From the Bimah: Jewish Lessons for Life

From the Bimah: Jewish Lessons for Life

www.templeemanuel.com
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.


Block Out to Dial In: A Strategy for Hineni in the Age of Covid with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Sep 12 • 17 min
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…
Ours For Now, Not Forever with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Sep 5 • 17 min
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…
Flow with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Aug 29 • 23 min
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…
Do We Believe in a God Who Punishes Us for Our Sins? A Question for the Elul of Covid-19 with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Aug 22 • 18 min
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…
What’s cooking? with Rabbi Aliza Berger
Aug 15 • 15 min
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…
BDS: Boycott, Divestment and Sanction of Only One State, the Jewish State – Hateful Ideas Have Hateful Consequences with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Aug 8 • 19 min
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…
Cancel Culture with Rabbi Michelle Robinson
Jul 18 • 12 min
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…
Is It Possible to Be At Peace in the Middle of a Pandemic? with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Jul 11 • 20 min
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…
Pivot with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Jul 4 • 17 min
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…
Lessons from a 6th grader with Rabbi Aliza Berger
Jun 27 • 15 min
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…
But What About Black Anti-Semitism? with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Jun 20 • 19 min
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…
Time to Drag Out Our Mattresses with Rabbi Aliza Berger
Jun 13 • 15 min
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…
Somebody’s Baby with Rabbi Michelle Robinson
Jun 6 • 13 min
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…
Abra Kadabra with Rabbi Aliza Berger
May 23 • 15 min
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…
Murder Hornets with Rabbi Michelle Robinson
May 16 • 12 min
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.…
Bigger with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
May 9 • 18 min
I realized I had a problem last Friday when I was doing our weekly shopping for Shabbat at Whole Foods—when I saw, and could not resist buying, this large package of 16 toilet paper rolls that we definitely do not need. One of the glories of the Whole…
Unflattening Time with Rabbi Michelle Robinson
May 2 • 14 min
A few months ago, when I would send an e-mail to the congregation, I would get scores of bounce-backs – out-of-office replies like, “Thank you for your e-mail, I’m travelling for business and will get back to you as soon as I can.” Or, “I’m on vacation.…
More is More with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Apr 25 • 16 min
There is a very poor neighborhood in Cape Town, South Africa that is regularly terrorized by two rival street gangs. These gangs literally kill each other and extort, harass, and intimidate townspeople. Police could not stop the violence. Preachers,…
Lord, Please Help Me Be Gentle With Myself with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Apr 18 • 18 min
There is a nurse in Florida who lives in a town that is blessed not to have much Covid-19 activity. When she heard about the surge happening in our Commonwealth this week, she decided to help. She left her husband, her children, and her home in Florida…
How Can We Keep From Singing? with Rabbi Aliza Berger
Apr 11 • 14 min
[sung] My life flows on in endless song, above earth’s lamentation. I hear the real, though far off hymn, that hails a new creation. Through all the tumult and the strife, I hear that music ringing. It sounds an echo in my heart, how can I keep from…
What Really Matters — a Contemporary, Coronavirus Dayeinu with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Apr 10 • 16 min
One of the consequences of our surreal season has been greater clarity about what really matters in life. I hear that again and again—what really matters—from people in various stages of life. There was a bride and groom who were going to get married this…
Do What You Can with Rabbi Michelle Robinson
Apr 9 • 13 min
