In holiday sermons, rabbis use the story of the recently departed Neil Armstrong and other news events to start Jewish conversations.
‘One small step for man,” one giant metaphor for rabbis.
When it comes to detecting where the cultural and religious winds are blowing in the Jewish community, there’s no better barometer than the Rosh HaShanah sermon, the one time of the year when the faithful (and even the not so faithful) pack the pews and when rabbis try out their purplest prose in a bid for relevance.
For the past two weeks, as we navigated the peaks and valleys of the High Holidays, the cherished and time-sanctified liturgy of our tradition has relentlessly assaulted our senses with a consistent message. Our behaviors have consequences. Our lives are terribly flawed, often because of our own failures and shortcomings. The only hope that we have of achieving redemption is to return to the tried and true path of God, Torah, and fidelity to the ancient covenant that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his beloved child in order to protect.
Timing is everything: Given this year’s High Holy Days schedule, along with the renewed rush that arrives after Labor Day, coordinating a Sunday evening in September for our first synagogue Book Group meeting of the season proved more challenging than choosing what we would read, which we’d discussed before our summer break. Thus it happened that the only Sunday available was the one that fell between the Ten Days, after Rosh HaShanah and two evenings prior to Yom Kippur. Our reading selection: “Metamorphosis” and other stories by Franz Kafka.
Awe – a concept that is so hard to grasp. There are not many things that produce in us a pure sense of awe. If you are like me, you may use the word “Awesome” in your daily speech, but rarely with a true feeling of something being full of awe. Awe seems to contain within it something….majestic….holy….and even fearsome. I think the key to this season, and the place it holds in so many of our lives, lies in this word: Awe.
Elicia Brown, in her column in the Jewish Week (“Free Range Jew,” Sept. 14), recounts her adventures as she takes her family from synagogue to synagogue during the High Holy Days rather than commit to attending one synagogue and missing out on an adventure.
I was walking my dog late one night this week when I encountered a neighbor from down the block, past whose house my dog and I invariably pass on this evening ritual. As most people will say to me in one form or another at this time of year, my neighbor offered the following greeting: “So, you’re entering into your busy season, yes? Must be a lot of pressure.”
For members of a synagogue, the preparation for the High Holy Days season starts weeks, if not months before Rosh HaShanah.
In some congregations, there are the daily selichot prayers that are recited during the month of Elul that precedes Tishrei, and additions to the daily worship services. There is increased giving of tzedakah and the performance of good deeds. For some, a new machzor; for others, a new outfit.
For rabbis, sermons to write.
For cantors and choirs, melodies to rehearse. For the synagogue itself, there’s also a period of preparation.