Yom Kippur 2013 Sermon

Today, Yom Kippur the Shabbat of Shabbats we are here - why?

Today is the culmination of the month of Elul, Rosh Hashanah and the Ten Days of Repentance. We think about what we have done over the last year.

We think about our responsibilities to our family, our friends, our employees, and ourselves, and we say that we will be better next year.

We will not commit the same sins and we will be better people – we say that many times. I am asking you to think about how you will make that happen how your life, your Jewish life, will evolve and how that affects your whole being.

As Jews are we different – yes we are different because of our heritage - because of our background, because of being one of God’s chosen people. Chosen I hear you say for what? Chosen for persecution, imprisonment, the Holocaust? Being chosen does not always mean chosen for good, it just means chosen. Chosen also of course means Jews by choice, they have made the supreme choice. Some of us were born Jewish and, therefore, had no choice; people who are Jewish by choice actually chose to encompass our religion and way of life rather than having it thrust upon them!

We are also different from Charedi Orthodox Jews. To us being Jewish is part of who we are – a very important part but it is not our sole reason for existence.

It is part of who we are, not all we are. We live ordinary lives, we interact with people of different races and cultures. We do not set ourselves up as separate and dare I say better than anyone else. We have non Jewish friends, colleagues and neighbours.

For all of us here, we interact with other Jews whether at services, choir rehearsals or the book group or having Jewish friends for a Friday night meal. All of this helps to further envelop ourselves in our Jewish culture.

The more interest we take in Jewish issues, whether through friends or through supporting Israel on line or through attending Jewish events, the more we are doing to further our Jewish ideals, the more we become closer to God’s ideals for us.

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Bereshit Chapters 44 verse 18 to 47 verse 27

This week`s Parsha begins with Judah`s impassioned plea to the powerful Egyptian Vice Roy (Joseph-but unbeknownst to him) for Benjamin`s life, claiming that their father Jacob will surely die from sorrow if he lost Benjamin. Judah offers to remain in Egypt as a slave in his brother`s place. Joseph unable to restrain himself any longer reveals his identity to his stunned brothers and forgives them for selling him into slavery so many years before, stating that sending him to Egypt was part of the Divine plan to prepare for their people`s survival from the famine. Joseph then sends them back to their land laden with gifts and invites them to bring back Jacob and their families to the province of Goshen. Before Jacob leaves home for Egypt God appears to him in a vision of the night, reassuring him that He will be with them and that they will eventually return to the land of Israel as a great nation. After 22 years of separation Jacob is finally reunited with his beloved son. The Sidra concludes by describing how Joseph uses his vast power to amass nearly all the wealth of Egypt for Pharaoh`s treasury.

Yesterday was the longest night of the year and the shortest day. Today is 9th Tevet the Shabbat with the longest hours of darkness. Tomorrow is the Tenth of Tevet known traditionally as Taanit Asarah B`Tevet, The Fast of 10th Tevet, which recalls a very dark moment in our history, when the First Temple was destroyed and the children of Israel were exiled to Babylon. However, even this exile, in retrospect, had a positive side, in that it encouraged the Jews to record their history and laws and to begin to develop Torah study and Synagogue prayer and meditation, so that when they returned to Jerusalem and the promised land they were in many ways a stronger and more spiritual people.

Read more: Vayiggash

Yom Kippur Shacharit Drusha

Drusha for Shacharit Service Yom Kippur 2012 Stanley Cohen

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord, my rod and redeemer.”

Yeheyu yerotzon imre fi, vehegion libi lefanecha adoni tsuri vegoali.

This drusha is really my meditation on the meaning of Yom Kippur for me which I offer to you to consider about as well.

How do we modern Jews make sense of the phenomenon of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement? How can we truly relate to its rituals, prayers, songs and Torah readings?  Can we relate to the need to fast, to reflect and seek forgiveness? How do we conceive of this God that we pray to and from whom we ask forgiveness?

How deeply do we let ourselves think about these questions? Do we have time to think about these things? Do we really think it demands much of our precious time….or is our presence here this morning driven by habit, obligation and some sort of passive resignation? Are we just content to enjoy the beauty of the music?

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Devarim 20:10-21

How easy or difficult is it to relate to what we have read today?

Some of what we read about like suing for peace before going into battle with the tribes of the promised land and saving fruit bearing trees may resonate with the reasonable side of our nature but the verses about killing whole peoples of certain named tribes, or even just the menfolk of the other tribes may be much more difficult to digest.

In our Torah saga the Children of Israel had escaped from Egypt and slavery; they had survived and thrived in the desert over forty years in spite of incredible hardship and they had arrived at last in the land Moses and the patriarchs said God had promised them.

Read more: Shofetim


We might be stronger than we think.

 It's an optimistic picture.

 Even if we don't feel its a possibility at the time, we can recover from stress and even trauma.


Read more: Resilience

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