When God was about to create human beings, a midrash shows that God formed an ad-hoc creation committee meeting. God invited the ministering angels to help decide whether or not to create humanity. The angels were divided on their opinions: Love said, Let Adam be created, and he will do loving deeds. Peace said, Let him not be created because he will be all quarrelsome and discord. Righteousness said, Let him be created because he will do righteous deeds. The last to speak, Truth said, Let him not be created because he will be full of deceit.

Rosh Hashanah Evening 5778, Lift up Your Eyes

Where have you been? What have you done?

These are essential questions on our High Holidays. The prayers we recite tonight and tomorrow will help us to reflect on the past year as we engage in Chesbon HaNefesh, the self accounting we do as we move from the pain of the past to the healing of the present and future, our mistakes to our hopes, and our current selves to our ideal selves.

But right now, I want to look at the question literally: Where have you been?

18 months ago, I was excited to stand on this bima and talk about the Western Wall agreement that would give men and women the chance to pray at the Western Wall together, free from the shackles of ultra-Orthodox governance that has dominated much of Israeli religious policy. Although it was not a perfect agreement, it was a wonderful symbolic step toward acceptance, pluralism, and tolerance. It was a move toward Shalom Bayit, peace in the home, as Jews would acknowledge the legitimacy of other Jews, regardless of gender or halachic observance.

There's a fantastic scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in which Dr. Jones is explaining to his class the basics about archeology. Archeology, he says, is the search for fact. It is not the search for truth.

The reverse is true about our Torah: It is not a book of fact, but a book of truth. Whether or not God  it is a fact that God split a sea in two so that Israelites could cross the Red Sea, it is true that the Exodus narrative is essential to our identity.

I've talked before about the concept of *imitatio Dei.* It's a religious concept in which we find virtue and blessing by imitating God. God creates Adam and Eve, we imitate God by creating life. God heals Abraham by sending three angelic messengers, we are taught to visit the sick. God loves, we love ... And in this section of Leviticus we see that we can imitate God's holiness as well. We have the opportunity to be God-like in our actions. 

A few thousand years before the Holocaust, our people suffered under Pharoah. Lots of troubling comparisons can be made that show similarities between Pharoah and Hitler. Both subjugated and enslaved our people. Both refused to see us as equals, as God's children. As the Torah says, *Pharoah knew not Joseph.* (Exodus 1:8) The Pharoah refused to see and know Joseph and the Isaraelite people as fellow human beings. We are painfully aware of just how true this was for Hitler and the Third Reich, as our names were stripped from us, replaced with numbers tatooed on our arms

Moses seeks reassurance. As the 12th century commentator Rashbam explains, Moses says go God, I know you said you'd send an angel to protect us, but I would much prefer if it was you, yourself.

This behavior hearkens back to the Moses we meet at the beginning of Exodus, the Moses that doesn't want to lead the Israelite people, the Moses that thinks of excuse after excuse as to why he isn't the right person for the job.

What might this mean, that none of us are able to see God's face?

Rashi explains that it is a matter of authority and permission. Just after this, God makes all of God's goodness pass before Moses, but according to Rashi, God does not allow Moses to see God's face.

But another commentator, S'forno, has a different take, written from God's perspective: Your inability to see what you would like to see is not due to My depriving you, personally, of such an experience, but is rooted in man’s inability to see such things unless you had died first, as an eye of flesh and blood cannot see such things. You would be fatally blinded before understanding anything you would see.

According to Jewish law, a sanctuary requjires three things to be considered kosher. The first is a Torah scroll. During any Jewish service, we never lose sight or focus on what is most important, the holy text of our Torah. The second is a bit harder to discern, especially if you are looking around in this sanctuary, because I have to let you in on a secret, we don't have it. The second item is a window. Each sanctuary must look out onto the outside world. Please rest assured, however, the building plans for our renovated sanctuary do include the construction of beautiful window that will look out onto a garden. And the third item? It is the subject of our Torah portion T'tzaveh this week. It is the ner tamid, the eternal light.

You maybe remember that this Torah portion, Parashat T'rumah is the first example of a synagogue's capital campaign. God tells Moses that the Israelites should give generously in order to hopefully be able to build a new synagogue in Athens, GA ... Sorry, that's not quite right ... but God does command the constrcution of the first synogugue. This is what God tells Moses:

The demonstration of sensitivity to difference is what I want to talk about tonight. This is especially important as we live amindst the so-perceived differences of immigrants, the differences of Syrian refugees who desperately need the United States to be a save haven. This week, there has also been a uptick in the introduction of more so-called ‘religious freedom’ bills, which also discriminate amongst those who are different, whether by gender choice or sexual orientation.

During one of the years when I served at Temple Israel in Omaha, Nebraska, we asked congregants to write and deliver the sermons during the summer months. We called it Sh'ma Yisrael. As I've said in the past, the Sh'ma is not only the imperative of Listen, you members of Yisrael, pay attention to the message that follows these words. It also urges us to listen to each other, and to know each other. The words, Sh'ma Yisrael, are the message! 

My father loves photography. He would lug out his 35 millimeter camera and insist on taking pictures of my mom and me on vacations, hikes, even sometimes just going out to lunch. Now that he has a DSLR, it's even worse; Emily and I joke that we have to build dad's camera time into our activities due to the number of times he asks us to stop in front of this or that tree, bridge, flower, sunset ... you get the idea. 

A young boy ran away from home, and was quite far away. In fact, it would take a journey of 100 days to return. He friends beseeched him, Return to your home! He said, I cannot, for I do not have the strength. Upon hearing this, his father then sent a message, Come back as far as you can according to your strength, and I will go the rest of the way to meet you.