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Vayera: God Give Me Patience...And I Want It Now!  October 27, 2018

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

יז וַיִּשְׁמַע אֱלֹהִים אֶת-קוֹל הַנַּעַר
“And God heard the voice of the boy …” (Bereishit 21:17)
Consider:
I live in the United States and as far as I can tell we value tackling problems head on and solving them once and for all. Once we set our minds to something we expect to see results and to see them right away.
This demand for a quick turnaround shows up in all areas of our...Read more...

Bereishit: A Timeless Classic; One More Time! October 6, 2018

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

וַיֹּאמֶר ה אֶל-קַיִן אֵי הֶבֶל אָחִיךָ וַיֹּאמֶר לֹא יָדַעְתִּי הֲשֹׁמֵר אָחִי אָנֹכִי. 

“The Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” And he said, “I do not know, Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Bereishit 4:9)
Consider:
   Starting Genesis again? We read it last fall. And we read it the year before that, and the year...Read more...

Haazinu: God As The Divine Parent of Us AllSeptember 22, 2018

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

י יִמְצָאֵהוּ בְּאֶרֶץ מִדְבָּר  וּבְתֹהוּ יְלֵל יְשִׁמֹן יְסֹבְבֶנְהוּ יְבוֹנְנֵהוּ יִצְּרֶנְהוּ כְּאִישׁוֹן עֵינו

“He found him in a desert region, In an empty howling waste. He engirded him, watch over him, Guarded him as the pupil of His eye.” (Devarim 32:10)
Consider:
The holiday of Sukkot draws...Read more...

Nitzavim: The Trial of Human BeingsSeptember 8, 2018

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

 יט הַעִדֹתִי בָכֶם הַיּוֹם אֶת-הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֶת-הָאָרֶץ הַחַיִּים וְהַמָּוֶת נָתַתִּי לְפָנֶיךָ הַבְּרָכָה וְהַקְּלָלָה וּבָחַרְתָּ בַּחַיִּים


I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day: I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life” (Devarim...Read more...

Ki Tavo and Bar Mitzvah of Joshua Hauer: September 1, 2018

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Shabbat Shalom

Josh, this week is a pretty difficult Parsha to read. I am sure that you realize that there are good parts in life; vacations, ice cream and sleeping late are just a few examples. And you also know that there are the not-so-good parts of life; homework, Mondays and cleaning up your room. It is my job today to tell you that life can be so much better than what you know is good, and it can be so much worse than what you...Read more...

Ki Teze: August 26, 2018

Rabbi Konigsburb

Shabbat Shalom

At the very end of last week, we received the sad news that the singer, Aretha Franklin had died. She had earned the title, “The Queen of Soul” through her amazing range of musical hits that pointed to this honor. Her anthem, the song that was most prominent in her repertoire, the song that was well known to all her fans, was her version of a song written...Read more...

Shoftim: August 18, 2018

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Shabbat Shalom

I saw a t-shirt a couple of weeks ago, it read; “Moses was the first person to download information from the cloud to his tablet.” I am sure that if Moses read that line he would have no idea what we are talking about for three reasons: One, he was talking to God, not a cloud. Two, God carved the tablets, and three, Moses would not understand English; he spoke only Hebrew and Egyptian.

I also know that the...Read more...

Re'eh: August 11, 2018

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Shabbat Shalom
 
The superhero Spiderman begins the saga of his superpowers with a proverb that is well known to all Spiderman fans, “With great power comes great responsibility”. It is the lesson that underlies all of the adventures of the superhero. He can’t just walk away when people are in trouble. He must help, that is the price of the superpowers with which he has been blessed.
The proverb does not come from...Read more...

Devarim: July 21, 2018

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

 

ו ה’ אֱלֹהֵ-ינוּ דִּבֶּר אֵלֵינוּ בְּחֹרֵב לֵאמֹר רַב-לָכֶם שֶׁבֶת בָּהָר הַזֶּה.

The Lord our God spoke to us a Horeb, saying: “You have stayed long enough at this mountain.” (Devarim 1:6)

Read more...

