| Clergy Corner

CLERGY CORNER: For such a time as this

Posted on 16 May 2019 by LeslieM

My wife and I love to spend Saturday mornings drinking coffee at the beach, as we watch the boats going out through the inlet for a day of deep sea recreation. When the coffee is gone, we usually take a leisurely stroll down to the Deerfield Beach Pier, as we enjoy the beautiful beach, the early morning sun and the surf. One morning, we were blessed to see sea turtles hatching; another day, we watched the pelicans repeatedly diving to catch fish; and, some days, the best entertainment comes in watching people.

Recently, we were enjoying an early morning walk and noticed the surf was a little more rough than normal. The tide was in, the waves were breaking closer to shore, and there was a large amount of seaweed. The clear path of firm sand along the shoreline was more narrow than normal and we were cautiously watching so as not to step on any man o’ war. We fixed our gaze on the ground in front of us.

I began to notice the footprints in the sand. I observed the small footprints of children, the large footprints of adults, footprints revealing those who were pigeon-toed, those with crooked toes and so on. Regardless of the size and shape of the footprint, they all had something in common – they were only there for a few moments and then washed away by the waves. I was reminded of James 4:14“For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”

I mentioned my observation to my wife and soon we had both stood still to watch the footprints being formed and then the waves washing them away. It was one of those “aha!” moments in my life. It dawned on me how short life really is. I realized that the impression I make in this world is here only for a moment. Others will come behind me and never realize that I had walked before them. I was walking where others walked previously. I found myself asking the question, “What is my life? Will my effort really make any difference or does it simply fade away never to be noticed by those who come after me?” I must admit that I found myself slightly discouraged for a moment, since I pour my heart and soul into everything I do.

In those moments, it was as though God was teaching me one of the most valuable lessons of my life. I immediately thought of Mordecai’s words to Queen Esther, “…who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Mordecai knew that God had prepared Esther for what needed to be done in that exact time – not in the past and not in the future; but for that exact moment in time. Matthew instructed us not to worry about tomorrow. Solomon stated “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up”

As I stood there on the shoreline gazing at those footprints, I realized that God only wants me to consider the work He has trusted me with today — not the past, nor the future. He placed me here “for such a time as this.” We cannot change the past, nor can we dictate the future, as it applies to family, ministry, work or any other area of life. Be encouraged, realizing that God only asks us to be faithful to the task He has entrusted us with today.

Dr. Gary A. Colboch is Lead Pastor at Grace Church (501 NE 48 St. in Pompano Beach). 954-421-0190 or pastor@gbcfl.org.

Comments Off on CLERGY CORNER: For such a time as this

CLERGY CORNER: Poway and the Struggle for America’s Soul

Posted on 02 May 2019 by LeslieM

A portion of text written By Tzvi Freeman for Chabad.org in memory of the tragic events at the Chabad in Poway. Submitted by Rabbi Tzvi Dechter

If you’re a Jew in America today, there’s a good chance you’re concerned. First, the largest hate-driven massacre of Jews in American history occurred in Pittsburgh. Then, precisely six months later, with an almost identical fingerprint of hatred, was a deadly attack on a synagogue in Poway, California.

Whose problem is this?

The Jewish people are no weaker for these attacks. Synagogues are not about to empty out because of a handful of disturbed, poisoned minds and much to the contrary. As for those whose lives were taken, all very special Jews, all missed terribly: Don’t call them victims. There’s an honored title in Jewish tradition for any Jew who lost his or her life simply for being a Jew: a Kadosh, a holy Jew. Jews don’t die as victims; we die with dignity. That is why we are still alive.

My contention is that this is not a Jewish problem. It’s the world’s problem. Both these attacks, along with many other violent crimes of hatred in recent years are symptoms of a malicious disease spreading unabated in America, in Europe, and in the world at large. But that’s a problem that we, as Jews, are going to have to assist in healing, for our own best interest, as well as for the interest of this country and for the entire world.

America is suffering. According to FBI figures, hate crimes rose 17 percent last year, with similar increases over the previous two years — all this while other forms of violent crime continue to decrease. Something’s wrong.

