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Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs


Cafe Spindel is a quaint café in the center of Bad Segeberg, Germany that used to house a wool-processing factory. Because it was an unseasonably warm and sunny late summer day when I visited, our host, Pastor Martin Pommerening, suggested we sit outside.

The setting was pleasant, the conversation was delightful, the food was delicious – and then I looked up and noticed the tall chimney attached to the old wool factory. I shuddered as Israel’s Nobel Prize-winning poet Nelly Sachs’ famous poem came into mind:

O the chimneys On the ingeniously devised habitations of death...

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To understand the Exodus narrative, we must view it as a war – a boxing match, if you will – between gods.

In one corner, we have the Egyptian god, Pharaoh. Pharaoh is like any pagan god. One worships him by glorifying him with monuments, pyramids, sphinxes, and garrison cities. If slaves are required in order to build these structures, so be it. If it is necessary to beat those slaves in order to keep them working, or even kill one or two occasionally to send a message, that’s fine, too. And if overpopulation becomes an issue (see the First Chapter of Exodus), simply throw their...

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During the 40 years that I served as a congregational rabbi, Purim evolved from a pleasant celebration into what has become, in my view, almost a third High Holiday.

We no longer simply read the M’gillah to cheer Esther and boo Haman. Today, we have come to expect elaborately choreographed and carefully rehearsed Purim spiels with clever lyrics sung to the tunes of popular songs or show tunes. At our congregation, one woman has become a legend for writing such clever lyrics, and other communities have their bards, as well.

How wonderful! As a rabbi, I’m in favor of anything...

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“You must be joking,” I said to myself, when, shortly after we arrived in Germany, Pastorin Ursula Sieg informed me that she arranged for me to preach in a church whose pastor in those days was a Nazi and a murderer. She was not joking, but I had come to trust Pastor Sieg, who arranged every detail of our 10-week visit to Germany, implicitly – so I agreed.

Kaltenkirchen is a beautiful, picturesque village, but it is also the site of a former concentration camp where prisoners endured brutal, near-starvation conditions. Wealthy neighbors nearby lived their lives in comfort. After...

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