Mattot- Maasay: July 14, 2018

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Shabbat Shalom

This is the second Shabbat between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av. Two fast days on the Jewish calendar that mark the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, once in the year 587 BCE and the again in 70 CE. These fast days are much older than Jerusalem; they have their roots in the journey of the People of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land. The 17th of Tammuz was the day that Moses came down from Mt. Sinai...Read more...

Pinchus: July 7, 2018

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Shabbat Shalom

 

There is a story told by Stephen Covey about a battleship making its way in dense fog out on the ocean. A lookout has been posted on the bow of the ship to make sure that the way is clear. Suddenly the lookout calls, “There is a light ahead!” This means that they are in danger of a collision. “Where...Read more...

Balak:  June 30, 2018

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Shabbat Shalom

The line between church and state has always been a rather fluid line. I could easily go back to the Middle Ages to see how religious leaders basically blackmailed the political leadership to do as they demanded lest the political leadership be denied divine favor. But the reality is that political leaders and religious leaders have always tried to maintain a connection between the religious and political worlds....Read more...

Korach: June 16, 2018

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Shabbat Shalom.

 

Korach is every leader’s nightmare. A leader works hard on behalf of the community. Helping people find their way forward. Teaching and explaining the difficulties of the road. Helping to develop the values...Read more...

Yizkor: May 21, 2018

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Hag Sameach.

I was reading this week about Dr. Jeff Hoffman. I don’t know if you remember him, but he was one of the astronauts on the Space Shuttle, flying several missions during the 1980’s and 1990’s. His doctorate is in astrophysics. He is also Jewish. Retired...Read more...

Bamidbar: May 19, 2018

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Shabbat Shalom

Donniel Hartman, the director of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, this week, in his Times of Israel online column, cited as a philosopher and teacher, wrote about “The Moral Challenge of Gaza”.

He writes; “The inhabitants of Gaza have every right and reason to demonstrate against the tragedy which is their life. Not only do they live under unforgiveable and deplorable conditions, no one is taking...Read more...

Emor: May 5, 2018

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Shabbat Shalom

We celebrated Lag B’Omer this past week. It is a rather unusual date on the calendar. We are not sure where the celebration comes from (a sure sign that it probably has pagan roots) so later Rabbis come up with all kinds of reasons that the 33rd day of the Omer should be a holiday on the Jewish calendar.

Tradition tells us that...Read more...

Achray Mot-Kedoshim & Bat Mitzvah of Lily Gross: April 28, 2018

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Shabbat Shalom

 

Lily, The late Rabbi Sydney Greenberg once wrote, “A loving parent does not show genuine love by telling a child, “Do whatever you want.” That would not indicate love, but a lack of concern and abdication of responsibility. The truly loving parent says to the child I care very much about you, and although I cannot live your life for...Read more...

Shemini: April 14, 2018

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Shabbat Shalom.

In our parsha, the people of Israel are on the cusp of a new way of worshiping God. In the past, the family based religion of their ancestors will give way to a new central sanctuary where hereditary priests will officiate. Perhaps this change takes place as a result of the Golden Calf incident, where the tribe of Levi and the descendants of Aaron remain true to God as the other tribes focus on the golden image that...Read more...

Pesach: March 31, 2018

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Marc Gellman, in his book, “Does God Have a Big Toe?” begins the story of Moses with a conundrum that God must deal with. He writes, “God needed a Jew who knew about freedom to get the people free and Moses was the only free Jew. … There was, however, on problem with picking Moses. Moses knew that he was free, but he did not know that he was Jewish. Nobody was Jewish in the Pharaoh’s palace and Moses...Read more...

Tzav: March 23, 2018

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Shabbat Shalom.

A few years ago, my children introduced me to a new term, “First World Problems”. While I was aware of the problems of living in a third world country, I didn’t understand what a “First World Problem” was. They explained it to me with this example: A Third World Problem is trying to find food to eat. A first world problem is complaining that you can’t get good pizza in this town. A developing country might...Read more...

Tetzaveh: February 24, 2018

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Shabbat Shalom.

