Rabbi sees past in present

The Bible teaches that when Joseph, the viceroy of Egypt, was faced with an abundance of grain, he knew from prophecy that the surplus would be followed by seven years of famine. When the famine struck, then, he staved off hunger by having his people farm all the cultivated land, with 80% of the crop going to them and the remaining 20% to the king.

To Rabbi Marc Rubenstein of Temple Isaiah, that story has more than a little relevance in modern America, as the government intervenes to save the faltering economy. And he plans to address that during his sermon Tuesday on Rosh Hashana.

“The first stockbroker was Joseph in the Bible,” Rubenstein said. “How he managed Egypt is very similar to what the federal government is doing today.”

Rubenstein plans to give six sermons during the Jewish High Holy Days, which start Monday with Rosh Hashana and end Oct. 8 and 9 with Yom Kippur. The first sermon Tuesday is titled “That’s Reality,” and the rabbi noted it won’t be the first time he’s tied current events into scripture.

“There’s a lot of logic in the Bible that’s used today,” he said. “I try to point that out to people without taking a presidential point of view.”

This week will mark the 5,769th new year on the Hebrew calendar, a period marked by festivity followed by atonement for sins, then prayer and abstention in the final days. Temple Isaiah and Temple Bat Yahm, both in Newport Beach, traditionally draw hundreds of people to their services every year.

Rabbi Mark Miller said, Wall Street crisis notwithstanding, Temple Bat Yahm had the usual subject matter planned for his sermons this week. After the last one Tuesday morning, he and his congregation plan to join in the temple’s annual Tashlich tradition, in which they travel to Upper Newport Bay and cast crumbs in the water.

“These crumbs symbolize our sins, and it’s a very ancient tradition of throwing them into the water,” Miller said. “It should be a body of water that has fish in it. Fish is a symbol of God’s power because the eyes never close, and God’s eye is always upon us. We hope the sins will be carried away by the water’s current, never to be brought back.”


MICHAEL MILLER may be reached at (714) 966-4617 or at michael.miller@latimes.com.

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