Jews are an obvious target. Like the canary in the coal mine, we tend to get hit the hardest. And, yes, these are acts of rabid Anti-Semitism. But, if we want to solve anything, we need to take a broader perspective. Muslims, Christians and others have been under siege as well. Just a few days before the Poway shooting, a young war veteran plowed into a crowd crossing the street in Sunnyvale, CA. He told police he thought they were Muslims. Is there a medicine for this plague?

In the 60s, 70s and 80s, violence was increasingly on the rampage in America in a way not seen since the days of the Wild West. Ideas for quick fixes and long-term solutions abounded. The Rebbe’s prescription, unique and counterintuitive, was this: Fix the education system. How? Introduce a moment of silence every day into the school curriculum and take it seriously.

Why do I think that’s a good fit for today’s plague of hate-driven violence?

Think about it: America is divided over gun law restrictions, yet there is one point that enjoys universal consensus: Gun restrictions alone are not enough because the problem is not the gun. The problem is the mind of the person that holds the gun.

What has the American school done for the mind of that criminal?

We taught him how human beings first appeared on the planet. Did we teach him to be a human being [or] to respect another human being?

We taught him to use his mind to solve problems with numbers. Did we teach him to apply his mind — rather than his fists to solve problems with people?

We taught him anatomy. Did we teach him that a human life is more than the sum of blood, guts and bones? Or did we, perhaps, inadvertently, teach him that the notion of a human soul has no place in the educated mind?

We taught him about laws and prisons. Did we teach him that even if you’re so smart that you don’t get caught, you’re still wrong? Did we give him a conscience?

Did we ever demonstrate to him that these are the things that really matter in life — more than math, more than science, even more than the niftiest technology? Did we ever give him a chance to stop and think about himself, about his life, about his family, about everything that bothers him in life? Is there a space and time for thinking about life in his school?

That’s all that a moment of silence in school is about. And, yes, it works wonders. Ask those who work in schools where it’s been implemented.

They will tell you that a moment of silence means that a child will go home and ask [parents] what he should think about. It means that a child will share with his teacher the troubles he’s going through. It means the school becomes a place not just for the child’s mind, but for his heart and his soul.

Jews have to adapt to the times. The knee-jerk reaction, reinforced through thousands of years of history, has been to huddle down and strengthen the internal steel grid when under attack. But America in 2019 is not Shushan, not Rome, not medieval Spain, not Poland.

It’s that attitude that prompted some Jews to believe that if Judaism were to be safe in America, G d had to be kicked out of public school. They failed to realize that, in the times we live in, the opposite is true. A moral society demands a notion of an objective, supreme judge, an “eye that sees and an ear that hears”—even if you don’t get caught by the police or the media. When that notion is lost, so is America’s soul, and that’s when the madness begins.

A moment of silence doesn’t impose prayer or belief in a Creator on anyone. But it opens the child’s mind to search for meaning, and, hopefully, for G d’s presence in the world. And there’s a good chance the child will talk to parents and grandparents, and discover that they once had faith in their lives.

True, Anti-Semitism never died, even in America, but here we have a voice, a well-respected voice, and, therefore, a responsibility to our host country. Isn’t this why we were given a Torah? Isn’t this the core mission of our people here in this world — to be a light to the nations, who will finally come to realize that the world has a Creator who cares about how we treat His world?

We can use our voices to heal America. Let America’s schools nurture the humanness of America’s children. Let children know the meaning of silence, just enough silence that they can hear their own hearts pounding inside. Let America have a soul again.

This Saturday, join us in solidarity with the call of the Chabbad emissary, R Yisroel Goldstein of Poway; Jewish communities are filling the synagogues with pride, strengh and joy!

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches, located in the Venetian Isle Shopping Center at 2025 E. Sample Rd. in Lighthouse Point. For all upcoming events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com.


Comments Off on CLERGY CORNER: Poway and the Struggle for America’s Soul

CLERGY CORNER: The world’s greatest comeback!

