The Holy Day Sermons I Won’t Deliver

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Ceiling Tile Kof (Named by Akuokuo Vallis) who won our kof naming contest a few months ago.

The Hebrew letter Kof is the first letter of the word Kadosh. Kadosh means, “Holy.”For Jews this season of the year is holy ”

Simply defined, “Holy,” means different or opposite from the ordinary.

Our Holy Day table is beautifully set.

In just a few hours, we shall welcome a new Jewish year.

To prepare for this holy day I have just finished my annual reading of S. Y. Agnon’s The Days of Awe (See my essay, If It’s Elul, It Must Be Agnon) that I began mid-summer.

For Vickie and me it will be a new year, in a new home in a new congregation. It is a daunting challenge but one we eagerly embrace.

These are troubled times for our country and our world. Many rabbis will devote their Holy Day messages to these troubles. Some will read as part of their sermons a beautifully crafted statement written by leaders of our American Reform movement about these issues.

I will not. Here is why:

These problems will remain unchanged long after Yom Kippur ends in ten days. They will remain no matter how eloquent or how eloquently passionate a rabbi’s statements about Donald Trump or the problems faced by non Orthodox Jews in Israel, the threat of North Korea or any other issue will be.

No sermons will solve them.

But there is a chance, perhaps a small chance but still a chance, that my messages and those of others, will affect the way a person relates to these sacred days and their message of self reflection, repentance and change.

Because there is that chance, all the time, effort and thought that I put into those messages is worthwhile.

It is natural to want change in our country and in our world.

It is understandable that many are unhappy about any number of salient political issues.

Certainly some of these issues, like our Torah’s most frequently repeated imperative to welcome the stranger and treat him or her with dignity and respect touch the core of our values as a people.

But my messages will not change national policy.

But …

  • if they change the heart or mind of one person,
  • or if they enable someone to see meaning in a biblical passage in a different light that speaks to their lives …

Then I believe I will have fulfilled the purpose for which the Eternal One allowed me to become a rabbi. And I will be content


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