From the Bimah: Jewish Lessons for Life show

From the Bimah: Jewish Lessons for Life

Summary: Bringing weekly Jewish insights into your life. Join Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz, Rabbi Michelle Robinson and Rav-Hazzan Aliza Berger of Temple Emanuel in Newton, MA as they share modern ancient wisdom.

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Podcasts:

 Block Out to Dial In: A Strategy for Hineni in the Age of Covid with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 1056

100% of us share the same problem.  100% of us will be experiencing the same problem next week on Rosh Hashanah.  100% of us experience the same problem in different ways every day.  Here is the problem.  I’ll use the language of the High Holidays.  When God calls on Abraham, Abraham says: Hineni.  I am here.  Our problem is, how do we say I am here, when I am not here? How does the Newton North or Newton South high school student say I am here for their new school year, when they are not here?  The learning is remote. How does your college sophomore or junior say I am here for my college experience, when they are not here?  They are in their high school bedroom. How do you say I am here for my office or workplace environment when there is no office or workplace environment? Follow this link to view the sermon and watch the live streaming version on our websitehttps://www.templeemanuel.com/rabbi/rabbi-wes-gardenswartz/block-out-to-dial-in-a-strategy-for-hineni-in-the-age-of-covid/

 Ours For Now, Not Forever with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 1070

The new NFL season begins next week.  For the first time in 20 years, Tom Brady will not be playing for the New England Patriots.  He will be playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  If you are not a football fan, here is some background.  Tom Brady is widely regarded as GOAT, the Greatest quarterback Of All Time.  In a league in which most players play a short time, get injured, and are replaced by a younger, healthier player—NFL stands for Not For Long—he has played 20 years and counting.  In a league set up to promote parity, where every team has the chance to win the Super Bowl, and no one team is supposed to dominate year after year, Brady has led the team to an unrivaled dynasty.  In his 20 years, he has led the Patriots to 17 playoffs, 13 Division titles, 9 Super Bowl appearances,  6 Super Bowl victories.  His sustained excellence over two decades is literally without precedent.  But instead of retiring as a Patriot, or playing another year for our team, he is going to start for another team.  And my question is: how should we regard that? Follow this link to view the sermon and watch the live streaming version on our website https://www.templeemanuel.com/rabbi/rabbi-wes-gardenswartz/ours-for-now-not-forever/

 Flow with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 1415

I want to talk to you about something that is very pleasant and productive at the same time.  You hear a lot about it from creative types, from artists, singers, composers, writers,  athletes—but it is not limited to these fields.  It is the feeling of having flow.  F-l-o-w.  Here is how having flow is defined by dictionary.com: In positive psychology, a flow state, also known colloquially as being in the zone, is the mental state in which a person performing some activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. When you have flow, when you are in the zone, you are doing something that you are really good at, something that you have been trained to do, something that evokes the 10,000 hours Malcolm Gladwell taught us it takes to get really proficient at our chosen craft, and you are gushing forth with your creativity. The hours go by.  Time melts away. You don’t even notice.  The writer writes, the pianist plays, the singer sings, the athlete competes, and before they know it, several hours have passed. Follow this link to view the sermon and watch the live streaming version on our website https://www.templeemanuel.com/rabbi/rabbi-wes-gardenswartz/flow/

 Do We Believe in a God Who Punishes Us for Our Sins? A Question for the Elul of Covid-19 with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 1115

I am about to violate three cardinal rules of giving sermons. One: Don’t talk about sin. That’s too old-school.  Two: Don’t talk about punishment.  That’s too draconian. Three: Don’t talk about God.  That goes whoosh, over peoples’ heads. Too many folks are not God people. So in view of those three cardinal rules, here is my question:  Do you believe in a God who punishes you for your sins? Why bring up this heavy topic now, on a late August summer weekend?  Two reasons. Follow this link to view the sermon and watch the live streaming version on our website https://www.templeemanuel.com/rabbi/rabbi-wes-gardenswartz/do-we-believe-in-a-god-who-punishes-us-for-our-sins-a-question-for-the-elul-of-covid-19/

 What’s cooking? with Rabbi Aliza Berger | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 928

In our American milieu, we pride ourselves on individualism. We believe in the power of the American dream—the ability of every person to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, to make of themselves something great. Because we believe so much in the power of every individual, we tell stories of success as if each person were fighting against the current of the world, we talk about how they did this and thought that. Rarely do we remember to include in their stories the people that helped them along the way. It’s true that each one of us has the potential to live our American dream. But that dream doesn’t just come because we’ve got talent or because we work hard. More often than not, our dreams come true because there are people in our lives who care about us and support us, and who help us to open the doors to our future. Follow this link to view the sermon and watch the live streaming version on our website https://www.templeemanuel.com/rabbi/rabbi-aliza-berger/whats-cooking/

 BDS: Boycott, Divestment and Sanction of Only One State, the Jewish State – Hateful Ideas Have Hateful Consequences with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 1167

