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This I Believe: Yom Kippur 5776 Neilah - September 23, 2015

Rabbi Richard Plavin

The Neilah hour is full of emotion because it signals that the end is near, the gates are closing.  I like the way it is described in our Machzor:

“The sun has begun to set and the holiest day of the year is about to come to a close; we are weak from fasting and tired from a day of praying. On the one hand, we may be looking forward to resuming our normal lives, confident in our having cleansed ourselves and grateful for the...Read more...

Crafting Your Legacy: Kol Nidre 5776 - September 22, 2018

Rabbi Richard Plavin

People see things from their own perspective. If you are a habadasher, you look at someone and size up the kind of suit they are wearing. A psychologist will look at your body language speculate on what kind of relationship you had with your mother. A plastic surgeon will consider how great you could look if only she could get you into the operating room.

Now, I have to tell you something I hope doesn’t make you too uncomfortable. I...Read more...

Loneliness: Rosh Hashanah Day 2 - September 15, 2015

Rabbi Richard Plavin

In our Machzor Rosh HaShanah is referred to as the anniversary of creation – Hayom Harat Olam, and an interesting question occurred to me: Why did God bother?

The Almighty must have had it pretty good before the creation of this world, and in particular, before creating humanity. I can tell you from my own experience, people can be pretty annoying.  Did God really need all those headaches that the creation of man and woman...Read more...

This I Have Learned: Rosh Hashanah, Day 1- September 14, 2015

Rabbi Richard Plavin

In the perspective of Jewish history, 37 years is the blink of an eye. But in the life of one particular rabbi, it has been the better part of a lifetime. The Bible uses the number 40 to refer to a long time – be it the years Israel wandered in the wilderness or the days Moses spent on the top of Mt. Sinai. For more than 40 years I have been a rabbi, and for almost all of them I have had the distinct merit of being the spiritual leader of...Read more...

Erev Rosh Hashanah 5776: September 13, 2015

Rabbi Richard Plavin

An elderly Jewish woman was waiting for a bus in Manhattan. She was very worried about the bus not coming and how late it was. Seeing a young man with a kippah on his head approaching the bus stop, she went up to him. “Ir ken redden Yiddish?” The fellow responds, “Avada, ich ken redden Yiddish.” Visibly relieved, she says, “Gatza dank! Vat time is it?”

I think we are all very well aware of what time it is – it is time to...Read more...

Thanksgiving Message for Interfaith Service: November 23, 2014

Rabbi Richard Plavin

Tov l’hodot L’Adonai

It is good to give thanks to the Lord

That is what the Psalmist tells us in Psalm 92 and that is why we are here this afternoon. Indeed, it is good to give thanks to the Lord because we have so very much for which to be grateful. One blessing we must not overlook is that we are many faith communities worshipping God together. We give thanks for living in our blessed democracy, the United States of...Read more...

The Blessing of Vulnerability

Rabbi Richard Plavin

To fully appreciate life, we must embrace our vulnerability. With thanks for inspiration and direction to Rabbi George Gittleman

Back in the middle of the last century, a child of immigrants “makes good” and moves to the suburbs and joins the very upscale Temple. It’s newly built, a beautiful edifice, designed by a well-known contemporary architect. It’s a far cry from his parents’ synagogue in the old neighborhood in New...Read more...

Using Facebook to Express Gratitude

Rabbi Richard Plavin

Everyday we hear about another data breach. Target and Home Depot’s servers have been hacked and it is frightening to imagine what the thieves will be able to do with our social security numbers and credit card account information. Imagine, if you will, a different kind of security breach. What if there were breach in the Sefer HaChayim – the book of life, the chronicle of all our deeds and misdeeds? It is comforting to know that the...Read more...

Pride in Israel and IDF

Rabbi Richard Plavin

I love church stories because they reflect synagogue life as well. After a church service on Sunday morning, a young boy suddenly announced to his mother, “Mom, I’ve decided to become a minister when I grow up. “That’s okay with me,” she said, “but what made you decide that?” “Well,” said the little boy, “I have to go to church on Sunday anyway, and I figure it will be more fun to stand up and yell, than to sit down and...Read more...

A Fixer-Upper

Rabbi Richard Plavin

With thanks for inspiration and direction to my colleague Rabbi Daniel Dorsch.

My children in West Hartford moved into a new house this summer, one that had a bit of work to do to put it in shape. We spent a little time helping them with that move, and it reminded me of another house move, our own, 35 years ago.

You would not believe what the housing market in Manchester was like in the spring of 1979 when Lisa and I, with our...Read more...

Joy Comes with the Morning

Rabbi Richard Plavin

Psalm 30 is one of my favorites. It’s words have given hope to Jews and others for thousands of years. The book of Psalms was the first prayerbook of our people and it still serves that function for those who have opened its pages.

This Psalm is part of the very early morning service. When we do say it here at BSBI there are usually no more than half a dozen worshippers present. It is a shame that so few Jews know this Psalm because...Read more...

Hitting the Reset Button

Rabbi Richard Plavin

I have learned over my years of working with a computer that sometimes the only solution to an annoying glitch is to restart the computer. More often than not, it solves the problem. In recent years we have heard this concept echoed in the realm of politics. We will hear a spokesman for the President declare that they are going to hit the reset button, on a certain issue or relationship. During the presidential primaries last year, the...Read more...

