This past Wednesday, I made a quick trip back to my home town of Boston. Let me quickly apologize to my friends and family back in Massachusetts that I didn’t let you know of my plans. It was a last minute decision and I could only stay for several hours. I promise I’ll be back soon for a longer visit.

The objective of my trip was to visit the cemeteries where my parents, grandparents, several great-grandparents and other family members are buried and to say a memorial prayer at their graves. I usually plan such a trip each summer but I have started to question whether it really is necessary to do this each year and had considered not making the trip this year.

But, a few weeks ago, I started to feel a bit guilty. I had promised myself that I would continue the family tradition of visiting the cemeteries and in the midst of what has become a busy summer, I saw an open date on the calendar and made my plans to go back and forth from Michigan to Boston in one day.

I carefully planned my route: first to Melrose to visit my paternal grandfather’s grave, then to Woburn where my maternal grandmother’s parents and her brother are buried. Then, on to West Roxbury where my parents, maternal grandparents, paternal grandmother, two uncles and one aunt are buried. And, finally, to another part of West Roxbury to visit the grave of my paternal grandmother’s father which I had only recently discovered through the website

It was a whirlwind trip made infinitely more complicated by the closing of the Sumner Tunnel which left traffic around the airport horrible (even for Boston). There was a long line to get my rental car and I had problems trying to figure out how to keep my cell phone charged even though I had brought every charger I had from home. It started to rain even though no rain was predicted and I began to seriously doubt whether this trip made any sense.

But, I finally made it to Melrose to visit Grandpa Dobrusin’s grave and thanks to Ellen’s long distance assistance, I was able to figure out the car charging situation. The rain let up and I was feeling better by the time I got to Woburn.

I visited my great-grandparents’ grave and then stopped at my great-uncle Meyer’s grave. That has a special meaning to me since my middle name is named for him.

Then, it was on to West Roxbury. By now, I was sure I had made the right decision to come on this journey and I spent some time at my parent’s, grandparents’ and uncles’ and aunts’ graves. I found myself “talking” to them much more than I usually do when I visit, remembering how my grandmother would talk to all of the deceased. It seemed silly when I was a kid. But, it does not seem silly in any way now.

I ended my visits at my father’s maternal grandfathers’ grave, seeing it for the first time.

From there, it was a quick detour to the house I grew up in Brighton. I walked around the outside of the house for a few minutes and then drove back to the airport, fighting the horrible traffic, returned the car and took the shuttle to the terminal.

I was very satisfied.

As I sat on the plane to return home, I started to think about the inevitable question: does it really make a difference to visit cemeteries and, in a larger sense, to continue to consider the relationship with our deceased loved ones. Would my day have been better spent in other ways, either in Boston or at home? Does anyone really care?

I tried to sleep on the plane but was unable to. So, I took out my phone and opened the app that I have which has a “scrabble”-like crossword game.

The app opened the game with a word and I looked at my rack of letters and a word jumped out at me: silky. I was surprised, to say the least, Silky was the name of our first dog and I smiled as I played the word.

The app then answered with its word instantaneously. The word was duke.

I nearly dropped the phone because Duke was the name of my mother’s childhood beloved dog whom she remembered with a smile and tears years and years later. I stared at the screen and was so shocked that even forgot to take a screen shot which I dearly wish I had.

I refuse to believe this was a coincidence. It is not the first time my mother has let me know she is still with us. (see:

I was so glad I made the trip but it was also so good to know that it was appreciated in another place.


This posting is a summary of this week’s edition of my podcast, Wrestling and Dreaming: Engaging Discussions on Judaism. You can hear the podcast at or other sources for podcasts. 

Last Shabbat’s haftarah comes from the book of Micah and it ends with Micah’s famous statement in chapter 6 verse 8: “He has told you O Man what is good and what the Lord requires of you: to do justice, love goodness and walk humbly with your God.” 

There is, however, a beautiful interpretation of this verse which changes the meaning significantly by replacing the word “and” with the word “but”. This is perfectly reasonable as the Hebrew letter vav as a prefix can mean either of those two words. 

The interpretative translation is: “Human beings have told you what is good BUT what does the Lord require of you? To do justice, love goodness and walk humbly with your God.”

This understanding of the verse proposes a distinction between what some people consider to be “good” and what God truly wants from us. It is a particularly meaningful approach to the verse when we consider that we hear so many voices speaking words of arrogance, injustice and a lack of compassion for others. Seen this way, Micah’s words compel us to analyze our voices and our actions to consider whether they reflect the positive qualities of justice, goodness and humility. 

This past week, the United State Supreme Court handed down a decision supporting the right of a website designer in Colorado who refused to provide services to a same-sex couple based on her religious beliefs. I believe this decision was terribly misguided and presents a serious threat to equality in this nation and to the LGBTQ community. 

In her dissent, Justice Sotamayor wrote: “Today is a sad day in American constitutional law and in the lives of LGBTQ people. The Supreme Court of the United States declares that a particular kind of business, though open to the public, has a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of a protected class.”

I agree with her statement and the characterization of this decision as marking a sad day. I feel that this sets a very bad precedent for LGBTQ individuals and their families as well as for others in this nation who face bigotry and persecution. 

This nation has taken some very important steps for equality and respect for LGBTQ individuals and families and polls show that the majority of Americans support these steps. But increasingly we read of state legislatures which are seeking to hinder this progress and this decision gives fuel to those who seek to roll back the protection that our current laws provide. 

In addition, the ruling opens up a slippery slope as it would seem to set a precedent that would provide legitimacy for a business to discriminate against anyone on religious grounds. For example, can a restaurant or hotel now refuse to extend service to a same-sex couple? Are bi-racial couples and families in danger of being excluded? Can the owner of a business refuse to serve a Muslim or Jewish or Asian-American individual? While some may argue that the ruling is very limited in its scope, it does open the door for further exclusion. 

There are two other factors in this case which disturb me. First, from what I have read, the woman who brought the case against the law in the state of Colorado had not yet set up her business and had not been approached by a same-sex couple. She wanted to prevent such couples from coming to her for her services. 

It is particularly sad that this is the case since it reflects the reality that it is much easier to treat someone as unequal and not deserving of your respect if you have not met them face to face. 

For many of us, and I include myself, our thoughts about homosexuality in general and same-sex marriage have evolved over the years. For me, the critical moment in this evolution came when I began to talk with LGBTQ individuals and couples face to face. In doing so, I learned not only of the challenges they face but of the beauty of their lives and their relationships, seeing the same qualities that I respect in any individual and family. I began to realize that these qualities supersede any issue of sexual orientation or gender identity. 