Posted on 25 April 2019 by LeslieM

The world loves a good comeback story! On Sunday, April 14, Tiger Woods won his fifth Masters Tournament. After going 11 years without winning any major championships, suffering through a scandal and divorce, being arrested for suspected DUI, and having three back surgeries that hampered his golfing ability, Tiger roared back to the delight and surprise of the world. Though his true fans always had hope, many experts and sports commentators had written Tiger off. They said he was finished; they said he was a washed-up player whose best years were behind him; they looked to newer and younger pros like Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth. His 11-year drought and difficulty finding his rhythm after the back surgeries convinced them that Tiger Woods’ championship days were a thing of the past. But rejecting the negative prognostications of the naysayers, fighting through the pain of his back problems, and persisting despite the failures of his previous attempts, Tiger made a dramatic comeback!

One day later, Monday, April 15, during game two of the Western Conference playoffs, the LA Clippers fought their way back from a 31-point deficit to beat the Golden State Warriors 135-131. The effort broke the previous NBA finals comeback record held by the LA Lakers, who rallied from 29 points behind to defeat Seattle in the 1989 Western Conference semis. One news headline described the Clippers’ win over the Warriors as the NBA’s biggest playoff comeback. Somehow, the Clippers had managed to fight their way back from certain defeat against the defending champion Warriors in a stunning upset victory. What made the win even more remarkable is the fact that the Warriors team boasts several superstar players (Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green), whereas the Clippers boast no major talent. Like David facing the invincible Goliath, the Clippers (on that night) brought down the mighty Warriors and gave the world of sports another great comeback story.

This past Sunday, the Christian church celebrated what is arguably the world’s greatest comeback. Some 2,000 years ago, the historical Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross as punishment for claiming to be the Son of God. His enemies had rejected Him and plotted His downfall even though He operated with undeniable power. Judas betrayed Him, His disciples forsook Him, and the crowds that heralded Him on Sunday demanded His crucifixion on Friday. It looked like all hope was lost; it seemed like His work was all in vain; it even appeared that God had turned His back on Him. But He had predicted: destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again (see John 2:19). And early Sunday morning, He got up from the grave just as He said. In so doing, He made it possible for mankind to be reconciled to God. If you confess the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved (Romans 10:9).

The Genesis account of creation reveals that the unique relationship that Adam and Eve shared with God in the Garden of Eden was severed when they ate the forbidden fruit. Consequently, all of humanity was positioned as rebellious against God, made slaves to sin, and in need of redemption. The only remedy was a sacrifice of blood by a spotless lamb. Jesus was that lamb slain for the sins of the world. His death paid the price and His resurrection certified that sin’s power was broken. We no longer have to hide from God like Adam and Eve did after they sinned, we can enjoy fellowship with Him. We’re no longer destined for His wrath, but we are the objects of His love. It was the greatest comeback! Jesus’ resurrection also inspires us to push past personal failures and setbacks in the hopes of recovery and restoration. As He suffered, He is qualified to help those who are suffering (see Hebrews 2:18). He turned His tragedy into triumph, and He can help you to do the same. Put your trust in Him and you may discover that your setback was really a set up for a great comeback.

Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. 954-427-0302.

Comments Off on CLERGY CORNER: The world’s greatest comeback!

CLERGY CORNER: Until we meet again

Posted on 18 April 2019 by LeslieM

It seems strange to begin an article about Easter talking about Christmas. However, I do begin most of my Christmas sermons talking about Easter. Usually, I start my Christmas sermon by saying something like “Today, we celebrate the second most important Christian holiday.” You should see the looks of confusion I get. Then, I say “Without Easter, today would just be another birthday.”

It is true. Without the Crucifixion and Resurrection; without Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we would be left with words and miracles from the greatest man who ever lived. But because of Easter, we celebrate his words, his miracles, his death and resurrection, and the promise that awaits us in God’s glorious kingdom.

In our culture, my statement is still quite jarring. We like Christmas, regardless of who we are, believer and non-believer alike loves presents, Santa, Christmas trees, cookies. Christmas has become so secularized that you can listen to hours of Christmas music and never hear of the birth of Jesus. Some people even avoid the word “Christmas” altogether.

You really can’t do that with Easter. Sure, there is a bunny and chocolate eggs and a couple of Peter Cottontail songs. But Easter doesn’t get the same attention as Christmas. I think this is good. Without the Resurrection, Easter would be all chocolate and jelly beans. Easter gives meaning to Easter.

