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A Reform Jewish Community for all of Tucson
225 North Country Club • Tucson, AZ 85716
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Yom Chamishi, 8 Tishri 5775

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September 25, 2014

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon, Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, AZ

An artist goes to the gallery where his work is displayed. The gallery owner tells him: "I've got good news and bad news for you."

"Tell me the good news first," the artist says.

"The good news is that a man came into the gallery yesterday, asking if I thought the price of your paintings would go up after you die – and, when I told him yes, he proceeded to buy every piece of your art in the gallery."

"Great!" says the artist, "And what's the bad news?"

And the gallery owner answers, "The bad news is: that man is your doctor."

Read more: Rosh Hashanah Morning 5775: The Bad News/Good News About Anti-Semitism, Shmittah, and Unity

September 24, 2014

Rabbi Batsheva Appel, Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, AZ

One of the downsides of being a rabbi is that people complain to me... about other congregations. I remember being at my cousin's wedding and listening to a distant relative complain bitterly about his synagogue's expectations of his son who was to become bar mitzvah that year. The synagogue is being entirely unreasonable, he said, given that his son is playing on a Little League team that will very likely go to Williamsport, Pennsylvania and win the Little League Baseball World Series. His son has to be at practice, he cannot go to mid-week Hebrew. His son has to be at games, he cannot go to Sunday School. His family cannot be expected to attend services. My relative set up private tutoring for his son, but the synagogue is still making what he thinks are unreasonable demands.

Read more: Erev Rosh Hashanah 5775: Let's Have a Catch

July 11, 2014

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon, Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, AZ

This has been a very difficult ten days or so for Jews everywhere, but especially so for Israel and for all of us who love her. So much has happened in such a short period of time that it is worth recapping it all, painful as it may be.

After the bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli teens were found early last week, brutally murdered and left under a pile of rocks, an Arab teen was also brutally murdered—burned alive—a few days later, and the Israeli police arrested and charged six ultra-Orthodox teens with the crime, and they confessed. Arab riots took place in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in response, and then a video on the internet also showed Israeli Border Police brutally beating the cousin of the murdered teen, a teenage American from Florida, and more riots broke out. The Israeli roundup of Hamas activists and terrorists in the West Bank collected about 500 prisoners, Hamas fired rockets from Gaza in response, and then engaged in a competition with Islamic Jihad elements in Gaza to see who could fire more rockets farther into Israel. The Israeli Air Force bombed targets all through Gaza, destroying the homes of many Hamas leaders without killing many of them, although some Hamas terrorists and more civilians were killed.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad rockets reached but failed to damage the rumored Israeli nuclear site of Dimona, as well as Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Zichron Ya'akov in the north. Iron Dome missile defense batteries successfully shot down many rockets, while others struck unoccupied areas. Israel targeted Hamas leaders, and killed one in charge of their rocket arsenal, but otherwise seems to be unable to reach Hamas military commanders who are holed up in tunnels under Gaza. Israel mobilized some of its reserves for a potential ground offensive in Gaza. While various parties counseled restraint and de-escalation, the UN mobilized too, in order to criticize Israel.

It's a mess, and for Israelis headed for bomb shelters on a regular basis for the first time in years this is a very, very disturbing turn of events.

Read more: Pinchas 5774: The Rockets Red Glare: Heat and Light from Israel and Gaza

May 23, 2014

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon, Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, AZ

Shabbat Shalom. As you have heard very humorously in our drash tonight, in most ways Bamidbar is a stupendously dull portion, one of the least superficially interesting Torah portions of the entire year. After all, it's nothing more than a series of lists, a counting, a census of people. How many were in the tribe of Reuben, head by head, one by one, age twenty and over, all who are able to go out to war? 46,500. How many were in the tribe of Shimon, head by head, one by one, age twenty and over, all who are able to go out to war? 59,300. How many in the tribe of Gad, Judah, Issachar, Zevulun, Ephraim, Menasseh, Benjamin, Dan, Asher, Naphtali, head by head, one by one, age twenty and over, all who are able to go out to war, on and on, thousands upon thousands, all counted one at a time? Numbers and numbers and numbers, added together, a Torah portion only an accountant could love.

On closer examination, it looks—well, even less intriguing. More details about the arrangement of the camp. More minutiae relating to the census. Nothing with the vaguest whiff of interest or challenge or meaning.

In fact, when you come right down to it, it looks a whole lot like the regulations for the establishment of a census. Count each and every person carefully, total them up, move on to the next area or region. Each and every single individual is tallied. A good process for the statisticians, but what can it possibly mean to us? Does the annual reading of Bamidbar explain why there are so many Jewish CPA's?

Read more: Bamidbar 5774: Jewish Accounting for God

May 16, 2014

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon, Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, AZ

This week's Torah portion of Bechukotai describes both wonderful promises given to our ancestors if they fulfilled God's mitzvot and kept the covenant, and a long litany of punishments if they failed to do so. The blessings guarantee that if we follow God's commandments we will be a blessing to the peoples of the world. The curse section is called the Tochecha, and this sequence of often viciously negative consequences for our ancestors, and by extension, for us, came to mind this week when I heard of a new study that had just been released about anti-Semitism, surely the world's longest-lived irrational hatred and the one with some of the worst consequences in all of human history.

This first worldwide study of the ancient disease of anti-Semitism was commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League, and completed by First International Resources. It interviewed roughly 53,000 people in over 100 countries, which statistically represents some 88% of the world's population. In the story that came out on Wednesday of this week, the study found that about a quarter of the entire population of the world is pretty deeply infected with Anti-Semitism, a stunning number in view of the fact that the entire Jewish population of the world is roughly 14 million, or less than ½ of 1% of the world's total of 7.2 billion. That means that over a billion people in the world today have anti-Semitic attitudes.

Read more: Bechukotai 5774: A New Tochecha -- Worldwide Anti-Semitism Today

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