But you need to open yourself up to seeing the common humanity. If one closes one’s eyes and just thinks of individuals as “the other”, it is easier to discriminate against them. 

And finally, there is the “religious” issue. 

Any religious group or denomination has the right to its teachings on any issue and while I would strongly disagree, it is within the right of a religious community to exclude LGBTQ individuals or families. 

But, by making this decision the Supreme Court has given people another reason in this country to see “religion” as promoting exclusion, lack of respect and compassion. This is so sad as there are so many approaches to religion in the nation and the world which at least attempt to model themselves according to Micah’s principles of justice, goodness and humility. None of us is perfect and no approach to religion is perfect but the idea that religion can be seen as providing justification for exclusion of others is a terribly sad result of this ruling. 

As we see the situation faced by the LGBTQ members of our communities growing more tenuous and threatening, we need to raise our voices not only in support of these individuals and their families but in the firm conviction that religious voices can, in fact, be voices of humility, goodness, compassion and justice. 

In Memory of Rabbi Harold Kushner z”l

Today, we heard the news of the death of my colleague and teacher, Rabbi Harold Kushner. Rabbi Kushner will be remembered for his many contributions to his communities and to the Jewish people. But, for me and for so many others, his greatest contribution was his heartfelt, profound and groundbreaking book entitled When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Rabbi Kushner spoke from his own experience and helped us all come to terms with tragedy in our lives and continue to believe in God and in lives of purpose. 

Fifteen years ago, I delivered this sermon on Yom Kippur in recognition of the meaning that this book held for me and for so many people. Before I included it in my book The Long Way Around: Stories and Sermons from a Life’s Journey, I shared it with Rabbi Kushner and he thanked me for sharing it with him and for speaking about the book in this way. I was deeply honored by his response.

May Rabbi Harold Kushner’s memory be for a blessing.



I decided on the subject that I wanted to address during this sermon two months ago. I wrote a first draft and I liked it but I knew it needed something. It needed a twist to make it interesting and memorable and I couldn’t come up with it. 

So, I did what I often do when I am faced with a situation like this  – I got in my car and took a drive in the country. 

It was a lovely day but the drive wasn’t helping. I still could not think of the missing piece. After a while, I became frustrated and started to turn back for home. As I did, I noticed there was a CD loaded in the car’s CD player. Without knowing what it was or which member of my family had put it in, I decided to turn it on. 

Let me assure you that I do not believe that God sends messages through CD players. But maybe I should consider it because the song that came on provided the perfect missing piece to the sermon.

I don’t believe the song was meant to be a theological statement, but others by the same writer have a strong spiritual element to them so I’m not prepared to completely dismiss that possibility. Either way, though, I am not being irreverent when I suggest that there is some wisdom in this song, whose most popular version was recorded by a singer, with the decidedly inappropriate (for Yom Kippur) name of Meat Loaf, to help us understand a very serious spiritual issue. 

The song is called: Two out of Three Ain’t Bad.

Some of you will recognize the song and some won’t. But it really won’t matter in the long run because my sermon today is not about the song but rather about a book.

The book, written 30 years ago by my colleague and teacher, Rabbi Harold Kushner, is called When Bad Things Happen to Good People.

Rabbi Kushner’s son, Aaron, was a victim of a terrible disease called Progeria, otherwise known as Rapid Aging Syndrome. Aaron died at the age of 14 in the body of an old man. Throughout Aaron’s illness and after his death, Rabbi Kushner faced a theological crisis as all of the lines he had heard as a student and all of the lines that he had said in his role as a rabbi suddenly sounded hollow in this changed reality that he faced. How could a rabbi continue to preach, how could a Jew continue to pray, how could a person continue to believe having faced this reality?

Rabbi Kushner decided not to hide from the issue but to think it through. After much contemplation and after reading through Job and other sources of wisdom, he had a startling realization. He took out his pen, because that’s what we did 30 years ago, and wrote out three simple statements which he said all people who believe in God would like to believe:

  1. God is all-powerful and directly causes everything that happens in this world.
  2. God is just and fair and stands for people getting what they deserve in this world so that the good prosper and the wicked are punished.
  3. Job — or Aaron Kushner — was a good person. 

Rabbi Kushner writes: “As long as Job is healthy and wealthy, we can believe all three of these statements with no difficulty. When Job suffers, we have a problem.”

And, whenever one has experienced deep sadness or has felt the pain of someone else in the world which can be so cruel, that problem surfaces again. 

Knowing he could never give up believing in God, Rabbi Kushner felt he had to eliminate one of these three statements in order to continue to believe. He would not abandon his belief that his son was basically a good person and he concluded that to believe in an unjust God, one who did not stand for fairness and justice, was senseless and offensive. 

That left only one of the three sentences to eliminate. So he came to the conclusion that to believe in an all powerful God who is involved in every act that takes place in the world and in every aspect of our lives and treats us based upon our adherence to commandments or to ethical living is indefensible, untenable, and potentially hurtful as well. 

Rabbi Kushner looked at those three sentences about God’s omnipotence, God’s goodness and his son’s innocence and concluded (and these are my words) that “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad.” He decided that he would rather believe in a God who was not all-powerful than to give up his faith in God’s goodness or Aaron’s.

Kushner wrote his book so that people who felt distant from God, feeling that God’s touch was so cold that they, like the singer of the song, were in fact “crying icicles instead of tears,” could find comfort in believing in God again. They could believe although the expectations were different. They could believe in God who was not giving them protection from pain but sympathy, comfort, and encouragement when the world turned against them. 

Rabbi Kushner teaches this approach with hesitation. He admits that something is lost when you give up this belief in an omnipotent God. He writes: “In a way, it was comforting to believe in an all-wise, all-powerful God who guaranteed fair treatment and happy endings, who reassured us that everything happened for a reason, even as life was easier for us when we could believe that our parents were wise enough to know what to do and comforting enough to make everything turn out right. But…it worked only as long as we did not take the problems of the innocent seriously. When we have met Job, when we have been Job, we cannot believe in that sort of God any longer.”

I believe he is right. I believe his theology makes perfect sense and it has guided my thought and my interactions in my own life and in my rabbinic work. 

But the story can’t stop here because thirty years later, there is a question that has to be asked: Is it good for the Jews? 

By that I mean two things. First, can we sustain a belief in God and build a traditional Jewish life of prayer and ritual around a belief in a God who does not directly impact our daily lives? Is this blunt honesty or is it the first step towards denying the existence of God altogether and undermining everything our teachers have taught for millennia? 

