Sermons | Congregation Beth Am





Rabbi Janet Marder
September 22, 2001

An old Yiddish proverb says, "Men tracht un Got lacht." Freely translated, it means "the best way to make God laugh is to tell Her your plans." Like many Yiddish proverbs, it has its funny side, but there's an edge to it. It recognizes that the universe is still in many ways impenetrable. We can chart the structure of the genome; we can chart the courses of the stars; but we can't come close to mapping out the future. We make our plans; we strategize and build and set up structures of meaning, and then life comes along and blows...

Rabbi Janet Marder
September 21, 2001

Each year about 2,300,000 people die in the United States. Each year, about 4 million babies are born. "At the moment of birth," writes Russell Baker, "each tiny howler is all potential. He may become Socrates; she, Cleopatra. She may become Catherine the Great; he, Al Capone. Anything is possible at the instant these new people greet the world. Each new life begins an exploration to discover what its potential may be....When reading an obituary we have turned to the end of the book to see how it comes out. Death is the end of all that awesome potential that...

Rabbi Charles Briskin
September 18, 2001

For a full four minutes every April, Israel comes to a halt. Two minutes on Yom Hashoah-Holocaust Remembrance Day and two on Yom Hazikaron-Israel's Memorial Day. The wail of air-raid sirens pierce the bustle of city life, summoning all people to stop-for two minutes. The cacophony of noise in each city, town, and kibbutz is reduced to one sound--the cry of the siren. Cell phones stop ringing, shop keepers stop bartering, politicians stop arguing and car horns stop honking. Drivers halt their cars in the middle of the street, and step out to stand in silent reverence and remembrance. For...

Rabbi Janet Marder
September 7, 2001

My grandpa Joe was a truck driver. Like all of my grandparents, he never went to college; he never owned a home, and he worked hard all of his life. One of my earliest memories is of Grandpa taking my brother and sister and me to a big Christmas party put on by his union, the Teamsters. I remember how proud and excited he was to show off his grandchildren to the men in his local. Only later did I discover that not everyone thought of the Teamsters’ union with the same nostalgic affection that I did.

How did...

Rabbi Janet Marder
August 31, 2001

I read this week that the city of Chicago has embarked on a radical new experiment: an effort to pull an entire city away from televisions and video screens into the pages of literature (NY Times Aug.28, 2001). Chicago officials are asking every adult and adolescent in the city to join together in reading the same book at the same time. The book they have chosen is Harper Lee's powerful anti-racism classic, "To Kill a Mockingbird." The city has launched a vigorous promotional campaign, including placing thousands of copies in Spanish and Polish translations on library shelves and organizing...

Rabbi Janet Marder
May 4, 2001

Exactly 40 years ago this week astronaut Alan Shepherd became the first American in space. On May 5, 1961 he blasted off from Cape Canaveral and rocketed 117 miles up, landing 15 minutes later, 300 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean. It was just a month after Major Yuri Gagarin of the Soviet Union had orbited the earth in the world's first manned space flight.

Some saw the human conquest of outer space as a profound challenge to religious faith. It was one of the early Russian cosmonauts, I think, who commented that he had proven once and for...


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We strive to live as a holy community whose study and practice of Judaism inspires and challenges us to "do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God" (Micah 6:8).