by Rabbi Adam Roffman
While driving around Dallas this week, I listened to an interview on NPR with Dr. Duane Bidwell, a professor at the Claremont School of Divinity. The topic of the interview was his new book, When One Religion Isn’t Enough: The Lives of Spiritual Fluidity. His argument, essentially, was that there are a growing number of Americans who don’t identify themselves as being solely Christian, or Muslim, or Jewish but rather a combination of different religions. While much of this 21st century phenomenon is the result of intermarriage (he cites marriage between Jews and Christians as a primary example,) he argues that in today’s society it is becoming more and more acceptable to take on a much less dogmatic, more flexible religious identity.
by Rabbi Ari Sunshine
This past weekend was an incredible high for our family as we celebrated our daughter Elana’s Bat Mitzvah. We were so proud of Elana, the wonderful job she did, the poise she displayed, and her warmth that shone through. Moreover, we were so delighted and honored to be able to share this simcha with so many of you in addition to our out of town family and friends. Your presence and the outpouring of your love and support for Elana and for our family added so much to this experience and elevated our Shabbat and our weekend.
Sermon/Bat Mitzvah Charge for Elana
Parashat Chayei Sarah
by Rabbi Ari Sunshine
At the end of last week’s parasha, Vayera, we experienced the harrowing and traumatic story of the Akeidah, the binding of Isaac. The narrative relates to us, the readers, of God’s test of his faithful servant Abraham, demanding the sacrifice of Isaac, the beloved son of his old age and the key to the continuation of the lasting covenant that God had promised Abraham. Hearing God’s command, and despite any apprehension or doubt he may have felt at the incongruity of this demand with the covenantal promise, Abraham zealously gets up early, saddles his donkey, and sets off with Isaac on what Abraham initially can only assume will be a journey that will end in personal heartbreak, even if it simultaneously affirms his faith in God. And what does Isaac know or understand about this journey? Not much, it would appear, until the third day, when Abraham and Isaac separate from the two servants who were travelling with them and take the wood, the firestone, and the knife and continue their trek alone, with Isaac himself bearing the burden of the wood while Abraham carries the firestone and the knife, “vayelchu shneyhem yachdav”, “and the two of them walked on together”. It is only at this juncture that Isaac begins to wonder what is happening here, as he notices that they have the instruments necessary for a sacrifice, but they are missing the most critical element of all: a sheep.
by Rabbi Ari Sunshine and the Klei Kodesh
As we reconvene in these coming days and weeks, we want to share with you a few important changes in our ritual life that you will notice when you come to shul. Our first core value in our new vision statement is that we are a caring community—one that is inclusive, warm, and welcoming to members and guests. We believe that each of these changes will help ensure that each soul who walks into our building, and participates in the life of our community, can see themselves represented in our rituals and liturgy. We also believe that these new initiatives will make our services more accessible and inviting, building and strengthening connections between each of us and our tradition and between us and our fellow congregants.
By Rabbi Adam Roffman
Every year, around this time, when I run into someone I haven’t seen in a few weeks, I am greeted with the same five words.
“Rabbi, I like the beard!”
It takes quite a bit of restraint not to reply, “Thanks, but I hate it!”
It’s true, though. Facial hair is not my thing. It’s uncomfortable, it’s itchy, it’s four different colors.
By Rabbi Ari Sunshine
The month of December is a particularly festive month. From bright lights decorating homes and streets, to holiday parties, huge storewide sales, and familiar songs emanating from radios and sound systems everywhere, the impact of the holiday of Christmas on our society is readily apparent to even the most casual observer.
Shearith Israel clergy, staff and congregants share