sermons

Parashat Noach - #metoo

This is a sermon that I delivered at Congregation Beth Israel on October 20, 2017, regarding the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandals and the #metoo social media hashtag.blogEntryTopper Read More...
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The Grief Of The One Who Does Not Know What To Ask

On Wednesday, April 5, 2017, my father, Joseph Folberg, age 95, passed away in the hospital following a brief illness. In this sermon from April 21 – parashat Shemini - I reflect upon mourning, grief and silence.

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A Burning Tower

Here’s the d’var Torah on Parashat Lech-Lecha that I shared at Congregation Beth Israel on November 11th, 2016.

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Erev Rosh Hashanah Sermon, 5777/2016

Here is my sermon for the eve of Rosh Hashanah, 5777/2016. It was a tough one to write. How can you not talk about the extraordinary and disturbing election cycle that we find ourselves in this year? How can you talk about it in a way that teaches some Torah and is also not explicitly politically partisan? In any event, I hope you find it worthwhile…

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Sermon On Orlando Massacre

Here’s the text of a sermon I presented on June 17, 2016, in response to the massacre at the Pulse gay night club in Orlando, Florida.
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The Idolatry Of Preconceived Notions

Here’s a sermon I delivered last week on Parashat Ki Tissa, which is most famous for the story of the Golden Calf. It draws upon the commentary of a renegade Hasidic teacher, Rabbi Mordecai of Ishbitz. Read More...
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Rabbi Preda: A Love Story

Here at Congregation Beth Israel in Austin, Sunday School begins this coming weekend. I think that the beginning of a new Religious School year best captures – for me – that Rosh Hashanah sense of a fresh start, a new beginning. I feel especially excited, every fall, to begin teaching Confirmation Class once again.

There's an old Jewish custom: when you begin to write anything, especially a piece of correspondence, you put the English letters B”H or the Hebrew letters Bet-Hay at the top of the page. This stands for either Barukh Ha-Shem, “Blessed be God,” or “B’ezrat Hashem,” “With God’s help.” Beginning a piece of writing with these initials isn't part of my regular, Jewish practice, except once a year. When I write my first lesson plan of the year for Confirmation Class, I always put those Hebrew initials at the top of the page: “May this be a blessed year of learning and teaching.”

Here is the text of the Rosh Hashanah Eve sermon that I presented last year on the topic of the love between students and teachers. I hope it is meaningful to you.

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The Tragedy of Robin Williams

A few nights ago, Saundra and I got to the movies to see “A Most Wanted Man,” starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as a stressed-out German intelligence agent bearing a heavy load of remorse and guilt. As always, you just can’t take your eyes off him. There is no distance between the actor and the role. Every gesture, every facial expression, is exactly right and true. And (without spoiling this great film’s plot) his explosive performance in the final scenes of the film is devastating. It’s as if all the character’s interior darkness, building throughout the film, is released in a shattering howl of anguish.
The film is all the more riveting knowing that this was one of Hoffman’s final performances, that he died of a heroin overdose. Saundra and I spent a lot of time on the way home talking about brilliance and mental illness, about what a dark place Hoffman had to access to play that role and about the toll that must have taken on his own psyche.
And now we’ve lost another genius, Robin Williams.
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