Secondly, does it really help people? Is it fair to leave people with this answer or is it ultimately unsatisfying?

Let me address the second question first. 

No matter how clearly or passionately I or anyone else might present this idea of limited divine power, it does leave us with some serious issues. There are those who reject it entirely, preferring to ignore the question or to embrace the more traditional answers: “We can’t understand God’s actions.” Or, “Everything will be explained to us in the world to come.” Or, God forbid, “We should have fasted on Yom Kippur (or checked our mezuzahs more often).”

I understand the reason people choose to believe that God punishes those who aren’t loyal to the covenant or aren’t the best people they can be. Such beliefs underscore the importance of being good. They underscore the importance of observing the traditions. But the pain and the guilt that this belief can cause is so deep and so damaging. To even suggest that directly or indirectly God punishes with devastating illness those who do not keep kosher is a hillul hashem, a desecration of God’s name. 

Still, some see Kushner’s approach as an unreasonable alternative and too great a challenge. They think it is wrong to expect that people in the midst of terrible agony can accept a complex idea and would want to struggle with a thorny and somewhat paradoxical theological concept. For some, it is better to accept a clear statement defending God or claiming we can never know God’s reasons or denying that God exists. For some, the comfort lies in having a definitive answer while Kushner’s answer may be seen as weak and defensive. 

Then, there are those who have accused him and others who hold this opinion as engaging in “theological gerrymandering” — trying to structure God’s role in the world so that it includes just what we want and excludes everything else. I accept that criticism but would argue that a theology that causes us pain or runs counter to what we see in the world with the hope that it would make us better people doesn’t work for everyone. In addition, it is important to note that, for Rabbi Kushner, the idea of this theology is not to take responsibility away from us but to envision God as teacher and to help us to become God’s agents and God’s angels on earth bringing comfort, support, and love to those who so desperately need it.

This theology works for me. It is honest, constructive, and thoughtfully sensitive. It leaves me with far fewer unanswered questions than any of the other approaches that I have ever heard. But theology is personal and one size does not fit all. 

Then, there is the other issue. If God can’t or, as I prefer to think of it, has willingly stopped interacting in history at one point after the Exodus and Sinai, then why in God’s name would we waste time praying: why would we say a Mishebayrach blessing asking for God’s healing? Why would we pray for rain when there is a drought? Why would we pray for God to protect our family or our people?

If God can’t control any of these things, why bother to pray at all?

What do we need God for if God can’t do what we need God to do? 

For these questions, I have answers. 

We do need prayer. We need prayer to remind ourselves and remind God what is important to us whether or not we can expect a tangible response. We need prayer to bind us together in a community reaching for something greater. We need public prayer to remind others how much we need the community’s help in supporting us as we face difficult times. We need the comfort of community and the comfort of believing we are not alone.

We do need God in our lives. We need hope and we need faith: faith in God, faith that living correctly makes our lives and our world better in the long run, even if some days bring disappointment or even tragedy. We need faith to believe that this story that we are all writing together will someday have a happy ending in a redeemed world. 

We even need faith in answered prayers and in miracles which, when they occur, seem to contradict Rabbi Kushner’s belief in God’s limitations. 

Yes, it seems prayers are sometimes answered and divine miracles occasionally do occur, and I celebrate them joyfully and praise God even at the risk of being inconsistent in my theology. But some prayers are not answered and miracles don’t happen to everyone and they don’t happen every time, and I refuse to believe that God plans miracles only for those who perform the right rituals or who say the right words or who are in some sense deserving. The Talmud tells us: Ayn Somchim al Hanays, “We do not depend upon miracles” and we don’t question our merit or blame ourselves if the miracle doesn’t happen for us or someone we love. 

But even when the prayer is not answered or the miracle doesn’t occur, we must continue to believe that God cares. We just need to know where to look for proof. The Torah says that when Moses asked God if he could see the Divine face, God said: “You can only see My back.” A traditional commentary explains: “You may not see Me clearly but look back on a situation and you will see where I have been,” in the face of a friend who cared, in a doctor who tirelessly worked to bring healing, in the sense of comfort brought by a familiar song or word of prayer. That is evidence of God’s caring and that comfort is real. 

When I see you, God forbid, in times of horrible tragedy, I remember what Rabbi Kushner taught us at the Seminary one day. He taught us that Job’s friends only got in trouble when they started to talk. Sometimes the best I can do is to offer my presence. Sometimes, silence is the best answer.

But you still have a right to ask: Why? Why did this happen to me?

And, because I have no other answer to give and because even at times of pain I need to be honest, I will say to you: “I don’t know why. But as the psalmist says: ‘I am with him in your trouble.’ I believe with perfect faith that God is crying with you now. It is precisely at times of tragedy that people need God the most, to believe in a God who can’t change the past or even the future but who is there to support us, to cry with us, to encourage and inspire us and, yes, even to be the object of our anger.” 

Our tradition has always encouraged and modeled screaming out in anger against God and I believe that it is perfectly reasonable and acceptable to scream out against God in the face of tragedy. But I would humbly suggest that if you are going to blame God, you should blame God specifically for creating a world in which free will and natural consequences rule. Don’t blame God for singling you out to receive such pain because that can’t be the way God works. 

Blaming God for the world that God created rather than for bringing pain to your life does make a difference. As the world goes on and as we, God willing, recover at least somewhat from the tragedy that we have faced, we might come to accept the fact that a world of free will and natural consequences is much better than a world in which we are merely puppets being orchestrated by God. Occasionally, when life is so bad to us, we might like that comfort, but being a free human being is, on balance, far better. 

I know that there are still unresolved theological questions. I don’t and I can’t speak for God. But I believe that no one is singled out for tragedy in this world. I believe that God cries with us and I believe that we need God in our lives even if all of the serious theological gymnastics don’t satisfy us.

The Torah commands us to love God and despite what we will hear later this morning when we read about the martyrdom of Rabbi Akiva who said he loved God even as his life was taken in such a cruel way, for most of us, loving God at times of great sadness is impossible. No one should apologize for finding it difficult or impossible to love God when in the midst of suffering. 

So, let me return to Meat Loaf and my song for the day. As many of you no doubt know, his “two out of three” were: 

“I want you, I need you but there ain’t no way I’m ever going to love you.”

 I believe God says something very similar: “I want you to want me and to need me even if you can’t love me at this moment.” Two out of three, dayenu, that is enough for now. 

