Rabbi Julie is away for awhile. In place
of her usual message, we are reprinting a
past sermon of hers. Read it and enjoy!
COMING HOME: Rosh HaShana 5767
Rabbi Julie Greenberg
Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City
Responding to the call of the imaginary
shofar, each one of us has shown up, here,
right on schedule to be part of these sacred
In a world with bombings and terror,
military rampages and sectarian violence,
coming together in prayer is such a good
thing. What a holy contrast to the strife of
the world. The prophet called for a place of
God for all people to pray. As we step into
this place of worship to herald the New Year
may that place of God be the whole earth and
may our Jewish prayers fulfill our piece of
Year after year I marvel at what draws us
each here at this season. There is no
coercion. No one has to be here. Expressing
free will and free agency, the Jewish people
and fellow travelers around the world, show
up at this time. Is it the turning of the
season that clues us in? The leaves begin to
turn, summer has ended. Is it the start of a
new school year (I think many of us continue
to think along those academic calendar lines
even long after we are students)?
There probably are many different reasons
that bring each one of us to this place at
this time. But I think one thing that unites
us is that most people here long for a
spiritual home. You may long for a home
because it would reflect the Jewish home you
had as a child. Or you may long for a Jewish
home because you never had one as a child.
The idea of a spiritual home that links our
deepest roots and highest aspirations and
brings them together in community is so powerful.
The concept of home is amazing. Home is a
place where you belong. Where you are seen.
Where you are sheltered, comfortable and
cared for. Where you are counted on. In the
ideal home, the big people get it right and
the children are safe and protected. Home is
a place of love, nourishment, nurturance.
That's the idealized concept of home. We
all know that the reality, even in the most
wonderful homes, is very different. The
reality is that there are tensions between
people, there are major life stressors that
have to do with work and loss and
transitions. In some homes there is fighting
or even hurting, both emotional and physical.
In real life, home is never a static picture.
It is a moving picture, an endless video of
efforts to love, efforts to repair, efforts
to build. Fragile real people make home,
through all the ups and downs of life, for
better or worse.
But when we show up at the synagogue door,
there is a strong desire to be home. A
longing. A hunger for that place of peace and
acceptance that many of us carry with us as a
This is a beautiful vision, a necessary
vision, a potentially transformative vision,
and we see its power in that here we all are,
ready to honor our New Year by coming home to
this place of worship. Our prophet Isaiah
also held out the vision, "My House shall be
a place of prayer for all people."
The problem is that each one of us has a
unique experience of what it means to be
home. Home is a universal value but our
particular experience of home is not
universal. For one person it might mean
quiet, respectful conversation with long
reflective silences. For another person home
is lively discussion at a high decibel level
with constant interrupting and shrieking. For
one person appreciation is expected and for
the next it would be embarrassing to be
publicly appreciated. For one person the
Hebrew language provides a sense of comfort
and tradition, for the next person Hebrew is
alienating and discouraging
We each carry our own home history within
us. The patterns of our previous home history
are deeply internalized. If you are
programmed internally from your home
experience to be left out, you'll probably
find places where you'll be left out again
and again and this isn't all bad. You are
likely to repeat that pattern for two
reasons. Number one, this is what feels
normal because you're used to it. But number
two, this is where your most liberating work
can be done because if you work through this
very stuck place you'll be free. We keep
returning in life to our most stuck places,
over and over again because these places have
the most potential to free us if we can work
The most intense spiritual work any of us
can do is to learn to thrive in intimate
relationship. God shows up in the form of
your mate, or your committee members or your
annoying next door neighbor. God is present
in relationship. When relationship is trying
for you, this is a message, a gift from God,
that this is the place for you to learn and
grown. The better we learn to navigate
through intimacy, holding on to Self while
connecting to other Selves, the more we
manifest that sacred web of
inter-connectedness that is godly.
Our tradition welcomes the stranger. This
means to welcome what is strange to you. The
people whom we tend to cut off from or
dismiss are the very people our tradition
chooses to embrace. My House shall be a place
of prayer for all people, says Isaiah (56:7).
Not just those who agree with me. Not just
those who look like me or with whom I am most
comfortable. Not just those who share my
level of mental health, or IQ or physical
ability, or brand of Judaism, or experience
I have a dear friend Felice who is very
involved in her synagogue in another state.
Recently she poured out her frustrations to
me: the lesbian havurah doesn't understand
progressive Judaism; the mainstream community
doesn't understand lesbians; the progressive
Jewish community doesn't understand children.
None of them are politically active enough.
Finally we just had a good laugh realizing
that Felice could sit on a rock all by
herself and have a complete union of lesbian,
progressive, child-friendly, politically
active Judaism but she would be all by herself.
Here is a great suggestion for when we
bump up against what is strange to us: Curiosity
We need to learn to see home through each
other's eyes. A fantastic place to start is
right here in intimate Jewish community. You
know the teaching, the best way to have a
good friend is to be a good friend. The best
way to have a wonderful home is to make a
wonderful home for others. Learn what makes
someone else feel comfortable in this home.
Make this home work for others.
But we don't want to stop here. We need to
learn how to make home for our city, for our
country, for our planet.
Expanding this out into the world, we have
the opportunity to realize the full
manifestation of HaMakom, the name for God
that means The Place.
In this world, the value of being able to
build A community, just one community is
huge. It's a micro laboratory of what needs
to happen again and again all over the world
until we truly live in a world that is a
place of prayer for all people.
Welcome to the New Year, 5767. Shana Tovah!