I think about the years that I have served as a pastor, 25 years this coming September. I think about the privilege and joy that I have had meeting wonderful, wise, generous, lively and loving people. I think about how much better my life is because of the people I served, knew and loved. Many have died and their legacy lives in my heart.

Easter is the promise that I will see them again. Easter is the joyful reminder that they are with the Lord. This blessed assurance gives me the consolation that helps me go from day to day. Easter reminds me that the friends who I know and love now will be my friends forever.

Dear people of Deerfield Beach (and beyond), this will be my last Easter at Zion Lutheran Church. I am returning to my home with my family. Zion has been a wonderful congregation to serve and I have made lifelong friends not only at Zion, but in this community that I love so dearly. It is going to be an emotional Easter for me, but, because of Easter, I know that I never really have to say goodbye. Because of Easter, I can simply say “Until we meet again.”

So, Deerfield Beach and surrounding communities, I say on behalf of Zion and myself “Blessed Easter.” And, Because of Easter, I can say “Until we meet again.”

Pastor Gross is a pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, located at 959 SE 6 Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-421-3146 or visit www.zion-lutheran.org.

Comments Off on CLERGY CORNER: Until we meet again

CLERGY CORNER: Over entertained and under challenged!

Posted on 11 April 2019 by LeslieM

It’s been many years since I first heard Andy Stanley make the statement, “Today’s teenagers are over entertained and under challenged.” His sermon, preached at First Baptist Church of Atlanta, was addressing the way so many churches were approaching student ministry and measuring success by the numbers. His observation was correct back then, and it is still correct today.

In a church culture that measures success almost solely by numbers, it only makes sense that youth pastors are prone to entertaining students and striving to gather the masses in order to be viewed as successful. Sadly, the same entertainment mentality is true with adults. Too many adults choose a church based on the length of the services, whether the church has a softball team, how humorous the pastor is, and whether or not they like the music. These superficial factors show the shallowness plaguing the Christian church today.

The long-term effects of the entertainment focus in ministry can be seen in the spiritual adolescence prevalent among today’s believers. We are in dire need of discipleship. The effectiveness of discipleship can be measured by whether or not those who call themselves disciples begin to disciple others. In essence, the student should eventually become the teacher. But, how is someone who has been over entertained and under challenged supposed to gain the knowledge necessary to teach? The Apostle Paul describes this dilemma in Hebrews 5:12-14 NIV“ In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”

Not only has the focus on entertainment in ministry caused a shallowness of knowledge, but it has also resulted in fewer people being exposed to real ministry opportunities. Churches used to “do“ ministry, go on mission trips, serve their communities, and impact their world. That exposure to ministry often resulted in growing churches and people surrendering to become vocational ministers. Today, fewer people are entering vocational ministry, seminary enrollment has declined nationally, as well as church attendance across denominational lines. The common denominator is that too many church-goers have been and continue to be over entertained and under challenged.

So, which word best describes the church you attend – “entertainment” or “discipleship?” It’s never too late to start challenging others to grow spiritually. Jesus challenged 12 men, and in just three years He prepared them to impact eternity! Think how different the world would have been if He only entertained them. Think how different our world could be, if today’s churches will rise up and challenge those who God has entrusted to us!

Dr. Gary A. Colboch is Lead Pastor at Grace Church (501 NE 48 St. in Pompano Beach). Contact info: 954-421-0190 or
pastor@gbcfl.org.

Comments Off on CLERGY CORNER: Over entertained and under challenged!

CLERGY CORNER: Three necessary items for internal liberation: Wine, Maror, Matzah

Posted on 04 April 2019 by LeslieM

The three most important ingredients at the seder table [for Passover] are the wine, matzah and maror (bitter herbs) for these three items capture the three foundational ideas that can allow us to set ourselves free.

A) The first step is wine. Wine possesses deep potency.

“When wine enters, secrets come out,” says the Talmud. 

