Crowd Sourcing Sermon for August 28

August 24, 2015

What is the point of being in touch with our vulnerability, as Jews are pushed to do during the High Holy Day season?

Encountering the High Holy Day Prayer Book

On Rosh HaShanah it is written;

On the Fast of Yom Kippur it is sealed…

Who will live and who will die;

Who will reach the ripeness of age,

Who will be taken before their time;

Who by fire and who by water…

Who by earthquake and who by plague…

Who will rest and who will wander;

Who will be tranquil and who will be troubled…

I sat in shul for years reading these words before I realized the answer. The answer to each of these questions is “me.” Who will live and who will die? I will. Who at their end and who not at their end? Me. Like every human being, when I die it will be at the right time, and it will also be too soon. Fire, water, earthquake, plague? In my lifetime, I’ve been scorched and drowned, shaken and burdened, wandering and at rest, tranquil and troubled. That has been my life’s journey.

Of course I prefer to deflect this truth. I would much prefer to let the prayers talk about someone else, perhaps the fellow in the next row. It has taken a lifetime to reveal that defense as a lie. The prayer is not about someone else. It’s about me. It is a frightfully succinct summary of my existence. So now I read it again, but in the first person, and it makes me shiver.

I will live and I will die, at the right time and before my time,

I will wander but I might yet find rest,

I will be troubled but I may achieve tranquility.

This is the central truth of the High Holy Days. This is what makes them Yamin Nora’im, days of terror. We are vulnerable.

-Rabbi Edward Feinstein (page 206 Mishkan Hanefesh)

Crowd Sourcing Sermon for August 21

August 17, 2015
“On the Jewish High Holy Days, should we be praying mostly for the Jewish people, or for all humankind?”
One of the innovations of the Reform Movement’s new High Holy Day Prayerbook is in the “Kaddish” and in the prayer “Oseh Shalom,” we pray for peace “on us and on all Israel” (al kol Israel), but we add “on all who dwell on earth” (al kol yoshvei teivel).  [Mishkan HaNefefesh, p. 70 and p. 90].


Crowd Sourcing Sermon for August 14

August 10, 2015

“How can we use the month of Elul to prepare to turn the wrongs we have done into merits?”

[From Mishkan HaNefesh, Yom Kippur service, new Reform High Holy Day prayer book, page 85]:
“The Talmud teaches: ‘Great is repentance, for it transforms one’s deliberate sins into merit’ (Talmud, Yoma 86b).  In general, we think of repentance as a way of achieving expiation for the wrongs we have done.  But the Talmud’s teaching points us in a new and surprising direction…The focus is not on changing the past, but in defining a new direction for the future.  For repentance, after all, is ultimately about changing ourselves and evolving morally.”

Our Common Home: The Pope’s Encyclical in the Jewish Community

August 8, 2015

by Rabbi Jill Maderer

So… Who is in the box?  Who’s home falls in the Center City travel box when our special guest, the Pope, visits Philadelphia this fall? Me, too.  Although still not complete, this week’s transportation and security update began to feed my hunger for a better understanding about how my family will function, how emergencies will be addressed, and of course, how we are going to get the Jewish community to synagogue.  As complicated as the Pope’s visit will be from a logistical perspective, I am intrigued about how we in the Jewish community, might find meaning in this historical moment. Read the rest of this entry »

Crowd Sourcing Topic for Sermon on August 7

August 5, 2015

Torah reading: Deut 10:12-14

What does the Pope’s encyclical mean for the Jewish community?


Text :

The morning wind forever blows,

the poem of creation is uninterrupted;

but few are the ears

that hear it.

by Henry David Thoreau, in Mishkan Hanefesh Rosh Hashanah prayerbook, p. 145

Why I am going to Susiya | Rebecca Strober | The Blogs | The Times of Israel

August 3, 2015

Why I am going to Susiya | Rebecca Strober | The Blogs | The Times of Israel.

(Rebecca is the daughter of Fred Strober and grew up at RS)

What responsibility do we share?

July 29, 2015

What I love about our crowd-sourced sermons is that it doesn’t matter what I wanted to write about or say in relation to the text I presented, what interested you about this week’s question is now what I have to write about.

This situation actually sums up pretty well a certain tension in our High Holy Day liturgy; in our new machzor (our High Holy Day prayerbook) Mishkan HaNefesh; and in the process of repentance that we undertake during the Holy Days. Who, what, is primary? Is it the individual, me, writing this sermon with things I want to say, or is it the community, and the individual thoughts and experiences that can turn the discussion in ways an individual may not have intended?

Read the rest of this entry »


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