I want to speak to you today from the heart about something that is very important to me, I care a lot about it, yet I have never before in 23 years spoken about it from the bimah:  BDS, the movement to boycott, divest and sanction Israel, the movement to single out Israel, from among all the nations in the world, not China, which imprisons its Muslim minorities, not Turkey, which stifles its dissenters, not any of the number of countries where being gay is a capital offense,  but BDS focuses only on the Jewish state for special boycott, divestment, and sanctions.   BDS does not say boo, does not raise a peep, about all these countries that violate basic human rights, but it saves 100% of its anger, 100% of its energy, only for the Jewish state.   Why is that?  Is there some agenda here? Follow this link to view the sermon and watch the live streaming version on our website https://www.templeemanuel.com/rabbi/rabbi-wes-gardenswartz/bds-boycott-divestment-and-sanction-of-only-one-state-the-jewish-state-hateful-ideas-have-hateful-consequences/

 Cancel Culture with Rabbi Michelle Robinson | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 759

The latest symbol of the American culture wars is a can of beans.  In case you missed the political scuffle, last week Robert Unanue, the CEO of Goya Foods, the largest Hispanic owned company in the U.S., stood next to the President in the Rose Garden and declared his support. The response was swift and severe: a massive outcry that took social media by storm with clips of Hispanic celebrities flushing Goya beans down their toilets, tweets of tutorials for how to hand-soak beans, calls to boycott Robert Unanue and Goya Foods for what he had said.  No question of why he was there or what his words meant to him. A similarly swift response came from the right – a “buycott.”  No question of why so many were so hurt. Boycott or buycott, one thing was clear. Goya had just taken center stage in what has become the template for how we in America engage with each other today – through what is colloquially called “cancel culture.”  The concept of “cancel culture” is a political flashpoint, often attributed only to liberals on the left.  But the truth is that both on the left and the right, we in America today are quick to “cancel” those with whom we disagree. Follow this link to view the sermon and watch the live streaming version on our website https://www.templeemanuel.com/rabbi/rabbi-michelle-robinson/cancel-culture/

 Is It Possible to Be At Peace in the Middle of a Pandemic? with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 1211

Is it possible to be at peace in the middle of a pandemic? Every morning we hear the grim statistics, how many infected, how many hospitalized, how many died.  Every morning, these numbers keep growing.  Is it possible to be at peace while hearing these numbers? And while statistics convey one kind of truth, individual stories convey a deeper truth.  Like the story of Charles Hiser.  Charles Hiser was an 82-year old widower.  He had been married to his beloved wife Shirley Mae for 43 years.  When she passed, he was all alone.  His main source of human connection was the Graystone Baptist Church in West Virginia.  For several months, while the church was closed, he saw nobody.  The only human contact he had was with his daughter who would drop off groceries and talk to him over the phone.  At last his church reopened.  He could not wait to get back.  He chose not to wear a mask.  He contracted the virus.  He died.  Is it possible to hear that story—the pathos of his loneliness, the urgency of his need to be with people, the tragic ending—is it possible to hear that story and somehow be at peace? Follow this link to view the sermon and watch the live streaming version on our website https://www.templeemanuel.com/rabbi/rabbi-wes-gardenswartz/is-it-possible-to-be-at-peace-in-the-middle-of-a-pandemic/

 Pivot with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 1043

In honor of the Fourth of July, I want to tell you a true story about our beloved nation in a hard season on its finest day. Our story begins in Aleppos, Syria, where a young boy named Abdulkader Hayani left school at the age of 9 to learn the craft of tailoring.  He got to be a master tailor and came to own his own tailor shop in Aleppo, overseeing six employees and ten sewing machines.  But when the Syrian civil war began, Aleppo was reduced to ruins, and his tailoring business was no more. Together with his family, Abdulkader Hayani fled to Jordan.  They applied for refugee status to come to America.  They wait and wait, in limbo, for five years. Finally they are given papers.  They arrive—husband, wife, four young children—in  2017.  Volunteers from Temple Beth Elohim help them settle into their new life: rented home in Framingham, child care, clothing, technology, job interviews, transportation, and navigating a whole new language and culture. Follow this link to view the sermon and watch the live streaming version on our website https://www.templeemanuel.com/rabbi/rabbi-wes-gardenswartz/pivot/

 Lessons from a 6th grader with Rabbi Aliza Berger | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 938

This week, I had the most interesting conversation with one of our now-7th graders. I asked her what advice she would give to incoming 6th graders about how to succeed in middle school. I thought she would say something about the importance of doing homework on time or paying attention in class; something she had learned which helped her academically. Instead, immediately and without hesitation she said, “sometimes it’s hard to fit in, but if you try really hard, maybe you can.” Her answer pulled at my heartstrings. I remember that feeling, of being in middle school and knowing there was a crowd of cool kids I wasn’t a part of.  I remember all the ways I contorted myself, thinking that if I behaved in this way or joined that club, then people would like me and I would fit in. I remember being bullied mercilessly.  And with shame, I remember watching other kids being bullied and thinking Thank God for once it’s not me. The idea of doing something that would alienate me further from my peers was horrifying. And while that fear has quieted over the years, that little inner 6th grader is still very much a part of me. Follow this link to view the sermon and watch the live streaming version on our website https://www.templeemanuel.com/rabbi/rabbi-aliza-berger/lessons-from-a-6th-grader/