Wine represents the “secrets” in us — for wine itself is a “secret:” It is initially hidden and concealed within the grape, and it takes much labor to extract it from the source; the grapes have to be crushed and the wine to ferment. Wine, an intoxicating beverage, represents the deeply concealed powerful forces lingering within the human psyche.

The first step in setting yourself free is realizing how much more there is to you than what meets the eye. You must recognize your potential — what you were really meant to be, what you are capable of becoming — for you to break out of the chains.

B) This comes together with step two — maror, which represents the bitterness caused by slavery. In order to set yourself free, you have to be able to stare the pain you endured in the face. Repressing pain and making believe it does not exist, only buries it deeper into our psyche. On the night of our freedom, we have to return to the “maror.” We must gaze into our pain, feel it, sense it, grieve for our hurt and, then, as we are staring into the pain, we will find the inner, secret spark of hope and light buried within it.

If we avoid the pain, we can’t discover its inner light. Only when we gaze at it, can we extract the ember hidden within the ashes.

C) Then we have the critical step of matzah. We eat the matzah, says the Haggadah, because the Jews did not have time to wait until the dough had risen; they rushed out of Egypt. I want to ask you … They waited for 210 years… They could not wait another few hours? What was the rush? And even if they were in a rush, why is that such a central theme in the narrative that for thousands of years we are eating only matzah and avoiding all leavened bread? What happened to the virtue of patience?

Answer: The greatest enemy to setting yourself free is delaying things: tough decisions and bold moves. The message of matzah is when it comes to setting yourself free, you have no time to wait even an extra 18 minutes. Do it now! Make that call now. Send that e-mail now. Make that move now. Set up that meeting now. Make that decision now. Start the new behavior now. Confront the situation now. Start doing it now. If it is worth doing, then do it now. Because, as my Rebbe would say, “We want Moshiach NOW.” We want redemption now.

Community Passover Seder — R.S.V.P. at www.JewishLHP.com.

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches, located in the Venetian Isle Shopping Center at 2025 E. Sample Rd. in Lighthouse Point. For all upcoming events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

Comments Off on CLERGY CORNER: Three necessary items for internal liberation: Wine, Maror, Matzah

CLERGY CORNER: Watch your mouth!

Posted on 28 March 2019 by LeslieM

President Calvin Coolidge was known to be a man of very few words. He was nicknamed “Silent Cal” because of this propensity. His wife, Grace, once related the story of a young woman who happened to be seated next to her husband at a dinner party. The young woman told the president that she had made a bet with a friend that she could get at least three words of conversation from him. President Coolidge quietly responded, “You lose.” He had learned and mastered the art of carefully selecting words that kept his responses brief and to the point. It is a skill that we would do well to develop for use in our conversations and communications with each other. Mature people have learned not to utter everything that comes to their minds, especially in heated and emotional conversations. They have realized that there is a responsibility that comes with speech and thereby they choose their words carefully.

In a world where passions are easily inflamed by the words that we use, James 3:5 reminds us just how dangerous loose lips and an unrestrained tongue can be. It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that (MSG).

In recent months, we’ve seen images of the awesome devastation caused by fires in California. Thousands of acres burned up, numerous homes and neighborhoods devastated, and the heartbreak of families that have lost everything. It is reported that the 2018 wildfire season was the deadliest and has caused the greatest destruction on record in California. When you consider that a tiny spark can produce a raging inferno in nature you can begin to understand the destructive power of the tongue.

How many friendships have been ruined, lives irreparably damaged, marriages broken, fights erupted and wars declared because of the negative potential of the tongue? It may be small in comparison to other parts of the human body, but the tongue can be lethal. It is our chief means of communication and expression and is the first skill that we master after birth. Consider that, even before forming words and coherent speech, babies announce their presence, demand attention and have their needs tended to by crying out loudly, and making noises with their mouths. Mastery of speech and language enables us to communicate clearly as we grow. Consequently, we’re conditioned in our relationships to respond to what people say in our conversations. Maturity is revealed in using the right words at the appropriate times.

But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison (James 3:8 NKJV). Ouch! With a direct and blunt comment James further reminds us of the attention we need to pay to our words. Thoughtless or emotionally charged speech can get out of control very quickly and change the mood of a conversation. Some people pride themselves on speaking their minds and have no qualms about making their points in a direct manner, but caution is required to avoid escalating the dialogue into an argument.