But now isn’t forever and nothing in life is set in stone, and that’s why we should never say to God: “There ain’t no way I’m ever going to love you” because no matter how dark and cold the world may appear now, one day the sun may shine brightly enough or at just the right angle to melt away the icicles and bring you not only to want God and to need God but to love God and God’s world again.

May we all be blessed with comfort and with the peace of God’s embracing presence. No matter what each of us believes about God, may we never forget that we are God’s agents of comfort in the world God created. 



I delivered this sermon at Beth Israel Congregation in Ann Arbor on Shabbat Parashat Terumah 9 years ago. It remains one of my favorite sermons and the congregational singing after the sermon remains, for me, one of the most moving moments I have experienced from the Bima.


Rabbi Robert Dobrusin

February 1, 2014

Rosh Hodesh Adar

Today’s Torah portion is called Terumah. The terumah was a contribution, given from the heart, in this case for the building of the Mishkan, the tabernacle in the desert. The word terumah comes from the Hebrew word lihareem, to lift up. But what is the connection between this contribution and the word meaning “to lift up”?

Rashi notes simply that terumah means hafrasha, separation, separating these items from the rest of one’s property. In fact, there are those who say that the donor physically lifted up the object being contributed to show that it had been designated for a sacred cause. 

As the Etz Hayim Hummash points out, there is a spiritual element to this elevation as well. The commentary quotes the Hasidic teacher Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev as saying that a person is elevated, is lifted up, by giving such a gift. So, the “terumah”, the lifting up, could refer to both the object and the donor. 

But, it is also true that such elevation can be contagious. When a person sees another person contributing something and being inspired by that act, they themselves would be lifted up, encouraged and inspired to do the same. So, the process of elevation can take many different forms. 

Earlier this morning, we sang the Hallel service, psalms of Praise to God in recognition of the beginning of the new month of Adar. We lifted up our voices in song. No matter how many times we sing the Hallel, these inspiring words lift us to different places in our spiritual lives and hopefully inspire us to act in our lives on those values which our tradition teaches. That inspiration can be contagious as all who hear the voices raised in song are inspired themselves.

There are many sources of inspiration in our world and music is one of the most enduring. Listening to favorite music, whether a classical symphony, jazz, rock, whatever we find moving, can bring us to a different and a higher place, can elevate us in unique and lasting ways. 

But, as inspiring as melodies may be, it is often the words to a piece of music that serve as the greatest inspiration. Words which are meaningful when read or spoken impact us so much more deeply when they are set to music. The music combined with the words can become a driving force which grabs us and will not let go. 

I have often spoken from the bima of my personal musical hero, the late Harry Chapin, whose words and melodies move me no matter how many times I hear them. And, for the past few days, I have found myself listening and singing along to a song he wrote some 40 years ago in tribute to one of his mentors, a man whose life and words and music inspired so many for so many years but whom some apparently felt was just an “old folkie” whose time had passed. 

Here are some of Harry Chapin’s words of tribute and respect to this man’s enduring impact on our lives. What was true 40 years ago is still true today:

He’s the man with the banjo and the 12-string guitar.

And he’s singing us the songs that tell us who we are.

When you look in his eyes, you know he’s really in there.

Yeah, he knows where we’re going and where we been

And how the fog is gettin’ thicker where the future should begin.

When you look at his life, you know he’s really been there.

Old Folkie

They say he’s always bleedin’

But whenever somebody’s needing him,

He’s the one who cares.

It’s always the “Old Folkie”

Whenever something’s burning,

Or a lesson needs some learning,

Or a tide that needs some turning,

To a better world somewhere,

Yeah, the “Old Folkie’s” there.

He’s the man who put the meaning in the music book.

Yeah, the world may be tired but Pete’s still going strong.

He wrote this song in honor of Pete Seeger and now, after Pete’s death this past Monday at age 94, the words are so much more meaningful.

Pete Seeger was one of a kind. He was a musician who loved music for what it was, who was a musical scholar in so many ways, but who will always be best known for using his music to lift us up- to inspire, to encourage, to push us to dream and to act on our dreams. Taking up whatever cause needed him most, he sang for civil rights, for an end to the war in Vietnam, for the environment, for labor unions, for whoever needed him. 

Pete Seeger taught us about the power of music and the power of words. His words and melodies could pound like a hammer against injustice, ring like a bell to proclaim truth and were the songs which inspired so many of those musicians whom I grew up hearing. My older brother tried to teach me to appreciate the words of Peter Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs and so many others.  At first, I was too young to understand then but as I grew up and listened again and then found my own favorites, many of the same genre, I realized how sacred these words are. And, I realize now especially how the man I saw singing and playing his banjo at an informal concert in a park in Boston when I was 10 or 11 years old was such a mentor to the musical poets I love.  

I know some contemporary musicians take on social causes with their music and the fact that it just doesn’t seem the same to me is partly a sign of age and perspective. But, I fear that the tradition that Pete Seeger was such a big part of, maybe the biggest part of: using music to lift us up to a higher sense of social consciousness and responsibility seems to be rare these days. 

But, as long as there are cds and Itunes or youtube or whatever they called those flat black vinyl things, his music will live on after him and will inspire so many. And hopefully, it is not only the old folkies among us but the younger people too who will find meaning in these words set to music. 

Meanwhile, all of us who have been influenced by Pete Seeger will continue to listen to his words and will be inspired to write our own songs, our own poems and yes, even our own sermons with the goal of uplifting those who hear our words and bringing about the change in our world that he sang out for so loudly and clearly.

There is a Hassidic commentary on Parashat Terumah that it is not only the giver who was elevated by the contribution to the tabernacle, but God also was uplifted when people gave with the proper spirit.

When we sing the Hallel and sing it with all of our heart, God is uplifted as well. And, when the words and music of the dreamers and activists like Pete Seeger, inspire us to do small or big things to make this world a better place, God is surely uplifted.

But, this morning, words are not enough. I want us all to feel that inspiration again and by doing so, elevate each other and elevate the Kadosh Baruch Hu. And, maybe, those in the congregation this morning who are too young to know what I’ve been talking about for the last 10 minutes will look into the eyes of those who are singing and catch a glimpse of what it can mean when music moves us to a higher place and greater awareness of our responsibilities as human beings. Then, maybe later today your parents and grandparents can tell you a bit more about why this has been so important to us over the years. 

So, please join me in the song that many of us have been singing all week. I was going to print out the words and hand them out but I know you don’t need them. You all know these words written by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays.

Please join with me:

Here I led the congregation in the singing of If I Had A Hammer which many spontaneously stood up for, joining hands as they sang. It was quite a moment.

