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RABBI JOSHUA HOFFMAN: 2018/5779

 

RABBI JOSHUA HOFFMAN: 2018/5779

[collapsed title="2018 Rosh Hashanah Sermon: The End of Ends"]

 

"The End of Ends"

In times of uncertainty, truth and confidence are found in a moral balance, if only we will listen.

Wanda Diaz Merced is an accomplished astrophysicist. Several years ago, though, she lost her sight due to an extended illness. Challenged by the rigors of her field, one that primarily uses sight to interpret the data collected from the vast universe, she and her team devised a method of translating information into sound, called sonification. With the lilt and timber of sounds like musical notes, the information collected about some of the most rare phenomena studied by humanity was translated and reported by Dr. Merced. And in time, she was able to discover a supernova, the incredible death of a star, that released more energy in one instant than what our sun produces in 10 days. She discovered this all without sight. With the help of sonification, she was listening.

If only we could listen like this! Instead, we hear everything going on, sometimes too loudly. It’s non-stop. Non-stop flow of information, non-stop communications, especially in our connections with others. Information is zooming past us at infinite speeds. What we are hearing is a sound like the one we used to hear when the phone was connecting to the internet. Remember that? Discordant, screechy, technological. It’s hard to listen to that for more than a few seconds, for sure.

You only really know you haven’t been listening when you escape to the mountains or to some secluded beach on a remote island to hear the sounds of nature and the sounds of your soul and begin to listen again.

It is Rosh HaShanah, and now is our chance to listen to the sounds of our heritage. There is a difference between seeing or hearing and the kind of listening we are reminded to practice today.

Listen to the beginning of our story, with all its poetry and grandeur. In the beginning, the God of the Torah gives form to the void with words. “Let there be light.” Light enters the universe. The light is defined as,”Tov.” “Good.” After each moment of creative force is manifest, the accomplishment is deemed “Good/Tov.” The land is formed, vegetation sprouts forth, light from the sun, moon, and stars. They’re all “Tov.” “Good.” Animals roam the Earth, each according to its ability. “Tov” is everywhere. And the crowning achievement of Creation, the human being, is “Tov Me’od”- “Very Good.”

These words tell a simple story. Being is Good. The Human being is “Very Good.” As a story about us it affirms that our very being is exceedingly pleasing to the Author of Creation. We are glorious entities, with divine capacities. We are very good.

How surprising that very quickly, the story changes. God utters that creation is “not good” “Lo Tov” when the human being stands alone. Without a partner, the human being is incomplete. More than a physical progenitor of the species, this loneliness is of divine concern. “Lo Tov Heyot Adam Levado.” The human being is not good alone.

When you hear the story, you imagine ‘alone’ means he doesn’t have a human partner, especially since Eve is brought into the world after this. When we listen, though, we can imagine this loneliness is deeper than solitude. What God finds imperfect in Creation is a crisis of being.  The human being is fearful, skeptical, doubting, even despairing. This is defined as alone. Man and Woman were expelled from Paradise not because they ate the forbidden fruit, but because their disobedience was borne from doubt - a doubtful existence. Even in a world with just one other human being, or 7.5 billion human beings, we can still feel totally alone.

Earlier this year, it was stunning to learn that the people of England tried to address this problem in an entirely new way. In light of the increasing numbers of people isolated and marginalized from the public fora, they created a governmental position, a Minister of Loneliness. Loneliness of this magnitude, in the words of some, is “a real, diagnosable scourge.” So, they created a position where it is a person’s sole responsibility to alleviate, avert, and assuage the loneliness people feel. Should we wonder if our legislators will reach similar conclusions? The uncertainty in what we hear is making us so lonely, we have to create positions for people to help us overcome our solitude.

This is a joke once told on this bima by Rabbi Schulweis many years ago. Two Hasidim are talking and one turns to the other and says, “You know. There are only two kinds of people in this world. Jews and non-Jews. “About the non-Jews, we don’t even have to talk about.” “And among the Jews, there are the Hasidim and the non-Hasidim.” The other nods in agreement. “And the non-Hasidim, why even discuss them?” “And you know, that among the Hasidim, there are the Satmar and the Lubavitch.” The second asks, “Oy! Why even talk about the Lubavitch?” “Among the Hasidim, there are those who go to our yeshiva and those who go to the other yeshiva. And from that yeshiva, the students really don’t know anything from nothing.” “And the people from our yeshiva, basically there’s you and there’s me… and, well... you know how little you know.”

