Rabbi Hillel lived nearly two thousand years ago in ancient Israel.  He was astute and a keen observer of the challenges of being Jewish as the times were changing.  There are some whom refer to him as the first Conservative Rabbi as he would adapt Halacha to the meet those challenges.  One of his most beloved statements can be found in Pirkei Avot, a compendium of pithy statements of the early Rabbis that was incorporated into the Mishna:  If I am not for me, who will be?  If I am for myself alone, what am I? And if not now, when? [Avot 1:12]

If I am not for me, who will be?  We have to take care of ourselves, physically, mentally and spiritually.  Each of us needs to exercise, get regular physicals and sufficient rest.  We need to be able to find the right people when the time comes to unburden ourselves as well as cease work, including emails and texts.  The human soul seeks refreshment as well, as we struggle to answer the big questions o...

And they say miracles don’t occur.  If you watched any news of the rescue of the Thai soccer team and their coach, you might call that miraculous.  Faced with an incredible challenge, a very brave Thai Navy SEAL team performed an amazing act of heroism, despite the tragic loss of one of their own.  When we hear the words “Navy SEAL”, we think of those in the military involved in some sort of dangerous situation, but rarely of this type. 

It is uncommon that we speak of miracles in our world.  When we do, the word is frequently misused.  By winning the 1969 World Series, the Mets became the “Miracle Mets”.  An underdog who wins automatically gets the appellation “miracle”.  The word “miracle” is regularly used when speaking of Chanukah, due to the phrase on the dreidel - Nes Gadol Hayah Sham – a great miracle happened there.  In the Conservative movement’s liturgy, we apply the word nes to the birth of the State of Israel.  Is it possible that miracles surround us daily, b...

A Rabbi and his wife were cleaning up the house.  The Rabbi came across a box he didn’t recognize. His wife told him to leave it alone, it was personal.  One day she was out and his curiosity got the best of him. He opened the box, and inside he found three eggs and $2000.  When his wife came home, he admitted that he opened the box, and he asked her to explain the contents to him. She told him that every time he had a bad sermon, she would put an egg in the box.  He interrupted: “In twenty years, only three bad sermons? That’s not bad.” His wife continued: “And every time I got a dozen eggs I would sell them for one dollar.”

Dear colleagues, guests, family and friends: I humbly stand before you today honored to assume the pulpit as the 10th Rabbi of Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha.  It is also a propitious day in our history, for while the American Civil War raged, fifteen men met in the house of Gustav Grafner at 80 Second Avenue, on June 26, 1864, and formed Tree of Life.  Th...

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