May the memory of Pete Seeger, continue to be an inspiration to all.  

The Middle of Hanukkah

           Hanukkah brings with it each year the retelling of the miraculous story of the past and, of course, the joy of light, laughter, presents (small or large), games, oily food and all the other things that make up the celebration of the festival.

           But Hanukkah is more than just a celebration of the past and of the present, it is also a statement for the future. The flames are symbolic of the hope for a renewed and strengthened spiritual life which brings light to our dark and our “ordinary” days. It is a hope for a world filled with increasing light, with joy and salvation spread to all.

           This year, as we reach the midpoint of Hanukkah, I urge you to look at the “half-lit” hanukkiah and see it as reflecting the teaching of our rabbis hat we should see the world as perfectly balanced between good and evil, salvation and destruction so that even one small act can tip the balance in the proper, constructive direction. 

I  hope you will take this occasion of the mid-point of the holiday as a time to pledge yourself to working for more meaning in your own lives and for more light and joy in the world at large. As you see the lights grow over the nights to come, take a moment to think about areas in your lives and in our world which desperately need more light and then, on each of the last nights of the holiday, dedicate the lighting of the candle to a symbolic meaning in addition to the traditional meaning of the holiday,

           You may decide to reflect on the struggles of the brave people of Ukraine. Perhaps you will dedicate one of the nights to expressing concern for the environmental dangers that threaten the world. One night, you might offer a prayer for peace in Israel and an end to the divisions and violence which has caught up so many for so long. Or, you may look around our nation and think about ways that you can be a person who brings people together rather than accentuate differences.

           On an personal level, you could see the candles as lighting your way to increased commitment to study over the year to come. Perhaps you will envision the promise that an upcoming simcha holds for you and your family. You might see the candle as a memory for a loved one who has died recently but whose presence you feel at the lighting of the hanukkiah.

           But whatever it is that you do each night, realize that prayer and symbolic commitment is meaningless without action. So, make sure that in addition to remembering people in need, you make that donation to tzedakah you’ve been meaning to do. If you have decided your life needs some a stronger spiritual component, commit to participating in some adult education programs or getting back to studying Torah. If you are looking forward to a simcha, start now to think about how others will benefit from your joy. If you are thinking about Israel, Ukraine or those here at home, take the time to engage, on whatever level, in political action to support the cause which is most meaningful to you.

           The Maccabees didn’t just sit back and imagine what the world could look like. They acted and then used the light to inspire them to further action.

           So, if you’ve celebrated a few days of Hanukkah by focusing on oil and latkes and presents, keep the joy and the light but try to envision a greater meaning for these lights.

           I wish you all a holiday season full of light and a happy and healthy 2023!


Today, November 26, 2022 is the 100th birthday of Charles Schulz, the creator of Peanuts. In tribute to him and to his extraordinary talent, I would like to share a sermon that I delivered in 2006 and published as part of my book The Long Way Around: Stories and Sermons from a Life’s Journey:



The source for my remarks today is not the Torah. But it has earned its own standing for me as a critical source of learning. For decades it has been a font of wisdom, insight, and meaning and will remain, I am sure, a source of learning and joy for generations to come. 

The source features situations to which we can all relate, introduces us to characters with whom we can all identify, showcases the talents and the weaknesses of human beings we all know, and always seems so perceptively to reflect the reality of our struggles to make sense out of our world.

We know the characters so well for they resemble us. Like us, they populate a world which at once is too big for them and yet which is just the right size. That they are children reminds us of our subservience to a presence greater than us. That they are in a world without visible adults reminds us that we decide our own destiny and cannot directly see that presence. We must depend on ourselves and on our own limited intelligence and experience to make sense of a world which is so rapidly changing around us as we grow. 

And we owe all of this insight to one man, one genius who, by sharing his talent with the world and displaying his soul so publicly, changed all of our lives. This man’s name was Charles Schulz.

I don’t imagine there is anyone who can honestly say: “I don’t like Peanuts.” Other art forms are more dramatic and more brilliant, but our world has never been the same since Charlie Brown came on the scene.

While I could go on for hours about my favorite Peanuts strip, I will share with you only one gem: my favorite Charlie Brown cartoon. 

Charlie Brown, Linus, and Lucy are lying on their backs looking up into the sky and Lucy asks the others to tell her what they see in the cloud formations.

Linus talks about the clouds looking like a map of British Honduras, the profile of a noted sculptor and “the stoning of Stephen … I can see the apostle Paul standing there to one side.”

And Lucy says: “Uh huh, that’s very good. What do YOU see in the clouds, Charlie Brown?”

And Charlie Brown says: “Well, I was going to say I saw a ducky and a horsey but I changed my mind.”

Charlie Brown’s answer at first seems so sad. You can’t but feel pity for him. He feels completely out of his league.

But then we notice something. Charlie Brown isn’t “thinking” this. He is saying it. He might have “changed his mind” but he said it anyway. I don’t think this is a sign of his well-documented “wishy-washiness.” Rather, I think it is a brilliant statement: “I was going to say it but changed my mind, but I honestly think you need to hear it anyway.” He looked at a younger friend who had seized the moment and impressed everyone with all that he knew, and Charlie Brown still said his simple piece and I love him for it. 

We need to think deeply about Judaism. Our Judaism needs to grow as we grow. We need, to the best of our ability, to look at the forms around us and utter statements of wisdom, linking events of today to those in the past, rattling off the names and ideas of the Jewish philosophers and artists, the thinkers and the poets, and relate them to that which swirls around us. We need to look up into the sky and understand the wisdom of the ages. 

But we need as well to remember that the wisdom of the ages is sometimes found in the simple stirrings of the human heart, in seeing the duckies and the horsies around us and not being afraid to say so. Wisdom can be found in seeing this world with childlike eyes no matter how old those eyes might be, in seeing and being satisfied with simple answers to complex questions, relating to a Judaism of the heart and the childlike wonder and joy of the world.

Sometimes, I fear, in our zeal to bring great meaning to our Judaism, we make it too difficult. Others often raise the bar so high that we are not comfortable responding, feeling that what we can add is not appreciated and not valued. Like Charlie Brown, we may feel like we should change our minds about saying what we feel. Unlike him, we may in fact swallow our words and remain silent.

May we always continue our serious investigation of all that Judaism is and all that it can be. May we struggle with Torah and grapple with ideas. May we fret or, God willing, rejoice over population studies and look for new spiritual awakenings. May we make great plans for ensuring our people’s future and bringing meaning to a new generation of Jews.

