I want to share a true story about David Gregory, former host of NBC’s Meet the Press, the television forum for national and world leaders. This story came to me in two parts. The first part came from one of my teachers, Dr. Erica Brown, a leading Jewish educator; the second part came from David Gregory himself.
While many clergy who lead congregations have to write sermons on a weekly basis, the High Holidays tend to be my one big opportunity to offer a sermon each year. As such, the sermon occupies a fair amount of my attention from about the beginning of the summer.
Tonight is Kol Nidre, the eve of Yom Kippur, the most solemn service of our year. And yet, it can be the most hopeful, because it offers the possibility of a fresh start, all failings forgiven.
Whether or not we’d use the term, all of us are seekers. As Psalm 42 puts it, “As a deer pants at water brooks, so does my soul thirst for God.” Medieval mystic Avraham Ibn Ezra used these words in a chant, tzama nafshi: “my soul thirsts.”
Our theme for this year’s cycle of High Holy Days is “Seeking.” As we begin our journey through these 10 days of reflection and transformation, I want to offer a kaleidoscopic of God images – images of a multi-faceted power unseen with the eyes, calling us to seek that which is sacred. The liturgy of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur offers us a palette of verbal faces – images of God – that can help us relate to the Divine from deep within ourselves.
In this village, our spirits really do become parts of each other: I can see the joy in your eyes, reflecting the joy in my own eyes. This mingling of joy amidst joy is what I hope for all of us each Shabbat. Thank you for helping make today’s Shabbat one I’ll remember for a lifetime.
My parents, may their memories be blessed, were kind, generous, and supportive. They sent me to the finest of colleges and graduate schools, and helped finance my children’s education as well. But they belonged to the generation whom the God they believed in had failed.
There is an old tradition of cleaning out our homes as well as ourselves before the High Holy Days.
This year our theme for the Holy Days is “Belonging.” So let me begin with a story about belongings.
For the first month studying in Jerusalem, I was in my bubble, streaming news feeds 24/7 for siren alerts while living a ‘kinda-normal’ life. Many weekday evenings, I forfeited cultural events to attend sessions with political analysts who bantered on their sociological and historical perspectives of the situation, followed by late night conversations of the future of Israel with international and Israeli friends in local cafes.