This week’s Parsha is a fascinating look at the world of fashion design. Perhaps this is the result of the earliest edition of “Project Runway” as the design of the uniform of the High Priest and the uniforms of the other priests are described in great detail. The robes are designed with dignity and comfort in mind from head to foot.

But in order to find a deeper significance to the various parts of their...Read more...

Mishpatim: February 10, 2018

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Shabbat Shalom.

When you start to study Talmud, the classic text of Jewish Law, the first thing you need to learn is how to think like a Talmud scholar. The logic of the Talmud is explained by the following story.

Two men fall down a chimney. One emerges with a dirty face and one emerges with a clean face. Which one washes his face? Now if you are a reasonable normal person, the answer to the question is really quite simple. A...Read more...

Vaera: January 13, 2018

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Shabbat Shalom

“Who is the Lord that I should heed him? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go!” These words, spoken by Pharaoh in Egypt to Moses at the end of the parsha last week, set the stage for all that we will read in the Torah this week and next week. As a polytheistic nation, Egypt had plenty of gods to appeal to. Every aspect of life was determined by one god or another. Moses has come before Pharaoh with a...Read more...

Shemot: January 6, 2018

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Shabbat Shalom

The Book of Bereshit/Genesis closes with the family of Jacob reunited and ready to face the future. The Book of Shemot/Exodus lets us know that this future is not going to all be wine and roses. A new Pharaoh arises who did not know Joseph and this new king begins a process that will lead to the enslavement of the People of Israel and set the stage for the Exodus from Egypt.

The commentators are full of irony...Read more...

Vayechi: December 30, 2017

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Shabbat Shalom

One of the things we learn when we study the Bible is that any Parsha that has in its name “Chai”, “Life”, usually means that someone in the Parsha will die. The Torah wants to keep the lessons upbeat; but death is also a part of life, so Torah also teaches us how to die with dignity.

Jacob, the third patriarch, is about to die. Unlike his father and grandfather, Jacob’s death is a lot more...Read more...

Vayigash: December 23, 2017

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Shabbat Shalom.

There is a story that I have often told of a man who was late for services on his father’s Yahrtzeit. The only open seat was in the middle of the row and he was in a hurry because it was almost time for saying Kaddish. In his haste to get to his seat, he stepped on many toes of those who had taken their seats before him. The Rabbi saw what was happening and said to the man, “Where is it written that the mitzvah of...Read more...

Miketz: December 16, 2017

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

 

 

Shabbat Shalom and Hag Urim Sameach, a Happy Festival of Lights.

I was reminded this week, in an email from the Jewish Theological Seminary, about a very strange passage in the Babylonian Talmud.

When the first human being saw that the days were getting shorter and shorter, he said: “Oy! Woe is me; maybe because I have sinned the world is getting dark and is going to return to chaos!”...Read more...

Vayishlach & Jack Libow Bar Mitzvah: December 2, 2017

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Shabbat Shalom

Jack, there is a famous story, told in many different ways, about a man named Itzik who lived in Cracow, Poland. He kept having a dream of a castle, a river and a bridge. The voice in the dream said that the river is the Vistula, the castle is in Budapest and under the bridge is a great treasure waiting for you.  Jack, I can tell you that Itzik was no fool. One does not go traveling all over Europe because you have...Read more...

Noach & Bat Mitzvah of Jordana Benblatt: October 21, 2017

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Shabbat Shalom.

Jordana, the story of Noah and the flood is a very complicated story. The two principle characters, God and Noah, leave us deeply unhappy with the way the story unfolds. I am not sure there is any effective way to tell this story of humanity’s failure, God’s remorse and Noah as the improbable savior of God’s human project.

Just last week, God appraised the creation of humanity as “very good”; today...Read more...

Shemini Atzeret: October 12, 2017

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Hag Sameach.

We certainly live in a world that is in need of redemption. We look to God, sometimes multiple times a day, to help us bring some kind of order and justice to the world. The Sages of the Talmud also looked for ways that ordinary people could act that would be of great help in making the world a better place.

In Massechet Megilla 13a Rabbi Eliezer says in the name of Rabbi Chanina, “One who teaches Torah in the...Read more...

Sun, December 16 2018 8 Tevet 5779