Elie Wiesel, a famous and beloved Holocaust survivor, passed away last Shabbat. As the New York Times wrote, he was a "champion of human rights, a symbol of hope, a writer of unmatched eloquence and the very conscience of the world. But above all else, he considered himself a witness who fought humanity's most dangerous enemy, indifference."

They were killed, and all they did was take pride in their identities - they were dancing, celebrating, socializing. In fact, what those 49 were doing in Orlando is not too dissimilar to what we do here - we gather together in celebration, we socialize, we pray. We are here to display our pride - our Jewish identity.

Earlier this week, on Monday morning, fifty Jews became B’nei Mitzvah.

As Natalie [Bat Mitzvah girl on bima] knows, any Bar or Bat Mitzvah is an extraordinary celebration of Jewish life, commitment and continuity. But this celebrationion was different.

It was different because these 13 men and 37 women were not able to celebrate a Bar or Bat Mitzvah when they were 13. When they were teenagers, some of them lived in concentration camps. Some were penniless and could not take time away from difficult laborious jobs to train and tutor. Others hid their Jewishness out of fear. All 50 of these adult B’nei Mitzvah are Holocaust survivors.

In Numbers chapter 12, Miriam harshly criticizes her brother Moses for marrying a Kushite woman. Following that, she is quickly punished. As the Torah tells us, Miriam became leprous, white as snow.

Almost immediately, Moses cries five words to God, El na r’fa na lah. - Please God, heal her. These 5 words are the only words uttered by Moses in this Torah portion. Each of these short words ends in a vowel, as if Moses is crying out, shouting to God with all of his strength. Saying the words, you can almost feel the deep longing of Moses’ words.

When I turned 14, I was excited to get my first job at Publix. I bagged groceries until just after my 18th birthday.

For the most part, I enjoyed interacting with people on the short walk to their cars. But around mid-December, I'd be filled with anxiety during my chats with customers. They'd ask about holiday plans, and then talk about their holiday plans. So far, so good. But then they'd say two words. And despite the dozens of interactions that ended with these two words, I never knew how I should respond. 

I'm guessing that many of you are familiar with Ghandi's exhortation to "be the change that you wish to see in the world."

I don't know if Ghandi was a Talmudic scholar, but it does not come as a surprise to me that a similar teaching is in our Jewish texts. Pirke Avot* (2:5) reads: "In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man."

1) We shake the lulav and etrog in all directions when we enter the sukkah. As a Hebrew school student, I learned that this is because God is in all directions, and God's blessings are everywhere. We can feel God's blessing in every area of our lives. This is true, and a great lesson. But I like to think that another reason we shake the four species in every direction is to remind us that each of *us* can radiate blessing and goodness in every area of our lives. We don't have to wait for God to give it to us. We can give it to the world.

Kol Nidrei.

Tonight's service is named for this prayer that we heard toward the beginning of our service. Kol Nidrei is so powerful, so important, so meaningful - that we stand during its threefold recitation. In fact, it is only during the singing of Kol Nidrei that we take all of our Torahs scrolls out of the ark and stand before their holy words, messages and inspirations. You may not know the name of Moses' wife, you may not know the difference between the Mishna and the Talmud, but I bet that you can hum the beginning of the haunting melody of Kol Nidrei.

I've always wanted to be on Jeopardy.

I love everything about it - its competitive spirit, the display of lightning like intellectual and physical reflexes that recall all matters of intellectual ephemera, and the sometimes witty banter between contestants and Alex Trebek.

Several friends of mine have applied to be contestants. One, a reform rabbi in New York City, even made it on earlier this year. I've learned that if you completely ace the tryout questions, you will most likely not be asked to continue to the next steps of the tryout process. In other words, if you are perfect, you're not good enough.

High School. First kiss. Graduation. College. First job. Marriage. Yesteryear. The good ole days. 

Nostalgia is a booming business.

In recent years, social media has popularized what has come to be known as 'tbt' - throwback Thursday. On Thursdays, it takes one quick glance on Facebook to see pictures of friends with that crazy hair from high school, or a gorgeous wedding portrait from over 40 years ago. We use our present technologies to go back to the past. Apps, services and Web sites try and tap into our yearnings for yesterday.

There's a bad joke incoming, but nostalgia is just not what it used to be.

The past week has been a difficult one. In the span of a few days, terrorists killed 17 people in France. The four Jewish citizens at the kosher grocery store were buried in Israel for fear that their graves would be desecrated, yet another fearful sign of Europe's growing anti-semitism. In Nigeria, two *thousand* people were killed because of hatred, and intolerance, a fact even more bothersome because it's quite possible that many of you are hearing that for the first time right now. The world is in mourning.