Dividing the world into ‘us and them’ doesn’t resolve our uncertainties. It has only driven us away from each other.

That’s why it is so easy to identify who ‘they’ and ‘them’ are before we look at ourselves. And, sometimes we hear what we want to hear before listening to what ‘they and them’ are really trying to say. We cannot eradicate uncertainty through legislation. It requires action. It requires moral balance. In other words, the uncertainty we feel is not resolved by removing the doubt, is only to be found in the truthful, confident wrestling with moral virtues.

Our Torah teaches us that loneliness occurs when doubt lodges a wedge between humanity and God.  “Lo Tov Heyot Adam Levado.” God doesn’t want us to doubt, to stop listening, to be alone. And we haven’t been listening.

Left with the sting of punishment for what must have felt as a divine flaw, we have become experts in stamping out all forms of doubt. Totalitarian rule? Stamp it out. Origins of the cosmos? Stamp it out. Diseases, poverty, homelessness, being a stranger? Stamp it out. Loneliness? Create a ministerial position and stamp it out too. It is as if we experienced the sting of punishment once and we are obsessed to avoid it once again.

Judaism has much to say about this. In one respect, the Torah is the long answer to the problem of loneliness. In the Torah we find a second and equally compelling message - a call for faith - of discovering and trusting the goodness that lies within - in the face of isolation and despair.

We’ve heard this trusting, faithful sound before. We heard it no so long ago... in 1943.

During the rage of the second world war, the forces of good and evil battled on the fields of Europe. In France in 1943, Germany and the Vichy regime collaborated and turned over Jews to the German forces, sending thousands and thousands of Jews off to death camps. In one small hamlet in the southern central region of France, Protestant Pastor Andre Trocme and his wife Magda knew the terrifying threat posed by those who sought to expel Jews, and the danger in disobedience.  They knew what it meant to be persecuted themselves. Their small community had long taken refuge from a hateful society to protect their religious beliefs. The Trocme’s and the citizens of Le Chambon willingly and consistently took in Jews who fled persecution and came knocking at the door. The school in the town had 18 students at the outbreak of the war. There were 350 students by 1944. Anyone who could count knew what was happening. Even after authorities arrested Trocme and detained him for several days, he vocally expressed his commitment to protect the Jews who sought refuge in his town. “I do not know what a Jew is. I only know human beings.”

There are so many stories like this and in some ways even more heroic. What is particularly remarkable about this story is how Magda Trocme reflected that it never occurred to her to say no when people sought refuge in her home, in her community. “I did not know that it would be dangerous. Nobody thought of that.”  Malcolm Gladwell, in his 2015 book, David and Goliath muses on her words, “I did not know that it would be dangerous? Nobody thought of that? In the rest of France, all people thought about was how dangerous life was. But the people of Le Chambon were past that. [emphasis added](David and Goliath p. 269)

As religious people, the Trocme’s and people of Le Chambon drew upon a wellspring of wisdom. What did it take for someone to get past their fear, their uncertainty, their doubt? What ‘that’ means seems unclear.  

It’s not so unclear at all. ‘That’ is very simple. ‘That’ is when we see the other as means to an end, when we allow the crisis of loneliness to suppress and isolate one another, to see the other as less than the goodness of being we were created to embody. ‘That’ is when we stop listening and hear voices of fear, of dissent borne from doubt. ‘That’ is when the will of others is too great for us to rise up against and speak out in a clarion call for goodness. ‘That’ remains the crisis of modernity.

And yet, ‘That’ is what defines moral courage. Moral courage is a fundamental recognition of right behavior when it comes to care for our fellow human beings. Regardless of background, religious or worldly experience, and education, the essential truths of dignity for all human beings and the protection and safety of those who are vulnerable are inalienable rights. Moral courage is when you remember the way we were created, B’Tzelem Elohim, and to fight for and protect that image from any kind of danger. There was no loneliness in the decision to save Jews. In fact, the people of Le Chambon and the countless others who saved our people in the darkest of times were never alone. These are the people who restore hope for us. Jews seek out morally courageous people, because they’re listening carefully.

There is an old tradition our people have carried through times of uncertainty. In these times there are a select group of people whose righteousness sustains the entire world. We call them Lamed Vavnik’s - the idea that the world is sustained by 36 (lamed vav in Hebrew) righteous souls whose care and responsibility for humanity is unparalleled. They embody moral courage.

