Thursday, September 12, 2013

Forgive - O - Gram

With Yom Kippur so close at hand, a few quick comments and notes:

-- Last week's Rosh Hashanah services were beyond enjoyable.  My thanks to all who made them happen, and in particular to the cantor and choir for lifting us "ever upward."  For those who wish to read or listen to my Rosh Hashanah sermons, they can be found here.  Senator Blumenthal's remarks can be heard at the end of my 1st day sermon.  We are delighted to welcome the Blumenthals back to our congregation!

Click here to see the secret ingredients of a great Yom Kippur sermon.  All my trade secrets, revealed! 


Yom Kippur, 1973: At no time since its birth has Israel faced such existential peril.  At no time did the US and Soviets come closer to a direct military confrontation.  And at no time did Israel come closer to using its clandestine nuclear arsenal. This war shaped all that has come after.  See this ABC news report from a few days after the war began.  With the Middle East again in turmoil, it pays to take some time this Yom Kippur to look back.

How was it possible that Israel was not prepared for the attack?  See this video commentary from the Hartman Institute, where Yossi Klein Halevi explains how a combination of Israeli arrogance and complacency led to the calamity, and how the war gave birth both to the settler movement and to the Israeli peace movement.  For Egypt, which had extended a peace offer to Israel only months before, the war led ultimately to Sadat's visit to Jerusalem and to the Camp David Accords.  For Golda Meir, this war was the source of her greatest regret.  And yet, in fact, Israel won the war.  But the trauma of so nearly losing everything has been impossible to shake.

During the Martyrology section of the Yom Kippur Day service, TBE teens will be reading selections written at the time of the war, and we'll sing some popular songs from the era.  My thanks to Alexa Baer, Stephanie Hausman, Jacob Goldberg, Rebecca Rackowitz, Josh Dampf, Richie Greenbaum, Jenna Plotzky and Nathan Salm for helping out.  Plan to stick around to hear this moving tribute!  It will be about a half hour after the sermon.


Later in the afternoon, just before Mincha, I'll be holding a discussion session on the topic of the Avodah service (where the high priest went into the Holy of Holies to ask forgiveness of the people).   You can look at some relevant articles, which I'll be referencing, here.


This week I received wonderful news about our trip for next July - some excellent airfares from El Al have been procured.  I've put all our registration and pricing information online, along with an interactive itinerary, here.

(and see it on the Keshet tours web page.)

We already have 20 signed up, so I expect space to be limited as the group grows.  This trip is for all ages and the itinerary is based on years of experience that Mara and I have had in leading so many Israel Adventures.  

For those families nearing or just beyond Bar/Bat Mitzvah:  Especially during the Bar/Bat Mitzvah year, a family trip to Israel can have a tremendous impact on a child's developing sense of connectedness to family, community and the Jewish people.  The memories gained from this type of bonding experience reverberate within the life of the family and the congregation long after we return home.  In comparison to the soaring costs of the typical four-hours-and-it's-over party, touring Israel as part of this momentous year carries with it an escalating value at a bargain-basement price.  If all your celebration plans haven't been finalized yet, I highly recommend cutting a corner or two in the party here so that together we can create memories in Israel that will last a lifetime.  Even if all your plans have been finalized, adding this trip to the package of Bar/Bat Mitzvah-related activities will be a decision that you will not regret!
For everyone else, including young professionals, empty nesters and young families: A trip to Israel will change your life! Just ask anyone who has been there.  Join us! 

So check it out - and make it your New Year's Resolution to fulfill that chant from the end of Yom Kippur:  THIS year in Jerusalem! 

Get all the info here!

-- Teshuvah Resources

At this time of year, as we write ourselves into the Book of Life, our attention turns to 
heshbon hanefesh - soul searching. And for that we look to our old friend 
Moses Maimonides.  Click here to find a complete version of Maimonides' Laws of Teshuvah (Repentance) online.  Also see Maimonides' Hilchot De'ot, the Laws of Character Development

Also, has some excellent material on Teshuvah. Check out these brief essays:

Completing Repentance
Severe Decree
Factors in Repentance
Types of Forgiveness
Attitudes Towards Repentance

Finally, this passage is a reminder that we need to plan our time wisely and prioritize our personal goals for the upcoming year.

Raba said, When one is led in for Judgment he is asked, 

1. Did you deal faithfully [i.e., with integrity]?
2. Did you fix times for learning?
3. Did you engage in procreation?
4. Did you hope for salvation?
5. Did you engage in the dialectics of wisdom? 
6. Did you understand one thing from another? (B. Shabbat 30b-31a)

To everyone, an easy fast and G'mar Hatima Tova. And if I have caused harm to pain to you in any manner, I ask for your forgiveness.

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman 

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