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Friday, September 22, 2017

Rosh Hashanah 5778 Sermon

The last few months have been trying and difficult for our country and our world. Natural disasters have been rampant in our world; hate has run wild in our country. However difficult these months have been, though, we have also had some wonderful moments of joy and clarity. As a community, we collected and sent at least 7 large boxes of clothing and supplies to those who were affected by Hurricanes. We also have had one heck of a great start to our Religious School and Hebrew School. This is only the beginning for us…and whenever we are faced with adversity, we know we can turn to each other and our community for support.

In last night’s sermon, we looked at 3 different ways in which we can be held accountable: to ourselves, to each other and to God. While last night I presented to you three different stories, each demonstrating one of these categories of accountability, this morning’s sermon will be dedicated specifically to our accountability to others, and what our responsibilities are as Jews and as humans. Remember, when we are held accountable to each other, we are in fact being held accountable to God, as God is in each of us.

***from “One Voice,” delivered by myself and colleagues across the Reform Jewish World***
Today I speak words of protest, joining hundreds of my Reform rabbinic colleagues across the nation in fulfillment of our sacred obligation. We will not be silent. We will, without hesitation, decry the moral abdication of any leader who fuels hatred and division in our beloved country. This is not a political statement. We, like the prophets before us, draw from the deepest wisdom of our tradition to deliver a stern warning against complacency and an impassioned call for action. We call on you to rise up and say in thousands of ways, every day, as proud Jews and proud Americans: “You cannot dehumanize, degrade and stigmatize whole categories of people in this nation. Every Jew, every Muslim, every gay, transgender, disabled, black, brown, white, woman, man and child is beloved of God and precious in the Holy One’s sight. We the people, all the people, are created b’tzelem elohim, in the image of the Divine. All the people are worthy of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

The Talmud teaches, “If you see wrongdoing by a member of your household and you do not protest – you are held accountable. And so it is in relation to the members of your city. And so it is in relation to the world.” As Jews, we are held accountable in ever-widening circles of responsibility to rebuke transgressors within our homes, in our country, in our world. One chutzpadik medieval commentator teaches we must voice hard truths even to those with great power, for “the whole people are punished for the sins of the king if they do not protest the king’s actions to him.”

Rosh Hashanah is Yom Teruah, the Day of sounding the Shofar, whose piercing tones sound an alarm, express our fears and especially in these times compel us to respond with a resounding call for justice.

The shofar blasts: Tekiah [single shofar blast] The Sound of Certainty:

As rabbis we are, from sea to shining sea, speaking to our congregations in every accent of America to declare in unison: acts of hatred, intimidation and divisiveness will not be tolerated in these United States. We stand upon the shoulders of the sages, poets and rabbis in every generation who fought for freedom. We speak in memory of every Jew and in memory of all people who tragically and senselessly lost their lives at the hands of evil oppressors. We call on our political leaders; progressives and conservatives alike, to rigorously uphold the values brilliantly articulated in the founding documents of our country, the “immortal declaration” that all people are created equal. We call on every elected leader to responsibly represent our country’s history and advance its noble visions of tolerance. On this first day of the New Year WE are, as we read in Leviticus, Chapter 25:10: “Proclaiming liberty throughout all the land.”

The shofar blasts: Sh'varim [3 shofar blasts] The Sound of Brokenness:

Something crumbled inside us when we watched the televised images of Charlottesville’s beautiful streets filled with hate-spewing marchers. The wound reopened just 2 weeks later when we gathered together for a Bar Mitzvah. Because of a planned rally in Ft. Sanders, we had the need to hire additional security. While we were not intimidated by the small gathering/rally in Fort Sanders in support of the Confederate monument, we were surprised and honored by the nearly 3,000 who gathered to protest the rally, those who came out to support the diversity of today’s United States.

How much more vandalism, how many clashes, which other cities? We must not accept or become accustomed to some warped version of “normal,” of racist and anti-Semitic acts or rallies popping in and out of breaking news cycles. Let us never grow numb to the brokenness, but let our pain fuel our vows to respond – with peaceful protests, and with public calls for healing, by building alliances and by speaking in unison with other minorities and faith communities. Neither silence nor complacency nor waiting anxiously and fearfully for the next wounding event are options. Not today and Not for us.

Elie Wiesel, of blessed memory, possessed a rare understanding of unfathomable brokenness. His memorable words sound a warning to us today, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere.” May we never be neutral, never silent in the face of threats or of discrimination toward any. Let us be like God and interfere as rofei lishvurei lev, healers of the broken-hearted, and u’mchabaysh l’atzvotahm, binders of their wounds, as we read in Psalm 147:3
`~t'(AbC.[;l. vBeªx;m.W÷ ble_ yrEWbåv.li aperoh'â  : Psalm 147:3

“He heals their broken hearts, and binds up their wounds”

The shofar blasts: T'ruah [9 short blasts] The Sound of Urgency:

The events of these simmering weeks are a wake-up call to our Jewish community. Racism is wrong whether it seeps into explicit Antisemitism or not. The Talmud teaches that God created us all from the first Adam so that no human being could ever say, “my lineage is greater than yours.” But just in case we thought the white supremacists were after someone else, or that the Confederate flag has nothing to do with modern day Nazi sympathizers, or that we were somehow safe in the fact that most – but certainly not all - Jews in America are white, those fiery torches illuminated another truth, one we learn and forget only to learn again this day: if one minority group’s rights are threatened, we are all threatened. As Martin Luther King taught us, “We are all tied together in a single garment of destiny,” whether we are the least powerful or the most powerful person in our world.