Moral courage is built into the Torah. It is our root story. Abraham, Moshe, Miriam, Devorah, Jeremiah, and countless others are the characters we listen to when we seek certainty amidst ambiguous social climates. This great country and society have been grappling the capacity to act with moral courage as the scions of leadership, thought and culture are dissolving by their deeply personal failures every time we turn on the news.

But we should not confuse anger with moral courage. ‘That’ is coming to an end.

This was once heard over the tranquil waters of Walden Pond, just outside of Boston in 1843, an anecdote worth telling again and again. On one bank of the pond, Frederic Tudor was collecting ice from the lakes of Northeast, on his way to making fortunes shipping it around the world. Tudor was known as the ice king of Boston in those days. On the banks of the opposite shore, the philosopher Henry David Thoreau watched as industrious workers toiled to retrieve huge blocks of ice from the frozen waters. He was an entrepreneur of a different sort, eschewing material success and contemplating big ideas as the means to a fulfilling life. Imagine what the two heard from the other sides of the lake. The quiet naturalist saw the industrialist on the other side of the pond and heard the operations of selfish gain. The industrialist saw the naturalist on the other side of the pond and assumed that a protest was about to begin.

But Thoreau spoke differently, “The sweltering inhabitants of Charleston and New Orleans, of Madras and Bombay and Calcutta, drink at my well... The pure Walden water is mingled with the sacred water of the Ganges.”  

Here, a great image was born, that of the moral citizen. Pursuing industry to enjoy material success and pursuing the contemplative life, discovering fulfillment in the interpretations of experience go together. It is what makes us an exceptional people. Moral citizenship is the centering force of our tradition and our society. It’s a concept of balance that helps us act our best. Industry and nature. “Shamor v’Zachor b’dibur Echad.” To protect and preserve in one breath, just as we say in our Lecha Dodi prayer on Erev Shabbat.

It’s a balance between building and creating, between serving others and plumbing the depths of the interior life that is woven into the most brilliant threads of our social fabric. Lamed Vavnik’s live their lives in balance.

And without that balance, we unravel into a colorless monotony, a hollow definition of self that stands for nothing and uncritically complies with a popular will. We are not these kinds of people. And it does feel like we are out of balance. For good reason. There is so much uncertainty in our days, we’re not sure where the scales should tip.

The great image of balance is the equally weighted scale. Take a visit to the US Supreme Court in Washington DC and you’ll find the iconic scales of justice displayed throughout the impressive building. You won’t find the scales leaning too far one way or the other. Yet, we are desperately seeking a hand to tip the scales of justice in favor of compassion and safety, health and vitality for all. Lady Justice is a symbol that reminds us this value. You will find a blindfold over her eyes. Justice is not a sense of vision. It is the elegance of listening. In Hebrew the word for balance is Moznayeem, and is rooted in this very same word, Ozen - the ear, a sense of listening that brings balance.

Today, our conventional sources of support to restore balance in times of uncertainty are at best unreliable. Worse, they turn us into cautious skeptics. Where trusted sources of news are thrown into question, where upper echelons of leadership are under the constant threat of legal issues, where leaders who inspired us, cultural artists who enlightened and entertained us are falling down under the weight of accusations of harassment and abuse, it’s hard to find certainty anywhere in this world.

It is hard to know what ideas we should be listening to. It is harder than ever before (and this is not hyperbole). In a time when everything seems to be updated and improved every two years, listening carefully is a challenge. When voices constantly shrill that the media is fake, or when the steady onslaught of noise in the form of salacious discoveries of impropriety dominate our consciousness, we don’t know what or who to really listen to. Just last week, listen to what Adrian Chen wrote in the New Yorker:

“...there has been a growing sense among mostly liberal-minded observers that the platforms’ championing of openness is at odds with the public interest. The image of Arab Spring activists using Twitter to challenge oppressive dictators has been replaced, in the public imagination, by that of Isis propagandists luring vulnerable Western teen-agers to Syria via YouTube videos and Facebook chats. The openness that was said to bring about a democratic revolution instead seems to have torn a hole in the social fabric.” (Adrian Chen “The Fake-News Fallacy” Old fights about radio have lessons for new fights about the Internet. The New Yorker 9/4/18)

This calls for a different moral virtue of our day - that of moral listening. It was just last week that our country mourned the passing of Senator John McCain. Listen to his words:

"We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been."

These words are more powerful because the one who said them understood the conflict and uncertainty when staring down the face of doubt.  Our heroism is defined when we have the courage to listen carefully and make choices based on what is right, not by what is convenient.