Last year, I made a Passover parody playlist to help our family get in the holiday spirit. This year, a friend sent me a coronavirus playlist with songs like, “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” “U Can’t Touch This,” and “It’s the End of the World as We Know…
Blind Faith with Rabbi Aliza Berger
Mar 28 • 15 min
It was 2012. I was standing on the sidewalk of Emek Refaim holding a blindfold, ready to begin the simulation. I put the blindfold on, feeling excited for the challenge. I was determined to be the best temporarily blind person ever. But as the darkness…
Your Finest Hour with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Mar 21 • 12 min
Mazal Tov Lily on your Bat Mitzvah! And mazal tov to your parents, David and Melissa, to your sisters, Tove and Emma, to your grandmother Lee. Lee, we are so happy that you now live at Evans Park, so close to our shul. And mazal tov to your aunt and…
Where Are You Going? With Rabbi Michelle Robinson
Mar 14 • 10 min
A story is told about Rebbe Zusha of Anipoli, a beloved Chasidic rabbi who lived in Northern Poland in the 1700s, a place that was not particularly friendly to its Jewish residents. One night, Reb Zusha left his house and began to walk. Two big, burly,…
Building a Jewish Future in Krakow
Mar 5 • 23 min
Tune in as Rabbi Michelle Robinson interviews Jonathan Ornstein, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Centre of Krakow. We look forward to hearing Jonathan speak at Temple Emanuel on Tuesday, March 17th. Follow this link to learn more…
Don’t be Indifferent – Make a Difference with Rabbi Aliza Berger
Feb 29 • 13 min
It was Monday morning. I had just parked in the Wegman’s lot, and was gathering my re-usable bags when the phone rang. I answered, and the familiar recording began to play, [robotically] “an inmate from the Donald D Wyatt Detention Facility would like to…
Visiting Scholar – Donniel Hartman
Feb 24 • 77 min
On February 24, 2020, Donniel Hartman, President of the Shalom Hartman Institute, spoke to us about how we can reclaim and deepen the Israel conversation in his lecture titled “Talking about Israel: Missteps and Opportunities.”
Talk To with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Feb 22 • 15 min
Do you know somebody, or are you somebody, who walks around carrying a heavy weight? It could be a secret. It could be a regret. It could be a mistake. It could be a broken relationship. It could be a rift in the family. It could be some small thing—the…
Kvell with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Feb 15 • 20 min
Once upon a time there was a woman named Olivia who was married to her husband Lee. They lived in Los Angeles in a neighborhood known as Pacific Palisades. They were blessed to have two sons. The family joined a Conservative synagogue in west L.A. named…
Shabbat Shirah Sermon – Cantor Elias Rosemberg
Feb 9 • 10 min
On February 8, 2020, we celebrated a very special moment in the Torah, a very musical moment in Jewish biblical history. On Shabbat Shirah we read the Song of the Sea and our service included extraordinary music to celebrate Moses and Miriam leading the…
Daily Page with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Jan 25 • 16 min
What do the late Philip Roth, one of the greatest writers of our time, and Steph Curry, one of the greatest basketball players of our time, have in common? Philip Roth was once asked by Robert Siegel, an NPR host, how he was able to write so many…
@LAPDHQ with Rav Hazzan Aliza Berger
Dec 14, 2019 • 10 min
On September 26th, an officer from the Los Angeles Police Department was walking through the Wilshire-Normandie subway station in Koreatown, when a beautiful voice caught him off guard. Ahead stood a slight, middle-aged woman. Her shoulder-length blond…
Gratitude Is Not Just a Feeling with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Nov 30, 2019 • 14 min
Jon Levenson, a professor of Bible at Harvard, offers a rich hypothetical that I have shared with you before, and which I share again now because it goes to the heart of the meaning of the holiday of Thanksgiving. Imagine you are driving to the airport on…
The Tested One is Also the Blessed One with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Nov 16, 2019 • 17 min
I want to play a new game with you this morning, Jewish trivial pursuit. I am going to ask you two simple questions about the Hebrew Bible, and the winner gets a free bagel at kiddush this morning. First question, what character in the Hebrew Bible is…
Beyond the Hashtag with Rav Hazzan Aliza Berger
Nov 9, 2019 • 13 min
Years ago, when I was living in Israel, I remember going to visit the Tomb of the Patriarchs (Ma’arat haMachpelah) in Hevron. I remember feeling totally overwhelmed by the sheer number of visitors and by all the sounds. There were tourists snapping their…