Kvetch Less, Thank More

Rabbi Richard Plavin

Have you heard the story about the Jewish grandmothers sitting by the pool and complaining about various things. The first begins with a heartfelt “Gevalt.” Before she can explain, the lady next to her sighs, “Oy, tatenyu.” Then the woman to her left exclaims, “Oy vey.” and then the fourth woman cuts things short. “OK, ladies, enough about the children. Whose dealing?”

With all the other possible forms of amusement...Read more...

Robots and People

Rabbi Richard Plavin

Technology today is going beyond amazing to places I never dreamed possible. Cars that drive themselves, phones that recognize your fingerprint, apps that do everything but tie your shoes – or is there an app for that? I spoke with a cousin this summer who told me about his start-up venture which has created an app that will negotiate your parking tickets for you, taking a commission on the amount you save on fines. It is a good thing there...Read more...

Our Afterlife

Rabbi Richard Plavin

It is very important when you send an email message to double check the address to which you send the message. This story illustrates just how important.

A Minneapolis couple decided to go to Florida to thaw out during a particularly icy winter. Because of hectic schedules, it was difficult to coordinate their travel plans. So, the husband left Minneapolis and flew to Florida on Thursday, with his wife flying down the following day....Read more...

Being Chosen

Rabbi Richard Plavin

At this season, with just about six weeks until November 6th, it is important for me to speak about the election.

It is also important that the synagogue retain its tax exempt status, so, the election I want to speak about is the Election of Israel. I didn’t say the elections in Israel. I’ve no intention of interfering in the politics of another country, even Israel. When I say the Election of Israel I am using a term used by...Read more...

Identifying with Israel


Rabbi Richard Plavin

Friends – I want you to count with me to 15

1, 2, 3……

How far could you run in that amount of time? Could you make it to a bomb shelter – if we had one? I wanted you to experience that short interval and to know that is exactly had long you would have had to get yourself into a bomb shelter if you heard the siren in Sderot, or any one of several towns in the southern part of Israel. Just 15 seconds. That’s all. And...Read more...

Finding God

Rabbi Richard Plavin

This may not be the best of times or the worst of times, but it certainly is the most divided of times. The chasms that exist in our society are vast and deep and dangerous; they threaten the bedrock security of what makes this the remarkable country that it is.

The gap between rich and poor is shocking and getting worse. Mega-mansions are constructed in upscale neighborhoods, while in our cities just a few miles away, and right here...Read more...

Broken Relationships

Rabbi Richard Plavin

Do you like to travel? Do you seek out unusual museums? Perhaps I could suggest a few. For example, the British Lawnmower Museum in Lancashire. That should be fascinating. I’ll bet the Museum of Toilets in New Delhi is really someplace to go. Or the Banana Museum in Auburn, Washington is likely an intriguing site. The Devil’s Rope Museum in McLean, Texas, is devoted to the study of barbed wire. That could hold your attention.

This...Read more...

Elohai N’shama – My Pure Soul

Rabbi Richard Plavin

Elohai – my God
Neshama sh’natatah bee t’horah hee
The soul that You have given me is pure.
Atah barata, Atah yatzarta, Atah n’fachta bee
You created it, You formed it, You breathed it into me;
V’Atah m’shamra be’kirbee
You keep my body and soul together.
V’Atah atid litlah mimeni
One day You will take my soul from me,
U’l’hachazira bee leh-atid lavo
to restore it to me in life...Read more...

The Blessing of Unplugging

Rabbi Richard Plavin

I am a bit of a gadget freak. For my most recent birthday my family got me the iPad she knew I had been craving. One of the things I like most about the iPad is that when you open it, it’s on. You don’t have to wait impatiently while it powers up. Modern technology has caused us to develop a level of impatience never before known. Everything has to be quick, quick, quick. Instant gratification isn’t fast enough.

A business...Read more...

Hard to be a Jew

Rabbi Richard Plavin

Our ancestors in the old country used to say “Tzver su zein a Yid – it is difficult to be a Jew.” Today, I think we can say: “Tzver su zein a Mentsch – it is hard to be a human being.” It makes no difference whether you are a Jew or a Mormon or an Episcopalian or a Buddhist – life is tough. Our ancestors had hardships we no longer face, but we have our own up-dated, latest model problems and these are significant challenges for...Read more...

Making this a New Year

Rabbi Richard Plavin

Last night at our holiday dinner we dipped apple slices into honey. I am sure many of you did the same. This is just one of several possible food items placed on the Rosh Hashanah table known as “Semanim” or ‘omens.’ Each of the items represents a wish for what the New Year will bring. It is commonly understood that apple and honey is meant to signify a sweet year, and as we eat it we pray “Y’hi ratzon haShem Elohenu vaylohay...Read more...

A Summer in Israel

Rabbi Richard Plavin

Allow me to paint a picture in words. Imagine a huge terrace at the Israel Museum n Jerusalem set for an elegant dinner for 175 people. To the west, the sun is beginning to set over distant suburbs and to the south, we see the Valley of the Cross and Rehavia, one of modern Jerusalem’s oldest neighborhoods. To the east, the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, stands on a hill with the flag of Israel blowing in the wind. The men and women...Read more...

Sun, November 18 2018 10 Kislev 5779