Rabbi Schulweis beckoned us to seek out and celebrate those courageous heroes who listened carefully in times of great uncertainty and acted with conscience. He encouraged us to practice the Jewish value of “Hakarat HaTov.” Recognition of Goodness.

He based this action on the deep listening of Jewish tradition. It is not the strong willed expressions of moral courage, nor the witty eruditions of the moral citizen that compel us to practice ‘hakarat hatov’ to recognize goodness.  We are meant to become the masters of moral listening.

Moral listening is a sensitivity to hear through the fray, to focus on essential concerns of human beings worthy of defense and protection. Through the debate and conflict, argument and dissent, the moral compass points north, toward the dignity of all humanity.

In these times of great uncertainty, look and listen for the lamed vavniks. They are the voices speaking for balance. They are the embodiment of wisdom through careful considerations and patient and measured responses. The greatest truth of the Lamed Vavniks is that they can be anywhere around us. It is quite possible, there’s a lamed-vavnik or two even in our holy congregation. They could be right next to you.  It is even more possible that the Lamed-Vavnik could be you.

Now is the time for the Lamed-Vavnik’s to stand up and be recognized. Now is the time for their courage, sense of balance, and deep listening to enlighten and inspire us all. May this new year, bring you inspiration, confidence and certainty that you can become a master of listening, a lamed-vavnik - for you and yours. L’Shanah Tovah.[/collapsed]

[collapsed title="2018 Yom Kippur Sermon: There's Nothing More Whole Than a Broken Heart"]

"There’s Nothing More Whole Than a Broken Heart"

We celebrate a tradition that encourages us to become masters of fine souls while we stitch our broken pieces back together.

When the news broke that Leonard Cohen passed in November 2016, he had already been flown back from Los Angeles to Montreal, his childhood home, and buried according to traditional Jewish rites.  There was no doubt that this musician, philosopher and poet had a very Jewish soul. His family belonged to the shul in Montreal. He belonged to the shul. And while he may have practiced Buddhism and eschewed a traditionally observant life, he was brought home when he passed and buried with his family, with his people. His gift to the world - his music and his poetry - now perpetually resonate with the minor chord, the Jewish chord.

Listen to the lyrics of “Who by Fire” - a soulful interpretation of the U’netaneh Tokef prayer we recite during these holy days:

And who by fire, who by water,
Who in the sunshine, who in the night time,
Who by high ordeal, who by common trial,
Who in your merry merry month of may,
Who by very slow decay,
And who shall I say is calling?
...
And who by brave assent, who by accident,
Who in solitude, who in this mirror,
Who by his lady's command, who by his own hand,
Who in mortal chains, who in power,
And who shall I say is calling?

These are words that expand the prayer of the holiday. We shudder from their power and the uncertainty that descends upon us throughout these holy days. They’re midrash, interpretations of the traditional text. And through them the fragilities of our souls are revealed.

Or, take his words from his Book of Mercy - a Book in 50 chapters to be read each day during the 50 days between Pesach and Shavuot we call Sefirat HaOmer. “Blessed be the covenant of love between what is hidden and what is revealed... blessed is the covenant of love, the covenant of mercy, useless light behind terror, deathless song in the house of night.”

Leonard Cohen is perhaps most famous for his Halleluyah song. You know you have a hit when you find yourself as I once did in a small house in Be’er Sheva, Israel, listening to a young girl from Kazakstan singing it for a group of rabbis. She hoped to make it as Israel’s next music star. We were in awe.

He doesn’t make it onto the most popular lists, perhaps because his style was, say, melancholy. Melancholy, dramatic, depressed. It’s simply not in my key.  I imagine it doesn’t resonate with many of you either (except for those I know who are big fans of his music and poetry. To you, I give my apology for misunderstanding)

But the lyrics speak to my soul - they’re speaking to our souls. It’s where we find the beautiful words from another song of Cohen’s, entitled “Anthem:”

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in

Beautiful. Hauntingly ambivalent.

There’s a crack in everything. It’s so easy to say this and even think it. But to live it? To practice it? I think not. I buy things on Amazon all the time. And if they don’t arrive just right? There’s free shipping to return the item and a credit to buy another. Recently, we ordered a whole bunch of M&M’s online. It was delivered to us melted in the box and not in our hands. They told us to throw it away, a refund would be given. Plenty of cracks. And plenty of light.