When Suffering and Blessing Are Inexplicably Intertwined: Reflections on the First Yahrtzeit of the Pittsburgh Massacre with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Oct 26, 2019 • 18 min
Do you remember where you were when you first learned of the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last year, a year ago tomorrow, October 27, 2018? I remember exactly where I was. I was right here. It was Shabbat morning, in the middle of…
Something Left to Prove? with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Oct 19, 2019 • 18 min
Is it a good thing to go through life always feeling that you have something left to prove? Or do you ever reach a point where the healthier move is to say: you know what, I have nothing left to prove? You are a tenured professor in your chosen field for…
Overnight Millionaire with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Oct 17, 2019 • 17 min
Next time you are hungry, next time you need a quick pick up, consider eating a protein bar known as an Rx Bar. It comes in a variety of attractive packages and delicious flavors. Blueberry, Maple Sea Salt, Mango Pineapple, Chocolate Sea Salt, Chocolate…
Love with Rabbi Michelle Robinson
Oct 5, 2019 • 15 min
A rabbi once heard about a preacher who gained notoriety by giving the world’s longest sermon. Not wanting to duplicate that feat, and, perhaps more importantly, not wanting to put everyone in shul to sleep, the rabbi decided to preach the world’s…
Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz interviews Pre-Neilah Speaker, Pastor Jeremy Battle
Sep 27, 2019 • 46 min
Pastor Jeremy D. Battle, from the Western Avenue Baptist Church is a third-generation pastor hailing from Brighton, Alabama. Pastor Battle lives by the personal mantra, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all…
Rebbe, Please Give Me Fervor! with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Sep 25, 2019 • 15 min
Once, there lived amongst us a man with the stature of a prophet, a man with the moral vision of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. His name was Elie Wiesel, and he taught for years just a few miles from here at Boston University. In his book Witness, which is…
Be Like Taylor Swift’s Seventh Album, Not Her Sixth with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Sep 14, 2019 • 16 min
I want to talk about two words I have never uttered from this bimah. Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift is dramatically germane to the moment in which we now find ourselves. As you know, Taylor Swift is one of the best-selling, most popular singer songwriters of…
“Entering into a Brit Hashem, Together” with special guest Rabbi Becky Silverstein
Sep 12, 2019 • 37 min
Tune in as Rav-Hazzan Aliza Berger interviews Rabbi Becky Silverstein on his upcoming Parshat Nitzvaim “Entering into a Brit Hashem, Together,” and his journey to becoming a Rabbi. Rabbi Becky will be joining us on Shabbat morning, September 28th. You can…
Take Your Best Shot with Rav Hazzan Aliza Berger
Aug 31, 2019 • 13 min
Recently I came upon an article in the New York Times which took my breath away titled, “He was shot and paralyzed 37 years ago. That’s not how the story ends.” Thirty-seven years ago, thirteen-year-old Jeff Williams was hanging out with his brother and a…
“The Jewish American Paradox” with author Robert Mnookin
Aug 27, 2019 • 40 min
Tune is as Rabbi Michelle Robinson interviews Robert Mnookin, author of “The Jewish American Paradox: Embracing Choice in a Changing World.” Robert Mnookin is an American lawyer, author, and the Samuel Williston Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He…
Nachus: A Reinterpretation with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Aug 24, 2019 • 15 min
Rabbi Joseph Telushkin authored a book called Jewish Humor: What the Best Jewish Jokes Say About the Jews. In a section about parents and children, he shares the following: Two Jewish women who haven’t see each other in twenty years run into each other on…
Sending Thoughts and Prayers with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Aug 10, 2019 • 17 min
Whenever there is a mass shooting in our country, including last Saturday in El Paso and Dayton, there is this civic ritual where leaders of both parties say that they are sending thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families. How are we to…
Believe Me When I Tell You Who I Am with Rav Hazzan Aliza Berger
Jul 27, 2019 • 16 min