But we deprive ourselves when we do this. For the answers to our deepest questions as Jews, and as human beings, are often to be found in the simplest words and in the simplest, purest meaning. Those ideas can be voiced by anyone, no matter how much or how little they know about the intricacies of our faith, the language of our people, the words of ancient rabbis, or the current sociological theories. 

May we also find plenty of time to lie on our backs in the cool grass, look up into the sky and see the simplest of visions and then have the confidence to share them with others.

As we look for role models around us, let us learn from those whose examples shine for us in our contemporary world as well as those who came before us. And let us always look for role models in unexpected places. 

And so let us learn. 

From Schroeder, who played the most beautiful piano music with his talented hands on a toy piano, let us learn to take the simple instruments we have: our hands, our voices, our hearts, and make the most beautiful music, rising above all of our limitations to make the best use of the talents we have been given. 

From Linus, who carried his security blanket everywhere, let us learn to treasure the things which bring us security in the world: holding tight to family, friends, and faith to help us steer our way through the difficult days ahead. 

From Lucy, who showed brash chutzpah, let us learn to face this world with confidence but let us figure out a way to leave the arrogance behind and make room for others and respect them. 

From Pig Pen, who perpetually walked in a cloud of dust, let us really be a part of this world, let us get dirty helping others, let us feel the earth between our fingers and our toes, and let us rejoice in a love of the world we live in. 

From Charlie Brown, who always came back for more, let us learn to trust even if we get hurt on occasion, learn to dream even if the rest of the world laughs, and learn to get back on the pitcher’s mound again even after we get hit so hard that it knocks us over. 

Finally, from Snoopy, let us love our homes, let us love our meals, and let us always dance with joy and always, always let us dream great things. 



         This morning, I will begin by speaking about Abraham. Then, I will reflect on the memory of another critical figure in our history.

Earlier this morning, during the shacharit service, we sang together the paragraph before the recitation of the Sh’ma, Ahava Rabba and in that paragraph, we read these words: lillmod ulilamed, lishmor v’laasot. We commit ourselves lilmod, to learn, lilamed, to teach, lishmor v’laasot and I’ll treat these as one concept, to observe the commandments and do them. 

         Learning, Teaching and Doing. 

         Learning: Observing and coming to a conclusion, Teaching: Sharing that conclusion with others and Doing: making a practical difference in the world by bringing the lessons learned and taught into practice. 

         There are three midrashim in Bereshit Rabbah which portray Abraham as following this process of learning, teaching and doing. 

         The first midrash has Rabbi Yitzchak telling a story that Abraham was like a man traveling from place to place when he sees a building in flames. He says: “Is it possible that the building lacks a person to look after it?”

         The owner of the building looks out and says: “I am the owner of the building”

         Similarly, Abraham looks out and sees a world in flames from idolatry and hatred and responding to the urging of the owner of the world, God, resolves to dedicate his life to putting out the fire.

         Abraham has learned.

         The second midrash begins with a verse from Song of Songs: lirayach shimanecha hatovim, “Your ointments have a beautiful scent”. This midrash compares Abraham to a sealed vial of perfume lying in a corner. Until Abraham traveled following God’s command of Lech Lecha, the perfume of his commitment to influencing the world was sealed. Now, it is spread throughout the world as Abraham travels from place to place and influences all of those around him. 

         Abraham teaches.

         Finally, in the third midrash, the verse quoted is also from Song of Songs: Achot lanu kitana, “We have a little sister”. In this case the Midrash offers a pun on the word, achot, sister and says Abraham ichah, united, the world through changes that his teaching has brought.

         Abraham has done. 

         Learning, Teaching and Doing. Observing the world, sharing your perspective and leading the world to real change. 

         Tonight, we observe the 27th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, zichrono livracha

         Yitzchak Rabin was shot after speaking at a peace rally in Tel Aviv, a mass rally in favor of negotiating a “two state solution” to end the conflict with the Palestinians. 

         That Rabin was at that rally at all and that he sang the passionate peace song Shir LaShalom which said that peace can’t just be a dream but needs to come now, are evidence of his reading of the political reality of the time. But it also was evidence of this same process that Abraham, lihavdeel, followed: learning, teaching and doing. 

         After many years of leading Israel on the battlefield, Rabin saw the flames and concluded that he needed to lead his people in a different direction. So, he made difficult choices, including shaking hands with Yassir Arafat and speaking at this rally in order to influence more people given what he had learned: the reality of the need for such a peace agreement. 

         Of course, he- and Israel- never reached the third stage, doing, changing the world as the Midrash tells us that Abraham did. Rabin was tragically shot before he could continue his work and those who followed and tried to take this same path failed to make his stated dream of peace come true. The fault for the failures lies in so many factors, obviously not all Israel’s responsibility as we know that the Palestinians rejected many ideas for moving forward, but regardless, it never happened. And, we are all left to ponder, 27 years later:  “What is the status of Rabin’s dream?”

There were many then and clearly the majority now within Israel who, while loudly and clearly condemning the act of the assassin, did not or do not today support the idea of the two-state solution, thinking at best that it would be a wasted effort doomed to failure, at worst an existential threat to the State of Israel. 

         Security concerns are legitimate and since I don’t live in Israel, I defer to those who do to make evaluations relating to security. But the fact is that continuing the status quo means the continuation of the agonizing ethical and moral questions raised by the occupation and the lack of self-determination for Palestinians. In addition, the demographic reality threatens Israel’s vision of being a Democratic Jewish State based on Jewish values. 

         Then, there are many on the other end of the political spectrum who have given up on the two-state solution altogether and are proposing ideas for a “one state solution”, a confederation of some sort which would bring Israelis and Palestinians together in a different form of relationship.

         It sounds impressive but this path undermines the idea of a Jewish state, which can be defined in so many different ways but remains, I believe, an absolute essential aspect of Israel’s existence. 

         And, then sadly, I must add, there are those in Israel who openly consider Rabin to have been a traitor, a rodef, a pursuer of Jewish lives. Some defend his assassin and spew anti-Arab rhetoric and support horrendous acts of violence. As sad as it is that there have been these voices in Israel, it is the reality that some who have most clearly spread this type of poison and with it, exclusion of women from positions of political leadership and  horrendous anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and threats, are now a vital part of the equation in the results of Israel’s election and stand to be part of the government coalition. 

         This is an abomination and all who look to Israel as a reflection of Jewish values should abhor this and speak out clearly against it. It is a disgrace for a nation which presents itself as representing Jews throughout the world. 

         Now some nostalgia of a sad time but a time that had some hope as well. 