Washington Irving, who wrote Rip Van Winkle, once said, “A sharp tongue is the only edged tool that grows keener with constant use.” James suggests putting a bridle on our tongues (James 1:26)to keep our words and conversations in check. In other words, exercise some restraint when you speak.

William Norris, an American journalist, once wrote great advice for tongue control: “If your lips would keep from slips, five things observe with care: To whom you speak; of whom you speak; and how, and when, and where.”

Perhaps if we simply listened to what our parents, teachers and elders told us growing up, we would have better control over our unruly tongues — “Think before you speak, choose your words carefully, and watch your mouth!”

Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. 954-427-0302.

Comments Off on CLERGY CORNER: Watch your mouth!

CLERGY CORNER: God gives more than you can ever ask

Posted on 20 March 2019 by LeslieM

6 “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:6-7

You never forget the first time you move away from home for an extended period of time. In my case, I lived in California for a year leaving my home state (Minnesota) behind. Obviously, this wasn’t the last time I left home for an extended period of time, hence I am writing from sunny Florida, my home for the last 22 years.

When you move away from home, you gravitate toward people who serve as surrogate family members. One particular woman was my adopted Grandma and, like my grandmas back home, she was a person of deep and profound faith. Her name was Margaret.

When I went to Margaret’s small apartment, I noticed a few things that left an impression with me. The first thing I noticed was a map of the world with push pins denoting the location of missionaries. Every day, Margaret would pray for each missionary, send and receive correspondence, and share their stories. She was elderly and dependent upon others for transportation but she felt that she was playing an important role in mission. Indeed, she was.

But it was the prayer journal that I remember the best. She followed the advice of a friend and wrote down her prayer requests, prayers of supplication. And, then, in another part of her journal, she wrote the answers for the purpose of giving thanks.

When Margaret began her journey of prayer with her prayer journal, her prayers of supplication outnumbered her prayers of thanksgiving. That soon changed.

As she kept journaling, she found it easier to have two separate journals, one for supplication and one for thanksgiving. There simply was not enough room for one journal.

Pretty soon, she discovered that she was spending more time praying prayers of thanksgiving as opposed to prayers of supplication. She told me: “Sometimes, I just spend hours giving thanks.”

When I consider the words of St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians: “supplication with thanksgiving,”
I am reminded of the importance of paying attention to the answers. God answers prayers before we even have a chance to ask. We must be alert, aware and grateful.

But I also consider this saintly woman of faith who really didn’t have a lot of possessions. She didn’t have transportation. She was dependent upon church members to get to worship. What she had was faith and what she could do was pray.

Missionaries benefited from her prayers all around the world. Church members were blessed by her pleasant demeanor and her genuine kindness. I was blessed by her profound wisdom and the strength of her faith, not to mention that I felt I had a Grandma nearby when I needed it. I think Margaret gave more than she ever realized, but I know one thing for sure — Margaret would want to remind my readers that God gave her even more than she ever asked.

Pastor Gross is a pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, located at 959 SE 6 Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-421-3146 or visit www.zion-lutheran.org.

Comments Off on CLERGY CORNER: God gives more than you can ever ask

CLERGY CORNER: Purim & Unity

Posted on 07 March 2019 by LeslieM

In the Purim story, read on Purim in the Book of Esther, the Persian Prime Minister, Haman, persuades the Persian king Achashverosh, to consent to a genocidal plan to annihilate the entire Jewish people. Haman offered the king a huge sum of money.

Reish Lakish said: It is revealed and known in advance to G-d that in the future Haman was going to weigh out shekels against the Jewish people; therefore, He arranged that the Jewish people’s shekels preceded Haman’s shekels.

What does this mean?

This Shabbos, Jews the world over read, in addition to the weekly Torah portion, an extra Torah, the “portion of the coins.” This section of the Torah records the mitzvah incumbent upon the people of Israel, to make a yearly contribution of a half shekel to cover the cost of all communal Temple offerings.

