Tonight: I’m curious. “Why Do We Come To Pray Together During the Holiday Season?”
Later on this evening, we’ll be privileged to hear from Uri and Luciana Scher and from Stuart Pearlman. They’ll be sharing reflections on what the holidays mean to them, and why they’re drawn to pray with us. My hope is that their sharing will inspire your own sharing on this subject - particularly during the oneg following tonight’s service.
I stand before you tonight, not just as your rabbi, but also as a fellow searcher.
One reason I came tonight to pray was to honor my past. I have fond memories of sharing these holidays with my late paternal grandmother, Sylvia. I return every autumn to honor her, and all of the other spiritual ancestors who came before me.
I also pray tonight to mark the passage of time. Life’s challenges are mitigated - for me - by the ability to say that each day, week, month, and year matter. And one way I honor that is by pausing to mark the moments. In our secular lives, we bend over backwards to do that with birthdays and anniversaries and graduations. Judaism gives us other reasons to bless the moment by saying: this time is significant. So I pause, and come tonight to sanctify the arrival of a new year.
I also pray for inspiration regarding my place in the world. What responsibilities do I have to my friends and neighbors? What Jewish values can I draw on to be a better stakeholder in our fragile democracy? And where do I stand with God?
That’s why I’ve come here, this year, tonight. To honor my past. To mark the passage of time. And to seek inspiration.
Of course, the desire to connect to others and to something bigger than ourselves isn’t just stirred during these ten days - it’s a void waiting to be filled within us throughout the year.
You came here tonight in search of something. I affirm the value of that search, and I invite you to continue that search with us week in and week out throughout the rest of the year on Shabbat. Our Judaism gifts us with the opportunity to reflect and grow all year long, not just during these ten days!
Cantor Becker and I are doing our part to make our Shabbat worship and programming even more creative and meaningful in the year ahead. We are going to gently experiment with new forms of prayer that will occasionally integrate justice or yoga or the ethical reflections of mussar in to what we do here. There will be new music from professional and lay musicians. There will be new study opportunities led by clergy and outside speakers. And, of course there will be new opportunities to share delicious food and meaningful conversation with one another too.
Our teacher, the late Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, wrote:
“Prayer is no panacea, no substitute for action. It is, rather, like a beam thrown from a flashlight before us into the darkness. It is in this light that we who grope, stumble, and climb, discover where we stand, what surrounds us, and the course which we should choose.”
We are so glad that you’re here tonight. But after Yom Kippur - don’t be strangers. You matter to us, and your presence here matters to us.
Heschel spoke of stumbling and of climbing.
We seek to strengthen our community and its worship life because we believe in the value of stumbling and climbing in the presence of others. Join us, as we journey forth together.