All tagged sermon

celebrate our holiday of Passover. When thinking about the injustices of our country, the intolerance, systemic prejudice, racism and sexism, it will hard to say that we are free. We are still enslaved. And I think this is worse than our Biblical slavery because in this case, we are doing it to ourselves.

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.

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

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.

A new Rabbi comes to the synagogue and leads Shabbat services for the first time. Everything is going well. But just before the Sh'ma, half of the congregation stands up while the other half remains seated.

During the Oneg following the service, the rabbi asks some congregants about this interesting happenstance. The congregation is split. Each half argues vehemently - some for standing - and some for sitting.

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.

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.

So how do you spell Hannukah?

There actually is a correct way: Chet, nun, vav, kaf, hey. But in English, there's disagreement. Some prefer to spell it phonetically, starting it with a "ch." Some, like myself, like the simplicity of a sole "h" to begin the name. But there are so many variations even beyond that; One or two n's? Do you use a solo "k" or do you need a "ck" combinationt? And how do we end the English nomenclature of our Festival of Lights? With an a? an ah? A friend told me that she learned that you can spell it any way you want so long as the word has 8 letters.