The other day, I was listening to an episode of This American Life titled “Save the Girl,” documenting all sorts of crazy stories of people swooping in to save damsels in distress, when I heard the most unbelievable story. Yong Xiong grew up in Laos, part…
Go Fish with Rav Hazzan Aliza Berger
Jul 13, 2019 • 12 min
When I was still swiping for dates, I had a strict no-fisherman policy. Any time I saw someone posed with a large, freshly caught fish, I swiped no. No matter how cute they were, no matter how smart or Jewishly engaged, I was convinced there was no way I…
Piano Concertos and Prophecy with Rav Hazzan Aliza Berger
Jun 22, 2019 • 12 min
Sergei Rachmaninoff was arguably one of the best pianists ever. He was a virtuoso, with giant hands that could easily grasp complex harmonies and move with lightning speed up and down the keyboard. He was not only a performer but also a compositional…
Shavuot: The Spiritual Assignment with Rav Hazzan Aliza Berger
Jun 10, 2019 • 7 min
Growing up, my Aunt Vanessa was my hero. Whenever we saw her, it seemed like she was just coming back from some herculean triathlon or from an epic marathon through the Colorado mountains. She was fearless. Every year, she would take us to the amusement…
Ugandan Human Rights Activist, Qwin Mbabazi, Celebrates One Year of Political Asylum in Boston.
Jun 7, 2019 • 43 min
Ugandan Human Rights Activist, Qwin Mbabazi, Celebrates One Year of Political Asylum in Boston. Join Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz and Rav Hazzan Aliza Berger as they sit down with Qwin who shares her story of life as a LGBTQ activist in Uganda and how she found…
Linden Tree with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Jun 1, 2019 • 22 min
The story is told of the time that the Pope and the Prime Minister of Israel decided to deepen the relationship between the Vatican and the Jewish state by co-cohosting a friendly golf game that would be played by premier Catholic and Jewish golfers. The…
The Real Yous with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
May 25, 2019 • 15 min
One day a fifth grader gets sent home from school for taking another student’s pencil. When he gets home, his father says why in the world would you take another student’s pencil? We don’t steal in this family. Your mother and I have taught you better…
Pushed and Pulled with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
May 18, 2019 • 15 min
There is a preacher named T.D. Jakes, the pastor of a non-denominational megachurch in Dallas, who saw something in the book of Deuteronomy that I had never seen. It comes from Moses’ poetic speech in parshat haazinu, in which Moses observes nesher yair…
In The Wake of San Diego: What Can I Do? with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
May 4, 2019 • 20 min
Four words. They are just four words. They make up a simple sentence. But how you say this sentence makes all the difference in the world. What can I do? Emphasis on I. Meaning that I am so small, the world is so large. My energy is limited. The problems…
The Problem of Recency with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Apr 27, 2019 • 15 min
I want to name a problem that is very common, perhaps almost universal, but we don’t talk about it. If not now, at Yizkor, when? It is the problem of recency. It looks like this. Your loved one was fabulous when he or she was in the full bloom of their…
Half Hallel: Our Passover Challenge with Rav-Hazzan Aliza Berger
Apr 26, 2019 • 34 min
When I used to sing competitively, I remember there was always this moment. I would go with my vocal studio to various competitions, which they always held in some university auditorium far away. After months of practicing and preparing, we would pile 4…
Chamber Music Concert Sneak Peak with Constantine Finehouse
Apr 24, 2019 • 8 min
Host Cantor Elias Rosemberg interviews pianist Constantine Finehouse on how he got started with the Temple Emanuel Chamber Music Concerts. Plus, listen to a sneak peak of some of the music that will be featured at our upcoming concert on May 5th. Learn…
Beyond Linens ‘N Things with Rav-Hazzan Aliza Berger
Apr 20, 2019 • 10 min
I have a confession to make. I am a hopeless romantic. Starting when I was a little girl, I devoted endless hours to dreaming about what it would be like to meet my partner and fall in love and live happily ever after. I have journals from when I was 12…
Conviction and Humility with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Apr 13, 2019 • 19 min
