December 15th & 16th Sermon – 2023

BAC Miketz & HE 

Judah story: How he learned from his mistakes and grew into a heroic

Tamar story- could’ve let her take the rap for the pregnancy

Joseph and his brothers story: Reuven wanted to kill Joseph. Judah
suggested throwing him into a pit and selling him to the caravan of
Ishmaelites. He convinced his bloodthirsty brothers to take a less drastic

Vayigash- When Joseph plants a goblet in young Benjamin’s gear, and
says that he is keeping him as a hostage until the brothers bring down
their father, Jacob, who is also Joseph’s father, it is Judah who heroically
begs to be kept as a hostage in place of Benjamin because he knows how
the fear of losing his beloved Benjamin might very well kill their father,
Jacob. He put his own life at risk.

What a transformation we see in just the scan of one person’s lifetime in
the book of Genesis!

You and I, all Jews, are named after Judah- Judaism. When the 10 tribes
of Israel fell apart after the kingdom of Solomon, it was the tribe of
Judah that had the strength and wherewithal to move forward. Were it
not for that tribe, there would be no Judaism today… Some 3,000 years

And when, finally, after 3 millennia, in 1948, we were finally able to
declare a country for the Jewish people, a country recognized by the
world, a country with recognized borders like scores of Islamic countries
all of whom, by the way, have their countries led exclusively by
Muslims and dictators, you and I became ardent Zionists.

Half the Jewish people on this planet live in Israel and those of us who
know how miraculous it has been for us to have our own country, we
think of ourselves as Zionists, that is, doing what we can to support our
Jewish homeland. We make visits. We buy Israeli bonds, we support the
state of Israel in a big way, as they are our brothers.

My own brother, Rabbi Sam Kieffer, has lived in Jerusalem for many
ears and relates to me and others on his Facebook account how the
average Israeli is providing housing, food, clothing, and whatever is
needed to the more than 6,000 families who have been displaced by
Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north.

I’ll conclude my remarks today with this: A few days ago, I was sent this
letter. It was written to his family by a young reservist in his 20’s, and I
think you’ll find it to be self-explanatory:

The will of the fallen fighter Ben Zusman has been published: 12/11/23.
He titled this will: “I look at you from above and smile.”

“I’m writing you this message on my way to the base. If you’re reading
this, something probably happened to me. As you know me, probably no
one is happier than me now. I was on the verge of realizing my dream. I
am happy and grateful for the opportunity to defend our beautiful
country and the people of Israel.

Even if something happens to me, I will not allow you to be sad. I have
been given the right to fulfill my dream and my destiny and rest assured
I’m looking down on you with a smile. I’m probably sitting next to my
grandpa and everyone talks about their experiences and what changed
between the wars. Maybe we can even discuss politics a little, ask him
for his opinion.

If, G-d forbid, you are sitting Shiva, turn it into a week of friends,
family, and fun. Let there be food, of course meat, beer, sweet drinks,
seeds, tea and of course, Mom’s cookies. Make jokes, listen to stories,
meet all my friends you haven’t met yet. Wow, I envy you. Wish I could
sit there and see everyone.

Another very important one, If I, G-d forbid, go into captivity, dead or
alive, I do not want any soldier or citizen to be hurt by any transaction
for my release. I don’t allow you to campaign or fight in my support. I
don’t want terrorists to be released for my sake. Under no circumstances,
under no circumstances. Please, don’t forget my words.

I’ll say it again. I left home without even being called on the reserve.
I’m full of pride and a sense of mission and have always said that if I
had to die, I hope it would be while protecting others and country.

“Oseh Shalom bimromav, hu yaaseh shalom aleinu, v’al kal Yisrael