Here we are; I invite you to take a breath and allow
yourself to tap into the deeply nourishing power of
these holy days. Through the wisdom of our tradition
and through the strength of this community, each one
of us has the opportunity to orient our self for the
journey into this year.
We get to ask what sights do I set for myself this
year? What am I hoping for? What am I willing to
It’s so easy to let time rush by without taking stock of
where we are and what is our purpose for being here.
In my own life as Rabbi/Therapist and Mother there’s a
daily agenda of congregants and clients and kids:
meetings, homework, groceries, appointments, phone
calls, car pools, prepare for that service, visit the
shiva minyan, make a birthday party, raise money for
AIDS, remember to feed the guinea pig. It’s full and
rich and good but recently I had a wake up call.
All of a sudden my little baby first born daughter Rosi
had grown up and was going off to college. I really feel
like it was yesterday that I brought her home from the
hospital as this adorable, cherished baby. And now
she’s 18 and a freshman at Brown University. And to
top it off, the same week, my youngest little baby,
Mozi, marched off to kindergarten, no longer the
darling toddler in my baby backpack.
The wisdom of Psalm 90 made renewed sense to me.
Psalm 90 says Teach us to treasure each day. We
really do need to treasure each day, each moment,
because we realize, especially at this time of year,
how fast time flies and that we don’t control our fate.
We never know who will live and who will die.
In the Jewish liturgical cycle, this season of facing our
frailty and finding our strength, begins in late summer
with the9th of Av. On the ninth of the Jewish month
of Av we commemorate the destruction of the ancient
temples. This day of deep mourning opens a portal for
us to recognize and integrate loss and disappointment,
longing and grief. It’s as though our own walls have
tumbled down and our souls are laid bare.
This year, just a few weeks after the ninth of Av,
Hurricane Katrina struck and laid waste to the real
walls of so many people. Literally thousands of people
are homeless and bereft of all their possessions and
even the papers that affirm their identity. Imagine
losing your home and leaving behind your photos, your
financial and insurance records, your heirloom objects,
and even in some cases loved ones. These people
experienced devastating loss.
As our ritual cycle continues, we eventually arrive at
Yom Kippur, a day of fasting and solemn self-scrutiny.
Without even food to sustain our bodies, we stand in
solidarity for a few hours at least, with all the people
who live with hunger day in and day out. This year
we’ll think of the thousands of Americans, uprooted by
Katrina, who would not eat if it were not for the help
of the Red Cross, of churches and synagogues and of
the government. On Yom Kippur I will be talking more
about Katrina; for now our prayers go to those people
living through these hard times and to all the good
souls helping them.
As the fall cycle of Jewish holidays continues, by
Sukkot we are dwelling in fragile harvest booths. We
have moved from the wreckage of the temple walls on
the ninth of Av, to the harvest of re-building. The
reconstruction has begun in a way that acknowledges
the fragility of life and the temporary shelter that
material things provide.
During these months of the Jewish calendar it is a time
to imagine what life is really about, stripped of all the
things we sometimes take for granted. No home, no
food, no source of income. Who are you really and
why are you here?
There are times in our lives when we are forced to
realize that you aren’t the home you live in, you
aren’t the car you drive, you aren’t the grades you get
or the job you have, you aren’t the perfect family or
relationship or your current state of physical health.
There is something more essential than all of these
things and that is that each of us is a soul that is
infinitely precious to God. We are loved by an unending
love. And we are here to be channels for that love for
What does it mean to be a channel of God’s love? You
know, it means you shlep the prayerbooks to where
they are needed for the service. It means you find the
time to take your friend to radiation therapy. It means
you donate money to support democracy. It means
you show up for the meeting or the study session.
In the course of the year, our love-channels get
polluted with self-doubt, with busy-ness, with little
infidelities. These Days of Awe are the Jewish time for
cleaning those channels.
Right in the middle of these intense days that start
with the Ninth of Av and end with the closing festivals
of Sukkot, we get an inspiring message of support.
Rosh Ha Shanah. This is the birthday of the world, the
anniversary of the day human beings were created.
What a joyous day! Everyone comes together with
family or friends and fellow seekers, for prayer, apples
and honey, song and delight. This is a wonderful
celebration of community.
Ha Yom ha-rat ha olam. Today the world was
A new beginning. Fresh start. It is as if the past is
stripped away and it is a time of new choices and new
chances. All the psychic toxicities that accrue during
the daily course of life, are absolved through our
teshuva work, our work of returning.
By coming together for uplifting prayer, song, silence,
reflection we apply the Jewish version of Drano to our
selves, purifying our selves for better service to our
It is a time of soul cleansing. Bubbling up from the
total vulnerability that we have faced, comes a time of
renewal. This is so awesome that the days between
Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur are called the Days of
We have the opportunity to start each New Year freed
in a spiritual sense from all the trappings of life, from
all past patterns and spiritual clutter. We don’t know
what the future holds but we know that in each
moment we have choices to make.
Our choices matter: the Rabbis taught us to
imagine a scale with two sides----your next action will
tip the scale of justice in one direction or the other.
Your actions have infinite ripple effects, beyond what
you can imagine.
The fact that each individual in this room is here,
that you decided to come tonight, adds up to mean
that Jewish continuity is happening right now before
our eyes. Because you are here, we enact sacred rites
that carry our precious heritage into the future.
The rituals that we engage in over the next ten
days, call us to be the best human beings we can be,
together. These sacred rites, symbolized by our shofar
calls, call us to make our Jewish contribution to the
There may be hard times ahead for us as a nation
and as a species. We don’t know what is in store for
us. But we don’t face the future alone. With renewed
zest and a revived mission, as part of our community
of faith, we’re in this together.
By the time we reach Sukkot, our harvest festival,
what will the harvest be? It will be a harvest of
relationships, of learning and of good deeds.
I am so happy to be taking this journey with you.
There is no where I’d rather be and no work I’d rather
be doing. Welcome to the year 5766. L’ Shanah Tovah,
may this be a sweet year for all.