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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...

Bereshit: October 14, 2017

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Shabbat Shalom.

Last year, my son and his wife refused to attend a family party in Florida that was being arranged by my sister-in-law. My sister-in-law was so angry that they would not attend. My son said that they were afraid of the Zika virus that was now common in South Florida. My sister-in-law thought that was a silly reason to skip the party and was not timid to tell them so.

Two months later, they told Michelle’s...Read more...

Shabbat Sukkot 5778 – October 7, 2017

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Shabbat Shalom and Moadim l’Simcha

It is October and you know what October is all about … Baseball playoffs. The regular season is over. The wild card games have already been played. And soon, we will be talking World Series. Now we get to see who the real stars are in baseball, the ones who come out of their slumps to bring victory to the team.

Everyone loves a winner and who wants to be associated with the losers....Read more...

Sukkot 1 5778 – October 5, 2017

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Hag Samach

Having survived the Yamim Noraim, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, we get this special holiday of Sukkot. If the Yamim Noraim are about teshuva and atonement, Sukkot is about pure joy. Sukkot is our harvest festival, a time to rejoice since the food for the season has been stored in and we are ready for whatever the winter may bring. Sukkot is the Thanksgiving of the Jewish calendar. A time to reflect on what we are grateful...Read more...

Yom Kippur Yizkor 5778 – September 30, 2017

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Gemar Tov – may we have a good finish to our fasting this day.

Yizkor, – Memory, this is the service of memory for those who have died. The very word Yizkor can bring Jews back to the synagogue when all other reasons for return are forgotten. When I was a child my Rabbi told a story about a man who complained that every time he came to shul, the Rabbi was asking for money.  The Rabbi replied, maybe you ought to come to shul...Read more...

Kol Nidre 5778 – September 29, 2017

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Our greeting tonight is Tzom Kal -May we have an easy fast.

Tomorrow morning we will read in the Torah that on this day, each year, we are to offer a series of sacrifices to atone for our sins and we are to practice “Self-denial” a term that the Sages teach means we must fast from tonight until the stars rise tomorrow night.  In fact, fasting is the most singular ritual for Yom Kippur. And yet, after reading in the Torah that...Read more...

Rosh Hashanah 5778 – September 21, 2017

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

L’ Shana Tova U’metuka – May we be blessed with a happy and sweet New Year.

In the movie and play, Le Misarables, Jean Valjean escapes his prison and creates a new identity for himself. He establishes a factory that employs many people and becomes a well-respected man in town. His secret identity suddenly is in danger when an innocent man is arrested, accused of being Jean Valjean. What should he do? Let the stranger go to...Read more...

Ki Tetze & Bar Mitzvah of Mitchell Marks – September 2, 2017

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Mitchell, you talked today about Mitzvot; especially the responsibility to look out for each other. As you said, you can’t just turn away from someone in need; you have to get involved and help make things better. And then, as you prepared for this day, the skies opened up over Houston and our country’s fourth largest city was inundated with water in a flood that has displaced thousands of people. Clearly, it is not just lost items that...Read more...

Devarim: July 29, 2017

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Shabbat Shalom.

I think it is easy to figure out what is going through the mind of Moses as he stands before the people and begins his last speeches before he dies. He wants to remind people of how far they have come, how difficult the road has been and how careful they will need to be in the future. He will try and set the last 40 years into some kind of a context so the Israelites can learn the lessons from this time in the desert...Read more...

Mattot Maase: July 22, 2017

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Shabbat Shalom.

The People of Israel are nearing the end of their travels in the wilderness. They are approaching the Promised Land after their 40 years of punishment have come to an end. Our parshah has many details about how life for the Israelites will be different when they are no longer wandering and finally living a settled life.

But at the beginning of the final parsha, there is a long section that deals with the many...Read more...

Pinchas & Welcome to Cantor Bolts: July 15, 2017

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Shabbat Shalom.

This week and last week we met Pinchus, a nephew to Moses and Aaron and a member of the Levitical guard for the Mishkan. When Zimri, one of the tribal chieftains from the tribe of Shimon attempts to bring idolatry into the sacred area with Cozbi, a Moabite priestess, Pinchus, in his religious zeal, does not arrest the couple and wait for judicial process, he kills them both on the spot. Moses and Aaron are not happy...Read more...

Shelach Lecha & Troy Videll’s Bar Mitzvah: June 17, 2017

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Shabbat Shalom.

Troy, Rabbi Lawrence Kushner once asked a pre-school child who was looking around the synagogue, “What do you think is behind the curtain on the Bima?” The Rabbi had asked this to other students and had gotten different responses. One child told him that there was nothing behind the curtain. Another little girl said that behind the curtain was a Torah scroll. One little boy announced that behind the curtain was a...Read more...

Mon, August 20 2018 9 Elul 5778