Muscle Tough – And Other Holiday Sermons

Well, we made it through Elul, Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur and the first days of Sukkot so far. That’s a lot of sermons to absorb. What were some of your favorites?

Here are some of mine.

One NYC rabbi told of her recent arrest in NYC with other Jewish members of the clergy and their entourages. As they sat – handcuffed – in the back of the van to take them to arraignment, the rabbi – as is her wont to do – asked each of the arrestees to go around the van and state their name and thoughts. They did. Then the patrolman who accompanied them spoke up and told about he, as a child in Manhattan of Dominican heritage, was always impressed with his Jewish classmates who wished each other “MUSCLE TOUGH” in times of what he thought were success and failure. He was enamored that Jews wished wach other muscle strength and fortitude in times of good and bad. MUSCLE TOUGH! MUSCLE TOUGH?? Ohhhhhhhhh.. MAZAL TOV

Muscle Tough.. I like it… and will start using it. muscle up, friends to endure the things we must to heal the world

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A rabbinical student on the Book of Jonah on Yom Kippur discussed the first word of the reading – KOOM – which is translated as ARISE. G!d calls on Jonah to ARISE. But Jonah descends to the coast, descends to a ship, descends to the bottom of the ship, and descends into the belly of a big fish. ARISE versus descend, until he finally heeds the instructions to ARISE, yet not too happily, to do his duty.

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Abraham as a rapist of Hagar…. feeling uncomfortable yet…. I will share this another time.

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A rabbinical student shared a story from her life. A graduate student at Brandeis, she was offered a trip to Germany for a month. Her friends, teachers, and classmates thought that she was so fortunate! A trip to Germany: a month of good food, good sights, museums, and relaxation. Actually she went to Germany because her sister became ill and was hospitalized in a German hospital for the mentally ill. Her trip was a month of sitting outside a locked bathroom door, hoping that her sister would come out alive and unharmed, and a month of dealing with doctors and administrators in order to convince them to release her sister to her care. In the Jewish and other communities, mental illness is still hidden and not discussed. Cancer – once whispered – and other illnesses are now discussed openly, but mental illness is not. She called out for a change in attitudes so that families can speak out and find community support, and not hide their struggles.

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At Sinai Temple in Los Angeles…. Rabbi David Wolpe opened with a versatile joke (he used it on both Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. He discussed the stupid mistakes everyone makes because we are all human, split and flawed. “Follow You Heart and Chase Your Dreams” is nonsense, says Wolpe. Judaism requires deep struggles and feeling something is right doesn’t make it right, and human knowledge is limited, so that we recognize that there is no straight path to perfect morality and we have sins that the we commit knowingly and unknowingly.

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Temple Israel in Memphis asks whether the i-Shiva app (where to find free food at the closest shiva) distasteful or humorous… but more importantly is Yom Kippur a time or joy, and is Judaism a religion of finding joy (not fun, but joy). (But he started with a joke first) (He also discussed Pixar’s Inside Out and its relationship to fear, sadness, and joy.

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At Cleveland’s Ansche Chesed, Rabbi Joshua Caruso started with a rabbi joke and then gets to the point of discussing attitudes on aging and death, and how people, no matter their age, move from one episode of life to another, without ever taking the time to visit the past to see how we have derived meaning from moments of significance. Jews need to return, return, and return and study past deeds to repent and to repair relationships.

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Rabbi Angela Buchwald of Manhattan;s Central Synagogue discussed her family trip to the Grand Canyon. She started with a joke of course, and went on to discuss her life in the God Business, and her views on God and attempts to share how to recognize God in her congregants’ live. Praise The Lord!


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