Talks, Writings and Sermons



The Keys Jewish Community Center hosted an overflow, SRO crowd last night, for a gathering titled Prayers for America: A Memorial Service for those Massacred in Pittsburgh. It was especially heartening that it was attended by members representing every segment of our community. Here is some of what I had to say.



Shana tovah to one and all. Here are the speaking notes to my talk from Rosh Hashanah morning. It is the first of a three-part series on “Our Values.” I look forward to posting the other installments after Yom Kippur.


All of the speaking notes from this year’s High Holyday talks is here:

“Our Tribes–I”

Our Tribes–II

Making Peace

I hope you enjoy and Shana Tovah!



Here are the speaking notes from this year’s High Holyday talks, given at the Keys Jewish Community Center in Tavernier, FL. It is a three part series, inspired by what I considered to the be “High Holiday” level questions raised during my participation in the “March of the Living” last Spring. I hope you find the journey as  worthwhile and meaningful as I did. L’shana tovah to one and all.

“How Could People Do This?”

“How Could People Let This Be Done?”

“What Does It All Teach Us About God?”

I also composed a tribute to Leonard Cohen, some of whose compositions we have been studying at the KJCC. This is to the tune of his well known song, “Hallelujah,” and it weaves the themes of this year’s sermons with a well known story about Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai that we learned on Erev Rosh Hashana. I hope you enjoy it.

“Be A B’racha”

And speaking of Leonard, David Remnick has a must read profile of him in the current New Yorker magazine. Read it here.



Here are the speaking notes from my High Holyday talks for this year.

Rosh Hashanah“Living with Holiness.”

Kol Nidre: “Seven Not Necessarily Deadly–but Still Pretty Damaging Sins–Part I”

Yom Kippur: “Seven Not Necessarily Deadly but Still Pretty Damaging Sins–Part II”

I hope you enjoy and l’shana tovah!



Here are the speaking notes from my High Holyday talks this year, given at the Keys Jewish Community Center in Tavernier, FL.

First, from Erev Rosh Hashanah a D’var Torah on what we believe–and what we don’t. It may surprise you! Click on Thoughts on Belief–from a Bookplate

The theme of the three major talks this year was “It’s About Us.”

From Rosh Hashanah morning, “It’s Not that We Lack Empathy…”

Om Kol Nidre the topic was “Courage” and on Yom Kippur it was “Comfort.”

I hope you enjoy reading and reflecting on them all.

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Here are the speaking notes of my major talks from Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur 5774 at the Keys Jewish Community Center in Tavernier, FL. Click on the titles to open  the texts. Thank you and l’shana tovah!

Rosh Hashanah  “A Sacred Community” This one points us to a deeper understanding of time and how we might use it best to serve ourselves and those around us.

Kol Nidre “When Is God?” Addressing some of the conundrums and questions of faith. PLEASE NOTE: These speaking notes have been updated. The previous version on the website was of a working draft of the talk, nothing near the final version. If you read that one, please read this one now. And if you forwarded that one, please send this one along instead. Thank you and I apologize for any inconvenience.

Yom Kippur morning “Prayer and Blessing” How we can strengthen this essential aspect of our spiritual  lives.



I’m posting here, for the first time online, my rabbinic ordination thesis, “Meditative and Contemplative Practices of Certain Hasidic Masters.” The title is self-explanatory and it includes a recommendation of acceptance by Dr. Eugene B. Borowitz, who advised me on the thesis and later encouraged me to expand it into a book. (The duties of the congregational rabbinate have so far prevented that from happening.) Note that considerable portions are in Hebrew, but even the English reader should be able to appreciate the content. And have fun with that old time font, manually typed! I hope you enjoy. Let me know if you do.


So what’s the deal with the Evangelical Christian community these days? The answer may be surprising and more  complex than you may have thought.  Read an article by author Marcia Pally published as a NYT Opinion piece on 12/10/11 by clicking here.

It’s welcome news for those who may have thought of that community as being overly narrow and monolithic. Also for those of us who believe in building bridges.


Here’s some must reading for all who believe President Obama is insufficiently pro-Israel.  It comes from today’s issue of Ha’aretz and is by blogger Chemi Shalev. Click here for the article.

See the RDA Blog of May 20 for my thoughts on why supporters of Israel should be happy with President Obama’s major address on the Middle East–and why they shouldn’t. Here also are links to excerpts from two TV interviews <first> and <second> I gave on the subject.

The death of Osama Bin Laden was an event of global significance. Read “Some Jewish Thoughts on Bin Laden’s Demise”, delivered at CBI on our High School Graduation night, May 6, by clicking here.

