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Rabbi Barbara Penzner

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Sermons from Rabbi Barbara Penzner

5773/2012

5772/2011

5770/2009

5769/2008 and Earlier

Rosh Hashanah 5769/2008

TRUTH AND PEACE: A Jewish Guide to the Election

The Talmud relates a famous story of a Roman who comes to the great sage Hillel, known for being calm and difficult to anger. Seeking to prove he can upset Hillel, he asks him to teach him all of Judaism while he stood on one foot. Unperturbed, Hillel came up with the famous response: What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. 

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Kol Nidre 5769/2008

Still Climbing

I love our tikkun olam family work trips. Since my sabbatical in 2005, I have taken five trips to help rebuild homes in depressed communities. I have gone with each the members of my family and done repairs in three different places: Cumberland, Maryland, Limestone, Maine, and Pecan Island, Louisiana.

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Yom Kippur 5769/2008

Kashrut Crisis

Every year I am drawn to the haftarah for Yom Kippur. Isaiah’s words are prophetic in the truest sense: they spoke to the people of his time over 2500 years ago, and they continue to speak to us today.

Cry aloud? Hold nothing back? Raise your voice like shofar, proclaim to my people their crimes…

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Yom Kippur 5768/2007

Becoming a Place Elijah Would Want to Visit

Elijah the prophet is one of the most frequent visitors in Jewish folk tales. The Bible describes him being taken up in a fiery chariot, which has led generations of Jews to believe that he never died, but comes to visit us at holy moments.

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Rosh Hashanah
5768/2007

Four years ago, we took an anniversary trip to the West Coast and drove along the Pacific Coast Highway, renowned for its awesome views of sea and mountains. One of my favorite parts of the drive was the beautiful bridges we drove over.

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Union United Methodist Church, Feb 2007

It is a great privilege to be given the pulpit here this morning, and I thank Reverend McLee and all of the worshippers here at Union United Methodist Church for offering me this occasion to speak to you. I am humbled to speak at the opening of Black History Month, given that I should be listening rather speaking about this subject.

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Yom Kippur (1) 5767/2006

UNCOVERING OUR TRUE SELVES

Between the short confession of sins, the ashamnu, and the long confession of sins, the al het, the siddur has placed a short paragraph that might otherwise go unnoticed.

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Yom Kippur (2) 5767/2006

REPAIRERS OF FALLEN WALLS

Elie Wiesel tells the following story. One day the Hasidim came to inform the great Rebbe Nahman of Bratslav of renewed persecutions of Jews in the Ukraine.

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Rosh Hashanah (1), 5767/2006

HOLDING WITH OPEN ARMS REDUX
Just over a week ago, I stood at Logan Airport and waved goodbye to my daughter as she gleefully set off for college.

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Rosh Hashanah (2), 5767/2006

Why we are sending a congregational trip to Israel
Following this summerís war in Israel, I spent a great deal of time arguing with myself about whether I should speak about Israel during the Yamim Noraíim.

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Yom Kippur 5766/2005

Being Metzuveh — Sacrifice and Submission in a Reconstructionist Perspective

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Yom Kippur 5766/2005

It is not up to us to complete the work, but we are not free to neglect it.

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Rosh Hashana 5766/2005

Home Sweet Home

Each New Year, we come to the synagogue, brimming with hope. Itís a new year, a fresh start. Time to put the past behind us and move forward with renewed energy and commitment.

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Yom Kippur 5765/2004
(1)

From Storms of Anger to Healing Rain

Her mother gave her a bag of nails and told her that every time she lost her temper or insulted somebody she must hammer a nail into the back of their fence.

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Yom Kippur 5765/2004
(2)

Having a Front Row Seat at your own Transformation

Anyone who has been to Quebec City can attest that it is an enchanting place.

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Rosh Hashana 5765/2004

To Be A Jew At Home In America

On our most recent visit to Washington, D.C., we visited the Smithsonian Museum of American history.

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Purim
5765/2004

Gibson's Passion

Tonight we will read the Book of Esther. Did you know that the Esther almost didnít make it into the Hebrew Bible?

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17-Oct-2003

Eulogy for a Dream

I have a good friend, a life-long Bostonian, who doesn't care about the Red Sox. She has seen too many seasons come and go, too many heartbreaking losses, to invest her emotions in the team.

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Yom Kippur 5764/2003

The View From The Mountaintop

I am standing on top of Sweeney Ridge in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, high above the Pacific Ocean on one side, and the San Francisco Bay on the other.

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Rosh Hashanah
5764/2003

10 Things I Learned About Change From Getting A New Carpet

Rabbi Lawrence Kushner tells the story of his grandparents who left their village in the Ukraine to come to America. He says that the reason they left was on account of a chandelier that had been his grandfather's prize possession.

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Sermon delivered on 21-June-2003

Of Trumpets and Tax Cuts

This portion actually should follow chronologically at the end of Exodus, when the Tabernacle has been completed. The people have been safely and peacefully camped. Their needs have been provided for. They are content.

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Sermon delivered on Shabbat
Pesach 2003

"And they embittered their lives with harsh labor . . . and in all sorts of work in the fields" (Exod. 1:14). The Rabbis find this verse confusing.

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Sermon delivered on Shabbat
12-April-2003

SHABBAT HAGADOL 5763 METZORA:
Abraham Joshua Heschel taught in the name of his grandfather, the Ohev Yisroel, that on Tisha B'Av, when we fast in memory of the destruction of the temple, exile and persecution of our people, he would ask ver ken essen-who can eat?

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Speech delivered at the Theodore Parker Unitarian Universalist Church in West Roxbury on Sunday, December 1, 2002.

CANDLES IN THE WINDOW: Hanukkah from the Inside Looking Out

Growing up in the suburbs of Kansas City in the 1960s, I remember very clearly when December rolled around. In first grade, I participated in my first Christmas pageant. We sat on stage with all the other students, singing Christmas carols. But when we came to the parts of the song when Jesusís name, or Christ was mentioned, I closed my mouth. No one every seemed to care or notice. But as a Jewish child, the name Jesus Christ suddenly turned a fun song into a prayer, and somehow threatened my own sense of who I was.

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Yom Kippur-Israel 5763/2002

On July 4, despite the protests of the grandparents and latent fears of our own, Brian and I landed in Israel with our two children.
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Yom Kippur-Berlin 5763/2002

On Rosh Hashanah, I spoke of the two sets of tablets, the first set that Moses shattered when he saw the Israelites dancing around the Gold Calf, and the pristine second set, delivered after the peopleís contrition.
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Rosh Hashana
5763/2002

How to Live a Whole Life in a Broken World.
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Argentina

 

On the return flight from Buenos Aires to New York City, the flight attendants passed out the usual customs forms. Among the mundane details, the form asked about the nature of the trip: Business or pleasure?
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