M. Schulweis

The lady next to whom I sat at the non-Kosher Claremont Hotel in Berkeley, before giving a keynote address, ordered roast beef and I, a veteran "fishertarian" ordered fish. A soulless filet of sole, a desiccated creature of the sea, appeared on the plate. Looking at this pathetic sight I quickly smothered it with ketchup. Ketchup has saved me from many a culinary...Read more...

Synagogue & Hospital: A Tale of Two Sanctuaries

02/06/2015 07:48:00 PM

Feb6

Rosh Hashana 2002

by Harold M. Schulweis

In my parents' home, the first course of the Rosh Hashanah meal was fish. Why fish? Because fish allegedly had special virtues. When the biblical flood took place, all the creatures of the earth were destroyed except the fish. Water was their natural habitat. That was their virtue, their capacity to survive. 

But others said the fish symbolize ignorance. As Santayana once...Read more...

The Synagogue as a Therapeutic Community

02/06/2015 07:35:00 PM

Feb6

The real questions, the hard questions of life, the questions of ultimacy are not questions about who or where or what or when but questions of what for, questions of purpose. That is true not only of individuals but it is also true of institutions like synagogues. The question is not how do you make a menorah; the question is not what is prayer; the question is not where is a mitzvah to be performed? The question is what do you need it for?...Read more...

J. B. Soloveitchik and the Lonely Self

02/06/2015 07:29:00 PM

Feb6

Rabbinical Assembly Convention Address, January 1979

by Harold M. Schulweis

"I know that I am perplexed, that my fears are irrational, incoherent. At times I am given over to panic; I am afraid of death. At other times, I am horrified by the thought of becoming, God forbid, incapacitated during my life-time. . . I don't know what to fear, what not to fear; I am utterly confused and ignorant." ["Redemption, Prayer, Talmud...Read more...

Social Darwinism & Jewish Political Life

02/06/2015 01:02:00 PM

Feb6

Rosh Hashana, 1995

by Harold M. Schulweis

Let's talk politics! Or do we argue that politics and Judaism have nothing to do with each other? Does Judaism have any bearing on our political sensibilities, or do we leave political conscience to the Christian Coalition and content ourselves by venting our anger at Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Rush Limbaugh, and Ralph Reed? Do we fulfill our political responsibility simply by...Read more...

Shiva is for Forgiveness

02/06/2015 12:46:00 PM

Feb6

Passover Yizkor, 1996

by Harold M. Schulweis

One of the poignant moments I experience as a Rabbi is during the meeting with a family in preparation for a funeral. I, who offer the eulogy, am dependent upon the family for recollections of the deceased.

It is at such moments that one begins to realize how we are all our memories, the memories we created and leave behind. It is as such a moment that we discover how...Read more...

A Sense of Tragedy

02/06/2015 12:43:00 PM

Feb6

Yizkor, 1997

by Harold M. Schulweis

There was a time when we used to chide the “Yizkor Jew,” the one who came four times a year to the synagogue to recite his prayers in memory of the deceased. There was a time when we were critical of the “Yahrtzeit Jew,” who came to the Synagogue to recite the Kaddish on the anniversary of the death of a parent.

But there is no more criticism, because the Yahrtzeit Jew and...Read more...

Alone Together

02/06/2015 08:47:00 AM

Feb6

Alone Together Mourning by Harold M. Schulweis

No one knows my grief,
Treasures my private memory.
I mourn alone.

The grief is my own.
Of my flesh and bone
I mourn alone.

But I mourn in the midst of my people,
In the minyan of mourning
With others who cry and remember
Their own loss.

Alone together, 
An individual in community,
Present to each other,
We are each other's...Read more...

All In My Family: Rosh Hashanah 2013/5774

02/06/2015 08:46:29 AM

Feb6

Rabbi SchulweisWe have benedictions for all occasions – on seeing the ocean, a rainbow, the blossoming of trees, and Talmudic sages prescribe a special benediction on seeing an assembly of Jews.

“Blessed is He who discerns secrets, for the mind of each is...Read more...

Above All, Teach this Newborn Child

02/06/2015 08:45:00 AM

Feb6

Above All, Teach this Newborn Child Birth/Brith by Harold M. Schulweis

Above all, teach this newborn child
To touch, to never stop. To feel how fur
Is other than leaf or cheek,
Diamond from glass, Mezzuzah from anything else
In the world. The same with Challah.

As the child grows, teach this baby to reach
The shoulder of another before sadness
Brings it inhumanly low, to stroke the hair gently
Of one...Read more...

Reflections of a Parent

-

Nov30

Reflections of a Parent Bar/Bat Mitzvah by Harold M. Schulweis

It is over now
the chanting, the speech,
the candies, the gifts,
the band, the music,
It is the next day, the day beyond.

Now the real choice begins.
Now you are responsible, accountable
it is you who must choose.

Will you choose to live what you have spoken?
Or will those promises, rapturous sentiments
Read more...

Adult B'nai Mitzvah

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Nov30

Passover 2010 by Harold M. Schulweis

If someone points his finger toward the moon, don’t look at the finger. Pay attention to the moon. Don’t confuse the sign for the goal. 

The rituals of Passover — matzoh, moror, charoset, carpas — are the fingers that point our attention to the revolutionary birth of the Jewish people. 

Passover draws the arc of our people’s trajectory, the root and...Read more...

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