You can click on the title to read “Hope and Fear in the Middle East,” delivered at CBI on March 11. Or you can click here and listen to or download an audio file of the talk being delivered live.

Here’s a talk on the theme of “Civility in American Public Life,” given at Congregation B’nai Israel on February 4, 2011.  Many people asked for copies.  Click here for yours.

An article on relations with our Muslim neighbors, extrapolated from the lengthier essay below, was recently printed in the Florida Jewish Journal.  Click here to read it.

Have you said to yourself–or someone else–that you wish American and other Muslims would be more vocal in their opposition to terrorism? Then click here for the entry titled “Response to My Friend Rabbi Shalom Lewis.”

And here’s another one for you–the most broadly popular religious group in America today is…?  To find out, you’ll have to click here and see my article on page 2 when you do.

Religious Knowledge in America”, a talk delivered on October 8, 2010. Click on the link and discover the surprising findings from a recent survey and a new book.

The three-part High Holyday 5771 series on relationships is linked here.  Our Relationships with One Anotheris from Rosh Hashanah and contains both personal and civic perspectives. On Yom Kippur the themes were “Our Relationship with God” and Our Relationship with Ourselves.” Click on and enjoy!

Sept. 15–new on the RDA Blog–learn about a prominent Muslim moderate critical of militants. From the Wall Street Journal.

A brief post and suggested links on the Gaza Flotilla affair are on the RDA Blog.

How are Jewish and Buddhist teachings similar?  How do they differ?  See a mini-example in the May 12 entry of the RDA Blog.

“Continuing Our Jewish-Muslim Dialogue” was the theme as we hosted our friends from the Anatolia Cultural Center on April 9.  Read the message here.

We recently shared a great time with period music from the 1960’s.  Some “Musings” on that pivotal decade are linked here.

New thoughts on Netanyahu’s handling of the Jerusalem settlement issue on the RDA Blog of March 28.

Health care reform!?  Check out the RDA Blog from March 22.

There’s an entry on the RDA Blog on the current flareup (March 17) in relations between the US and Israel on settlement policy.

Speaking notes from our 26th annual joint service with the members of Boca Raton’s oldest African-American Church, Ebenezer Missionary Baptist. It took place on Martin Luther King weekend and you can click on the link here.

In addition, we held a service of Recovery and Rededication for those in 12 Step Programs at CBI recently and I had a few words to offer.  Click on them here.

Also some thoughts and reflections on the Haitian Earthquake on the RDA Blog.


Also posted is Highlights of the Jewish Decade” an end of the year–and end of the decade–review of what we’ve experienced in the last ten years.

What does the number “168” mean to you?  The RDA Blog entry here explains why it should mean a lot.

You can click here for a short article on Muslim-Jewish relations that I wrote for our December synagogue newsletter.  It was written before the tragedy at Ft. Hood–which may have made it even more important. Hope you appreciate—

You can find additional notes of my recent talks, writings and sermons at this link.


Relations with the Muslim world have been a pressing issue since September 11, 2001. In the minds of many around the world, the events of that day defined the entire faith of Islam strongly and negatively.

It was never a fair characterization and this was noted from the very first. In the days following the attacks, mass-appeal radio hosts, not usually known as sources of enlightenment, told their listeners that the horror was not committed by everyday Muslim acquaintances—professionals, merchants or taxi drivers. Rather it was the work of a fanatical group within the Islamic world, and a relatively small one at that.

Nevertheless, spectacular events tend to define reality more than rational explanations, however legitimate.  As a result it has not been an easy period for many Muslims, particularly in the United States. Too many Americans have conflated them with terrorists and terrorism. It even reached the point where the word “Muslim” gained use as an epithet.

Muslim-Americans today find themselves facing circumstances not unlike those faced by American Jews when we were new immigrants–not always welcome and often the objects of suspicion.  However, also like us, virtually all of them are here not to foment unrest but to build a better life for themselves and their families. Again, that is not necessarily the public perception. Even before 9/11 they were dealing with ignorance and discrimination. They have redoubled their efforts to gain acceptance in the time since.

Guided by the principles of our Center for Justice, our congregation has been working with Muslim-Americans to welcome those who are here in pursuit of the American dream. Together we have increased understanding, reinforced shared values, volunteered jointly in the larger community, created friendships, and even deepened appreciation for Israel. It has been an effort that has been going on for some five years now, and I can say unequivocally that it has been a blessing for all involved.

As a minority ourselves, Jews always stand to benefit from greater interfaith understanding.  This is particularly true in this instance, as the number of Muslim Americans is likely to surpass the number of Jewish Americans in the near future. Better understanding between the two groups is good for Jews, good for Muslims and good for America.

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