Turning the clock back 27 years, in my sermon on the Shabbat after Rabin’s assassination, I shared words that were written earlier that week by Thomas Friedman in the New York Times in an essay entitled; “How About You?”

            Friedman wrote about the fact that Rabin had made his choice to stand with those in favor of peace through territorial compromise. Friedman wrote: “We do not honor Mr. Rabin by avoiding that choice. We honor him by making that choice. We honor him by helping in every democratic way possible to enlarge the Israeli majority in favor of peace with the Arabs, because, as Mr. Rabin knew, that is the only hope for preserving a secure, democratic Jewish state. For everything there is a season and this is the season of choices. Yitzhak Rabin made his. How about you?”

         After quoting those words, I said: “And so, even though I know in my heart I have said it before, let me say it again clearly. The best way to honor Yitzhak Rabin is to speak out loudly in favor of this peace process which is Israel’s best hope for survival. We owe this great man who paid the ultimate price for the risk he took to be forthright in our choices and my choice is for this process to continue.”

         That was then and this is now and it is clear in so many ways that regarding the two-state solution, we are inclined to say that “That Ship has Sailed’ and in all honesty and candor, I am sad to admit that this may in fact be the case. 

         But the status quo of the occupation continues to be a refutation of Israel’s claim to be a democratic Jewish state and a country based on the foundation of ethical Jewish values. It continues to leave Palestinians in the territories without the self-determination that all people deserve. And I have yet to see a Plan B that addresses those realities.

         So, as distant a hope as this may be, I continue to hope in some way that Rabin’s goals, the goals he formulated but never saw to fruition will someday come to pass, in one form or another. 

         For now, all of us should mourn this man who learned, then taught but sadly was not able to make the practical difference in the world that he sought to make. 

         God willing, someone will come along who will.

          Please rise for a memorial prayer. 



In this week’s episode of my podcast, Wrestling and Dreaming, I shared a personal story and a prayer for the New Year. I encourage you to listen to the podcast but I wanted to share the prayer here.

I wrote the prayer in 2011 in celebration of the completion of my goal which I set for myself when I was 12, to be in all 50 states. It took 45 years but I succeeded!

I hope that you will find it thought provoking as we continue with the process of teshuva, repentance in anticipation of the New Year:

May we find meaning and inspiration all over the map this year.

In tribute to New Hampshire, the Granite State, may we be strong as a rock when faced with the difficulties and the tribulations of life. May we, in Bob Dylan’s words, have a strong foundation when the winds of changes shift. May we face the world with stubbornness and determination.

In tribute to Pennsylvania, the Keystone State, may we recognize the important and essential elements of our lives, those elements which hold our lives together, and protect them and nurture them. 

In tribute to Wisconsin, the Badger State, may we finally learn to stop annoying ourselves and others with constant complaints and criticism. We should let old arguments or disappointments go, find ways to offer gentle constructive criticism and always hold a mirror up before ourselves. But, we should also give ourselves a break because badgering ourselves can sometimes be as bad as badgering others.

And, then, in tribute to Tennessee, the Volunteer state, may we take the time we save from not badgering ourselves and others and use that time to make the lives of others better, volunteering our time, our energy, our resources to make this a better world. 

And when we take a break from volunteering, in tribute to Kentucky, the bluegrass state, let us take pleasure in the music that moves us: whether opera, rock, country or whatever. May we find our lives calmed and sweetened by the melodies and rhythms life presents to us. And if you’re not a music lover and the garden is more your style of a place to relax, you can thank New Jersey for that inspiration. 

In tribute to Montana, the treasure state, may we always recognize that life is a treasure and one to be cherished and embraced at all times.

And, in tribute to Oklahoma, the Sooner State, may we stop procrastinating and make these changes now. 

Finally, in celebration of Alaska, may we never think we’ve reached the last frontier for no matter what accomplishments we have achieved, no matter how many goals we’ve attained, no matter how many long standing objectives we’ve crossed off our list, there is always another goal and another dream waiting around the next bend in the road. 

Shana Tova to everyone.


         In this week’s episode of my podcast Wrestling and Dreaming: Engaging Discussions on Judaism (, I shared a favorite text which I encountered for the first time a little more than fifteen years ago. As I explained in the podcast, I think the text reflects some of the most basic statements of Jewish thought and the wisdom of our people through the ages. 

         So, it is ironic is that the text is not from a Jewish source. I discovered the text during our trip to Alaska in 2006. We spent a day in the town of Barrow- now known by the name Utquiavik- the northernmost town in the United States, on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. While there, I picked up a pamphlet which included a statement of “The Values of the Inupiat Eskimo People” published by the North Slope Borough School District in Barrow.

         This statement of values is truly inspiring and thought provoking and, in so many ways, reflects who we are as Jews. I say this not because I believe that there is any specific connection between the Inupiat Eskimos and Jews but because these are values shared by so many peoples and that inspires me. Hearing these same values said in different ways than we might say them is an opportunity to re-engage with the ideas.

         As we enter the month of Elul and the High Holy Day season and we consider more seriously the tradition of teshuvah, repentance and return to the proper path in life, these statements of values encourage us to consider the direction of our lives in accordance with the principles of our traditions. 

         In the podcast, I simply stated the values of the Inupiat people as expressed in this document and pointed out that I would post some further commentary on this website. So, here are some of those Inupiat values and some thoughts on how we as Jews have expressed some of the same ideas. 

         “Though the environment is harsh and cold, our ancestors learned to live with warmth, kindness, caring and compassion.” 

         As Jews we have lived throughout the world and the environment we have experienced has often been harsh and cold in many ways, most notably in the way we were treated by others. 

         Yet, from the time of the Torah, our tradition has taught us that we must learn from our experience and care for each other and for those who suffer persecution and degradation with caring and compassion. The most frequently taught law in the Torah is the commandment to care for the stranger because we know the soul of the stranger. 

         Although the surroundings have been harsh, we have been taught to live with warmth and compassion. 

         “Our Elders model our traditions and ways of being. They are a light of hope to younger generations. May we treat each other as our Elders have taught us.” 

         In the Torah we read: “Ask your father and he will tell you; your elders and they will tell you. (Deuteronomy 32:7)” The wisdom of our elders must inspire us. We respect and embrace the concept of “dor l’dor”, generation to generation, not only meaning the continuity of tradition but meaning as well continuing the search for wisdom. Our ancestors did not have all the answers but they gave to us the basis for the wisdom that we employ in our lives. 

         We truly stand on the shoulders of giants and, as Jews, we respect the wisdom of the ages, even as we shape that wisdom to the realities of our world.