 But What About Black Anti-Semitism? with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 1190

Since the murder of George Floyd, I have heard two voices from the members of Temple Emanuel. By far the more common voice is moral outrage at the structural racial injustice that the murder of George Floyd revealed.  I knew, but I didn’t know. I saw, but I didn’t focus.  I should have done more.  I am complicit.   But now I am awakened.  What books can I read?  What films can I see?  Where can I get an education around my own implicit bias?  What can I do to help? That is the first reaction, and the more common. In the last two weeks both Michelle and Aliza have  delivered powerful sermons channeling and responding to this voice. But there is a second voice as well.  Less common.  Often spoken with a bit of trepidation.  Often framed with words like:  Of course George Floyd’s murder was terrible.  Of course racism is a problem.  After these preliminary framings, there is always a but.  But Black Lives Matter as a movement is anti-Israel.  Many of the activists demanding racial justice are openly anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.  Why can’t you be honest about black anti-Semitism?  So today I would like to talk about black anti-Semitism. Follow this link to view the sermon and watch the live streaming version on our website https://www.templeemanuel.com/rabbi/rabbi-wes-gardenswartz/but-what-about-black-anti-semitism/

 Time to Drag Out Our Mattresses with Rabbi Aliza Berger | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 946

I want to speak to you today as a millennial. As a millennial, people tell me I don’t understand—that problems take time to resolve, they take nuance, they take patience.  But I know that just because things have been a certain way, doesn’t mean that’s how they need to stay. As a millennial, I know that often we do not have the luxury of time. If we want to make our world conform to our values, we may have to upset industries, we likely have to forge new paths, and we can’t always rely on the systems that existed for our parents and those before them. As a millennial, I know that often the greatest obstacle to the evolution of the planet is the common human aversion to change. As long as we are more attached to the certainty of what is known than the uncertainty of change, progress will remain elusive. Follow this link to view the sermon and watch the live streaming version on our website https://www.templeemanuel.com/rabbi/rabbi-aliza-berger/time-to-drag-out-our-mattresses/

 Somebody’s Baby with Rabbi Michelle Robinson | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 835

When the coronavirus first hit and schools around the world shut down, Israeli mother Shiri Kenigsberg Levi rose to internet stardom, sharing her displeasure with the world in a hilarious homeschool harangue. A few weeks later she was at it again – this time in honor of Mother’s Day, reflecting on the super-power of one word. She begins: “I realized something that if not for the coronavirus I would not have paid attention to – that the children say one word without adding anything, and I already know what they need…Ema.” Mom. “There’s this…‘E-maaah’ [deep voiced] which is a teenager who hasn’t eaten in 10 minutes and is already starving.” “There’s this…‘EE-MAAAAHHHH!’ [annoyed]…which is a teenager who’s been fortressed in her room for fifty days…and one of her brothers dares to open the door for a second.” She goes on for several minutes, sharing lots of ways “Mom” is called out in tones that any mother, in any language, immediately understands. Follow this link to view the sermon and watch the live streaming version on our website https://www.templeemanuel.com/rabbi/rabbi-michelle-robinson/somebodys-baby/

 Abra Kadabra with Rabbi Aliza Berger | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 944

In the 70s, Walter Mischel began the experiment that we all know and love, and which became one of the most famous psychological experiments of all time. At the time, he wanted to explore the relationship between a child’s patience and ability to wait and their success later in life. To conduct the experiment, he sat four-year-old children in front of a marshmallow and told them they had a choice.  They could eat the marshmallow right away, or, they could wait 15 minutes at which point they would receive an additional marshmallow. Follow this link to view the sermon and watch the live streaming version on our website https://www.templeemanuel.com/rabbi/rabbi-aliza-berger/abra-kadabra/

 Murder Hornets with Rabbi Michelle Robinson | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 758

In case we did not have enough to worry about, earlier this month news broke about a whole new out-of-left field threat: murder hornets.  If their name itself does not do it, the description of these vicious insects is enough to send shivers up the spine.  The nearly 2-inch predators can singlehandedly destroy the entire population of a honeybee hive in a most gruesome manner within the span of just a few hours. So far, the American honeybee population, which was already waning (remember the “Save the Bees” campaigns of previous years?), have absolutely no recourse.  The so-called murder hornets are impervious to their stings.  The bees cannot flee far enough or fast enough, and they cannot protect their queen. Follow this link to view the sermon and watch the live streaming version on our website https://www.templeemanuel.com/rabbi/rabbi-michelle-robinson/murder-hornets/

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