What a complicated time. Today is Shabbat Hagadol. We are supposed to prepare ourselves for the first seder next Friday night. But most of the big issues that one might discuss at our s’darim are even more fraught than usual. Follow this link to view the…
Helicopters, Teacups, and Swimmers with Rabbi Gardenswartz
Mar 30, 2019 • 17 min
Help me finish this sentence. You cannot be any happier than…your least happy child. The emotional life of a parent is deeply connected to the emotional life of their child. Perhaps that is why there is such a thing as a helicopter parent. Follow this…
Esther Syndrome with Rav Hazzan Aliza Berger
Mar 23, 2019 • 13 min
At the beginning of chapter two in the megillah, the talented heroine of Purim is introduced by two names. In the words of the megillah: [And he was the guardian of Hadassah, (that is, Esther) the daughter of his uncle] (sung) Why did she have these two…
Counter World with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Mar 16, 2019 • 17 min
Every year the Oxford Dictionary comes up with a Word of the Year, a word that captures the ethos and mood of our time. For 2018 the word of the year is toxic. Toxic was used widely to describe our natural environment, relationships, culture, politics,…
You Just Won the Lottery. Now What? with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Mar 9, 2019 • 20 min
I recently saw a film, and read an article, that made me realize we have all won the lottery. No matter what issues or problems we have going on in our lives, and we all have issues or problems going on in our lives, we have still totally won the lottery.…
Jewish for Today with Rav Hazzan Aliza Berger
Feb 23, 2019 • 11 min
Sometimes I feel like a spiritual hustler (and I don’t mean I daven quickly). I meet young people in bars and cafes and ask them questions about their Judaism. Questions like, “what do you love about being Jewish?” and “do you feel it is important to live…
May Your Light Make You More Whole with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Feb 16, 2019 • 16 min
I want to raise a large question with you today, which is this: Is knowing more better? Is knowing more facts about yourself, your history, your biology, your family history, better? In our reading this morning, the High Priest, the Kohein Gadol, keeps in…
The Goat Does Not Go it Alone with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Feb 9, 2019 • 14 min
Namely: How should we think about the aspiration to be the greatest, the best? Is thinking this way, is dreaming this way, is acting this way, I want to be the best, healthy? What happens to our heart when we are focused on becoming the goat? I remember…
Deer in the Condo with Rav Hazzan Aliza Berger
Jan 26, 2019 • 12 min
It was early in the morning. I had just sat down at my kitchen table with a cup of coffee, when I happened to look out the window and caught my breath. A deer stood there, ears erect, eyes darting around. I live in a condo in Boston, built along a busy…
Their Battle That You Know Nothing About with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Jan 5, 2019 • 18 min
When you see somebody do something that you do not understand–perhaps it is puzzling, perhaps it is more than puzzling, it might even be offensive to you–how are you supposed to think about and respond to this challenging conduct? Consider three…
Becoming a Multiplier with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Dec 22, 2018 • 17 min
I was recently speaking with my son Sam about a book he was reading that he was raving about. He said it was giving him so much to think about every day when he went to work and interacted with his colleagues. The book is Multipliers: How the Best Leaders…
After the Crash with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Dec 15, 2018 • 17 min
We knew it was coming, this report from an expert who had been spending a lot of time investigating, but when it landed, it really hurt. I am talking of course about the recent report that concluded that French fries are bad for you. According to Eric…
Love in Paradise with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Dec 8, 2018 • 13 min
There is a town in northern California called Paradise which was destroyed last month by fire. Ninety percent of Paradise residents lost their homes. What this meant for the people who lived in Paradise was brought home to me by an article I read about…
A Song That Plays On with Rabbi Wes Gardenswartz
Nov 24, 2018 • 20 min
Tomorrow night we will be singing the song of a man who died 28 years ago. Had he been alive, Leonard Bernstein would be 100 years old. However he died relatively young, at the age of 72. And yet, all these years later, we still think about Leonard…