         “It is amazing how sharing works. Your acts of giving always come back.”

         There is a beautiful tradition in Jewish thought: “s’char mitzvah mitzvah”, the reward for the observance of a commandment is another commandment.

         There are many ways to understand this statement but one of the ways is to understand that when we perform an act of kindness, we often find that that kindness is returned to us. 

         Here, I can share a brief story. In 1982, I and my rabbinical school colleague, Rabbi Allan Berkowitz, traveled to the former Soviet Union on a mission of outreach to “refuseniks”, those Jews who had been refused permission to leave the USSR for Israel and had suffered terrible persecution because of their decision to apply for emigration. 

         We came to the USSR with the intent to teach and to inspire but found ourselves in Kishinev (now Chisinau, Moldova), on erev Pesach, without a place to attend a Seder after having failed to make a connection with any of the families in the city.

         We were standing on the doorstep of the last home on our list when suddenly the door opened before we even knocked, and we were brought into the home and down to the basement where the Seder was held away from the prying eyes of the police. 

         We came as the ones intending to do the good deed. But, instead, the good deed came back to us. And, after keeping in contact with the family and advocating for them continuously, we were able to return the mitzvah by welcoming the family to freedom. 

         Truly, “acts of giving always come back”.

         “With our language we have an identity.” 

         The native community of Utkiavik takes great effort to teach the native language to its children. Language is so critical for any community. 

This is an opportunity for me to stress the importance of Hebrew in our Jewish consciousness. The Hebrew language, our ancient and now renewed language, binds us to our past and to our brothers and sisters throughout the world. I can not urge anyone reading these words strongly enough to learn or improve their familiarity and comfort with the language of our people because it provides us with a key to our identity that is impossible to measure. 

Indeed, laughter is the best medicine.”

I love this statement. As we enter into Elul and think about Teshuvah, we should take a moment to take a deep breath and realize that many times what is most important is to not take ourselves too seriously. A good laugh, a great smile and an embrace of the world can help us get through many situations in life.

Finally, one last statement from the text: 

“Our creator gave us the gift of our surroundings. Those before us placed ultimate importance on respecting this magnificent gift for their future generations.”

         The idea of all that we have in our world as a gift from our Creator is the basis for all that we are as Jews and as human beings. We must place ultimate importance on respecting and using wisely that which we have been given. This applies to the miracles around us and the miracles of our own lives. 

         There are other value statements which I quote on the podcast but these are the most important principles and the ones which I feel reflect best the questions and challenges we should consider most deeply as the new year approaches. It is truly a blessing to discover wisdom from another source and realize the commonalities between human beings.

Happy National Dog Day!

Today, August 26, has been designated as National Dog Day and, from my perspective, it is a great day to celebrate.

Like so many others, I love dogs- of all sizes and of all breeds. Like so many others, I can’t resist asking if I can “say hello” to a dog I pass on the street. I volunteer at our local Humane Society as a dog walker and have found over and over again how easy it is to fall in love with a dog at first sight. Truly, as my wife, Ellen, likes to say: “God certainly got dogs right.”

But, as much as I love all dogs, there is a special place in my heart for our dogs.

We have had the privilege of sharing our home with 3 dogs and each brought something so special and so unique to our home.

Our first dog, Silky, was a cross between a Chocolate Lab and a German Short Hair Pointer. She actually was Ellen’s dog as she had adopted her before we met. But, Silky quickly took kindly to me and soon became my dog as well.

Silky was so incredibly smart. She understood so many words that we often had to spell things out if we didn’t want her to react. She was very protective of us and of our kids when they were born. But, she always was very kind and sweet to those she would meet on the street (unless the person was driving a UPS truck- for some reason she couldn’t stand UPS trucks).

She was also very sensitive. She knew when we needed comforting and I will always remember walking into our house when I returned from Boston where I had been sitting shiva for my father. Silky, who by then, was a very old dog who had some trouble walking, picked herself up off the floor, walked over to me and sat next to me, quietly letting me hug her and pet her which was such a comfort. When she died two months later, I cried like I had never cried before in my life.

We will remember her always.

Our second dog was Benny, the yellow Lab. What a gentleman he was! We adopted him from the shelter a week after the 9/11 attacks and he brought such comfort to our family.

Benny was not the brightest dog but he had a heart of gold and, unlike both of our other dogs, didn’t strive to be a person. He was satisfied being a dog, sleeping on the floor, not begging for (or stealing) our food. When our kids’ friends would come over to the house, Benny wanted to be right in the middle of the action, lying in the line of fire of pillow fights or dress-up games.

There are many Benny stories I could tell but I will share one which I have told to very few people. One summer, we took a group from the synagogue to Israel on a two week trip. The first week of the trip had been fantastic but very tiring and on the first Shabbat we spent in Israel, I lied down for an afternoon nap and fell into a very deep sleep. While asleep, I had one of the most intense and realistic dreams that I ever had. I dreamed that I had come home from Israel to visit and stood on our front porch and, in the dream, I started to knock on the door when I suddenly woke up with a start.

It was such a realistic dream that it took me a few moments to remember where I was and clear my head and suddenly, I missed home so much that I picked up the phone to call Ellen at home. When she answered, she asked to me wait a moment and I could hear a lot of commotion. She came back to the phone and told me that, for some reason, Benny was sitting at the front door, wagging his tail, and making sweet, soft barking noises. Ellen told me she couldn’t get Benny away from the front door. She said it was like he saw someone there but there was no one at the door. She couldn’t understand it.

When I told her about the dream I had just had, we both just sat on the phone in silence.

Dogs are so perceptive and our souls are really tied with theirs.

And then, finally, there is our current dog, Sami. After Benny died in 2010, we said we didn’t think we wanted to bring another dog into the house but the house was too quiet and as our daughter said: “It isn’t a Dobrusin house without a dog”.

So, a few months later, we saw Sami on the website for a shelter and fell in love with her at first sight.

Sami is a real “mixed breed”, part beagle, part German shepherd, part lab and all goodness and sweetness. She has calmed down from being the nutty, crazy dog she was when she was younger but she still has a smile that can melt my heart. She doesn’t like other dogs but she has human friends around the neighborhood who know her and love her.

Each morning when she wakes up, Sami thanks us with that loving smile but it is we that should thank her for the love she shows us each day.

So, for me, National Dog Day is a day to celebrate, a day to thank God and the human beings who centuries ago, brought these “wolves” into their homes and hearts and gave us all best friends forever.

Shabbat Shalom.