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 »

Crowd Sourced Sermon Topic for July 31st

July 28, 2015

“Better a piece of dry bread and tranquility with it, than a house full of feasting with strife.” (Proverbs 17:1)

“If your wife is short, bend over to hear her whisper.” (Talmud, Bava M’tzia 59a)

– Mishkan HaNefesh, Yom Kippur, pg. 402-403

These texts speak about the Jewish concept of shalom bayit – peace in the home.  What does the term shalom bayit mean to you? How do you create a peaceful home?

Crowd Sourcing Sermon Topic for July 24

July 20, 2015

“Why do we confess to wrongs we have not personally committed? The 16th-century mystic Rabbi Isaac Luria teaches that the people of Israel may be likened to a body of which every Jew is a living part. The vitality of the whole depends upon the health of every organ and limb. That is how deeply we are connected to one another. Therefore, each individual sin inflicts damage on the whole organism, and all of us share responsibility for healing the body of Israel.”

From Mishkan Hanefesh, page 83 of the Yom Kippur volume

What Do You Think: Our new High Holy Day machzor challenges us to consider the same prayers as speaking to both the individual and the community. How does the High Holy Day liturgy speak to you and your individual experience, and how does it speak to you as a member of the Jewish community?

We All Have Rivers to Cross: Learning Prayer from our Ancestors

July 13, 2015

Glendasan River, Wicklow MountainsDelivered by Rabbi Jill Maderer this Shabbat...   Thank you to Roberta for your beautiful Torah reading.  When Roberta began to prepare for her Adult B’nei Mitzvah earlier this year, she felt especially draw to chanting Torah.  It was then that her mother reminded her: Roberta’s great-grandfather was a hazzan–a traditional cantor.  This powerful link to her roots — spanning time and space — deepened Roberta’s Torah experience all the more so.

This summer, as we encounter Mishkan HaNefesh, our new High Holy Day Machzor, we are posting a weekly question for your response. This week, we asked: From what person or event in Jewish history or in Jewish tradition do you draw inspiration?  In other words, what are the lessons you learn from Jews of the past?

In Roberta’s case, a teacher of Jewish ritual who was a relative from her own family touched her.  For many, teachers from Jewish history offer connection.  We are not alone in our Jewish quest for meaning. Read the rest of this entry »

Crowd Sourcing Sermon for July 19

July 12, 2015

“I want to make a confession, to give an accounting to myself, and to God.  In other words, to measure my life and actions against the lofty ideals I’ve set for myself.  To compare that which should have been with that which was… ” – Hana Senesh (1921-1944), diary entry of October 11, 1940

From Mishkan HaNefesh, the new High Holy Day Prayer Book (Rosh Hashanah pg. 118)
Discussion Question:
How do we measure success?  Do we compare ourselves to others to often in our overly competitive society?  Is there a time in your life when you felt that you didn’t measure up to others expectation or your own?  Tell us about a time in your life when you were proud of an accomplishment.

Crowd Sourcing Sermon Topic for July 10

July 5, 2015

From what person or event in Jewish history or in Jewish text tradition do you draw inspiration?

From the new Yom Kippur Prayerbook (p 198)

In the depths of the night, by the edge of the river, Jacob was left alone.
In heartfelt longing, in the temple of God, Channah uttered her prayer alone.
In the barren wilderness, in doubt and despair, Elijah found God alone.
On the holiest day, in the Holy of Holies, the High Priest entered alone.
We are bound to one another in myriad ways, but each soul needs time to itself.
In solitude we meet the solitary One; silence makes space for the still small voice.
For the Psalmist says: “Deep calls unto deep.” For the depths of our soul, we seek what is most profound.
Adonai, s’fatai tiftach, ufi yagid t’hilatecha.  Adonai, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Your praise.

Our Concealed Shortcomings and Charleston

June 26, 2015

By Rabbi Jill Maderer

Rebbe Nachman of Brastlav tells this tale: A young man leaves his home to learn a trade. Years later, he returns to his family and shares that he has become a master in the art of menorah making.  He asks his parents to invite all of the other artisans in town to come see his masterpiece — a candelabra inspired by those of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem.  So all the finest crafters come to view this man’s menorah. Later, the son asks his parents, “What did you think?”  They reply, “We’re sorry to say all of your fellow lamp-makers told us that it was a flawed, ugly piece.”  “Ah,” replies the son, “but that is the secret! Yes, they all say it was ugly, but what nobody realizes is this: Each sees a different part as ugly. Each overlooks the mistakes that he himself would make, and sees only the shortcomings of the others.  “You see, I made this menorah in this way on purpose — completely out of mistakes and deficiencies — in order to demonstrate that none of us has perfection.”

In Psalm 90, the Psalmist calls to God: “You can see our concealed darkness; You can see our concealed shortcomings, in the light of Your face.”  Perhaps God can see our shortcomings, but can we?

Broken-hearted to live in a society where a white man enters a black church with his gun and brutally murders nine African American souls who are studying Bible, Read the rest of this entry »


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