This mitzvah given to the Jewish people in the desert applied to all following generations as well. In every generation, every Jew was required to make an annual contribution of half his country’s standard coin, to cover the cost of the communal offering brought in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

So Reish Lakish is telling us that since G-d knew that in the future Haman was going to weigh out a hefty number of shekels—15,000,000 shekalim against the Jewish people, He arranged that the Jewish people’s shekels precede Haman’s shekels, to cancel out the power of the money which Haman gave to the Persian monarch.

Although this mitzvah is not applicable today, since we have no Temple, it is still a custom in Jewish communities to read this Torah portion at this time of the year. In the U.S., we contribute a silver 50-cent piece, since the dollar coin is our country’s standard coinage, just as the shekel was during the time of Moses.

This seems quite bizarre, to insist on Jews giving an imperfect gift!

The Torah wants each of us to contribute a whole complete shekel. But if I were instructed to contribute a complete shekel on my own, I could begin to think that I am a complete being in and of myself, since I have contributed a complete coin.

The Torah is attempting to teach us that you and I are really one. For me, the real me, the G-dly me, to contribute a complete shekel, I must contribute just a half shekel, allowing the other half to be contributed by my fellow Jew. When you and I contribute each a half shekel, each of us has, indeed, contributed a complete shekel.

Comments Off on CLERGY CORNER: Purim & Unity

CLERGY CORNER: Diversity and Unity

Posted on 28 February 2019 by LeslieM

Rainbows are beautiful displays of nature that always seem to attract attention whenever and wherever they show up in the sky. Wikipedia defines a rainbow as “a meteorological phenomenon that is caused by reflection, refraction and dispersion of light in water droplets resulting in a spectrum of light appearing in the sky.” They most often appear in the form of a multi-colored arc and are usually displayed in an area to the opposite of the position of the sun. Their color is attributed to the fact that water droplets break white sunlight into the seven colors of the spectrum: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

In Genesis 9:13 God tells Noah, “I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.” Rainbows serve as beautiful reminders of the presence, power, and promise of God.

Like the rainbow, we are God’s handiwork in nature, creating beauty in our unity and reflecting His purpose and glory. From the beginning, God’s intention was for His diverse creation to exist in harmony and collaboration. Each aspect of the created world had a purpose and function that was to complement the others. Though different and distinct, the earth, sky, sun, stars, moon, animals, fish, vegetation and mankind were expected to coexist in peace.

Sin, birthed through Adam’s disobedience, ruined God’s original intent for man’s relationships with Himself and others, but does not exempt us from the need to fulfill His purpose. The Bible consistently urges us to brotherhood and oneness.

In the Genesis 9 account which details events after the Flood, verse 19 relates that from Noah’s three sons “the whole earth was populated.” In Acts 17:26, Paul proclaims that God “Has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth.” Psalm 133:1 exclaims, “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” In John 17:21, Jesus prayed for those who would believe in Him “that they may be one.” All these statements indicate that despite our undeniable differences we can and should live in unity and accord. We are related in our common humanity and connected by our need for the same things. We are family!

Too often we spotlight our differences and become exclusive because of our distinctions. History has revealed that this can lead to tensions, disagreements, injustice, brutality, racism and war. Instead, we should appreciate our uniqueness, collaborate on our common interests, and celebrate our collective achievements. Our differing perspectives, abilities and contributions can be synergized to accomplish collectively what none of us could do on our own. The reality of our undeniable diversity should never be allowed to prevent the results of our indisputable unity. As Dr. King famously remarked, in his “I Have A Dream” speech, “With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”

Musical notes are each distinct and unique for the sound that they make. On their own that uniqueness, though unequaled and spectacular, can become monotonous and uninspiring. The significance of the diversity of each note is not fully appreciated until they are combined in a melody that is sweet to the ear, sensible to the mind and soothing to the soul. The keys on any piano or organ are designed and intended to function in an intentionally harmonious collaboration of music and song. No one key can create a satisfying melody. So too our diversity is best appropriated when we recognize our connectedness and learn to live in purposeful unity.

Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. 954-427-0302.

Comments Off on CLERGY CORNER: Diversity and Unity

Advertise Here
Advertise Here

front page

COVER