For those interested in listening/watching on You Tube or reading the text of any of the three High Holiday sermons I delivered this year at Temple Israel of Hollywood on Rosh Hashanah evening, Rosh Hashanah morning and on Kol Nidre, they are now posted together in written form and on YouTube on the Temple Israel of Hollywood website (www.tioh.org) and can be accessed directly here:
Erev Rosh Hashanah – “Radiance in this Austere World”
There is a vast difference between what I call “good speech” about others and gossip (l’shon ha-ra – the evil tongue). The former builds ethical relationships and the latter destroys them. There are no innocent by-standers when we gossip, so the rabbis teach, and we all do it – according to polls 80% of all speech between people is about other people, for better and worse. Recognizing “gossip” as a serious ethical challenge, Judaism has developed a rich series of rules governing our use of language, how we speak to and about others and what we choose to say or not say. My sister in-law put it well recently when she noted that “Candor is golden; diplomacy is divine!” The problem is that people say far too much to each other and about each other, and allow their anger, frustration and self-righteous belief that they are duty-bound to be honest at all times whether harm and hurt comes to others as a consequence or not. The High Holidays reminds us that not all thoughts ought to be expressed, written, shared, or read. In these days leading to the Presidential primaries, we are seeing far too much destructive speech coming from candidates, but that is just a reflection of the coarseness and insensitivity that is happening across society as a whole.
Shacharit Rosh Hashanah – “Fighting for the Soul of the Jewish People”
We Jews are living in a very difficult, threatening and complicated world, and we have been divided by our own extremists about what is in the Jewish people’s best interest relative to the State of Israel’s long-term security and peace as the democratic nation state of the Jewish people. The unity of the Jewish people is essential to our future strength and security, but policies of the government of the state of Israel, led by fear and arrogance and buttressed by an unholy political marriage between ultra-orthodox Hareidi Jews and right-wing one-state believing settlers has now gained significant influence in the policies of the government and threatens to take Israel over a cliff as it becomes increasingly isolated internationally and a source of consternation for the Jewish people in America. We risk losing a generation of young liberal Jews who want to love Israel but are increasingly torn between the values on which they were raised and policies that emphasize security to the exclusion of everything else. The recent battles in the United States over the Iran Agreement, the failure of the Kerry effort to forge a two-state solution, and the vicious attacks on liberal left Jewish supporters of Israel and on other pro-Israel supporters who have taken a different view by both the left and the right, but primarily by extreme right-wing Jews need to be stopped – and soon, or we could lose everything the Jewish people has striven to build since the beginnings of the Zionist movement.
Kol Nidre – “Six Life Lessons”
In this very personal sermon, I share my own spiritual journey and six life-lessons I have learned over the 65+ years of my life. These lessons have broad applicability.
For those interested, on the Temple Israel site are posted the sermons of my colleagues, Rabbi Michelle Missaghieh and Rabbi Jocee Hudson – all well worth reading.
L’shanah tovah u-m’tukah – A good and sweet New Year.