The Shofar blasts: Tekiah G’dolah [lengthy single blast] The Endless Pursuit of Justice:

Tzedek tzedek tirdof the Torah admonishes: “Justice, justice you shall pursue, so that you may live and inherit the land which I, God, give to you.” Our sacred text reminds us that for a community truly to inherit its place in the world, thoughtful leaders at every level must be dedicated to equality and to unity. Every community relies on passionate and engaged citizens; it relies on you to be insistent advocates for tolerance and enduring kindness between the diverse peoples of our nation. To pursue justice is to create a society that protects and enlivens every citizen. Let us be relentless, tireless builders of that society in our city and in our country -- in this New Year.

***************************************************

When I returned from Washington, D.C., after the 1000 Minister March for Justice, I was immediately faced with a tough decision: Would I let that march be the end of it? Or, would I continue the struggle against injustice? What makes a leader a great leader is his/her ability to “talk the talk” and “walk the walk.” When Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. marched in Selma, he had a purpose. He was peacefully fighting for the ability for all Americans to vote. When he marched in Washington, D.C., he did so for justice with regards to voting, criminal justice and equality. He did not just speak – he acted. When he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, he did so while marching for the freedoms he sought for all Americans.

So, the questions remain – why did I march in Washington, D.C.? And, what is next? While considering these questions, I look around and turn to my congregation. Who will join me in continuing this journey toward Justice? We must be heard and seen. Our children are watching us. Our children need guidance and role models. When we act, we should not do so only because we think it is the right thing to do. We must act because our children need to see us acting. We are the role models; we are the examples for our children. We should never forget that.

This morning, I want to end my sermon with a prayer I wrote a couple of weeks ago as our country prepared for the 2nd of two VERY big hurricanes – 1000 year storms as they are called:

Praying for Those in Need

Eloheinu V'lohei Avoteinu v'Imoteinu:
God of our fathers and mothers,
Today is a scary day, filled with angst and fear.
Help us to stay safe, keeping our children close.
Teach us to make the right decisions, even if we are unsure.

Eloheinu V'lohei Avoteinu v'Imoteinu:
God of our fathers and mothers,
Today we need you, perhaps more than other days.
Show us your comfort and your protection.
Create within each of us warmth and love for each other.

Eloheinu V'lohei Avoteinu v'Imoteinu:
God of our fathers and mothers,
Today will pass and become tomorrow.
Give us the strength to smile and prepare.
Comfort us as we seek You in every day.

Eloheinu V'lohei Avoteinu v'Imoteinu:
God of our fathers and mothers,
Today, let us begin to think about those who need us.
Guide us in our every task and action.
Bring us to a time of safety and sustain us.

ברוּך אתה יי, שאוֹהב אוֹתנוּ, מגן עלינוּ וּמציל אוֹתנוּ


Blessed are you God, who loves us, protects us and saves us.

My dear TBE family – my wish for each of us is that we are able to find our own personal B’tzelem Elohim moment this year. May we look for the good and the awesome in everyone we meet, in the grocery story, in the bank, at TBE and everywhere else. May we look for inspiration everywhere and in everyone! May each of you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a wonderful and healthy 5778!



Friday, September 8, 2017

Praying for Those in Need

Eloheinu V'lohei Avoteinu v'Imoteinu:
God of our fathers and mothers,
Today is a scary day, filled with angst and fear.
Help us to stay safe, keeping our children close.
Teach us to make the right decisions, even if we are unsure.

Eloheinu V'lohei Avoteinu v'Imoteinu:
God of our fathers and mothers,
Today we need you, perhaps more than other days.
Show us your comfort and your protection.
Create within each of us warmth and love for each other.

Eloheinu V'lohei Avoteinu v'Imoteinu:
God of our fathers and mothers,
Today will pass and become tomorrow.
Give us the strength to smile and prepare.
Comfort us as we seek You in every day.

Eloheinu V'lohei Avoteinu v'Imoteinu:
God of our fathers and mothers,
Today, let us begin to think about those who need us.
Guide us in our every task and action.
Bring us to a time of safety and sustain us.

ברוּך אתה יי, שאוֹהב אוֹתנוּ, מגן עלינוּ וּמציל אוֹתנוּ

Blessed are you God, who loves us, protects us and saves us.

Friday, August 18, 2017

A Prayer for Today

Hold my hand, Lord, and guide me in your ways.
Hold my hand, Lord, and help me get through the day.
Hold my hand, Lord, and keep me from looking away.
Hold my hand, Lord, no matter if the outlook appears gray.

I turn to you, Adonai, when I am struggling with the news.
I turn to you, Adonai, when I am lost and confused.
I turn to you, Adonai, when I am searching for some clues.
I turn to you, Adonai, feeling ashamed and abused.

Show me the way, God, help me to understand.
Show me the way, God, help me to lend a hand.
Show me the way, God, help me to ask, no Demand.
Show me the way, God, to get out of the quicksand.

Lord, Adonai, God: you answer to so many names.
When all of us come together, we can work toward your aims.
When we fight each other, there is bloodshed, our world is in flames.
Lord, Adonai, God: Bring us back together to rid ourselves of shame.

ברוך אתה יי זה שעוזר לנו לחיות ולחיות טוב יותר למען עצמנו ולמענך

Blessed are you, Adonai, the One who helps us to do and live better for our own and for Your sake.