Look at what we’ve created. A world in which the brokenness is quickly repaired with a stamp and a click. Admittedly, this convenience is for the stuff in our lives. But it permeates our attitude toward everything around us. There’s no real feeling of disappointment, because the healing begins before the pain sets in. There’s no need to feel pain, because a replacement is on its way, even overnight, as long as you can afford the extra shipping costs.

It is the consequence of our non-stop world. Pick up the pieces, or return them, or simply throw them away. There’s no time for brokenness. We’re rushing to a blissful end, the closer and more convenient to us the better. And the most clever among us know that a quick fix will set us straight before the sting of pain is even really felt.  It’s a race to make it, and a shame if you aren’t strong enough.

This is, of course, only partially true. Walk up and down the halls of a hospital and see the faces of patients contorted with the maladies of existence - failing organs, cancerous cells, struggles to breathe. Sit with someone who is truly in pain and you begin to see the wisdom of Leonard Cohen. “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

As Jews, we rehearse and imagine what we do with the cracks in everything. It happens at the Seder table when we take the whole Matzah and split it into two pieces - a crack in what was once whole, not to eat, but to symbolize the stories of brokenness we can quickly forget, in every generation. The cracks are not the same, there is no way to perfectly split the piece of Matzah like was done once before, or thousands of years before. Each split is unique, reminding us that cracks in the world are not like any other.  One slave, one victim, one tormented soul is an affliction upon us all. What strange and impossible odds to care that much?

We place the larger half back into the pile of matzot, never to be fully enjoyed. And the smaller half? We hide for children and grandchildren to discover and ransom for a sweet treat. The cracks are there, even in the holiest times of our lives, reminding us that being broken isn’t a failure of existence, but a gift that lures us into growth, into realizing our potential.

Take the wedding ceremony, when loving couples stand under a huppah and shatter a glass to signify the end of the perfect union they’ve now created. We wait for the sound, like a cannon blast, as if the end of speaking about love is complete, and now the couple can emerge forth into their ‘happily ever after.’ The shattered pieces of glass are never exactly the same as any other glass. For generations, Jewish couples have broken the glass. It has become tradition. One into many.  

The shattered glass is a reminder that the words spoken in the home when the last thank you note for the last gift is written can be whole between loving friends. Or, the words of critique and judgment can shatter into an irreparable number of pieces. Each stomp of the glass is unique. The shattered glass is a reminder that joy is incomplete without a little brokenness. ‘There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.’

There’s a Japanese form of art called Kintsugi or Kintsukori, in which one takes the cracks from a cherished piece of pottery and seals them with gold. It has become a work of art all on its own. There are even those who intentionally smash their own pottery in order to have them repaired in this way.

The cracks have become a form of art. “That’s how the light gets in.”

We’re familiar with the Hasidic story of the crack in the diamond. A king has a treasured gem that sustains a crack through its center. Artists come one after another trying to somehow restore the gem, even suggesting that it be broken into smaller pieces to retain its collective value. One artist emerges and doesn’t change the gem at all. Instead the artist etches a beautiful stem from the crack and a multi-petaled rose on the top of the gem.   

Both the Japanese art and the rabbinic story have a more powerful message than the repair. That which is broken is beautiful to start. Can we see ourselves in this way as well? “There’s nothing so whole as a broken heart,” proclaimed the rabbinic master, Menachem Mendel of Kotzk.

How often do our cracks reveal the blemishes, the tarnish, the imperfections of our souls?  How often do we rush to plaster over the cracks, jagged in their own unique way, to preserve what was once pristine, once perfect?  We believe, for our own comfort and protection, that the cracks can be fixed. Embarrassment is a crack in our self-esteem, and no amount of plaster, dusted with gold or silver, can cover that up.

There is a midrash about the great leader Moshe. When the Israelites leave Egypt and journey toward the Land of Israel, one of the regional kings sends his wise men, practiced in physiognomy, to capture Moshe’s visage and interpret his character for the king. When the wise men return they explain that in Moshe’s face they found vanity, avarice, gluttony, and immorality.

When the king goes out to meet the people Israel, maybe prepared for war, the king meets Moshe in person. Upon hearing the report of the wise men who reported to the king, Moshe responded, “What your wise men said of me is true...all those traits which they described are indeed part of my biologic makeup. Yes, my body has all those base impulses, but I have overcome them and channelled their energies into other directions. (Qtd. in Let us Make Man, Twersky, 1991, p.77)

All the pieces that make up who we are can be beautiful and ugly. The breaks open us up to make room for the beauty that lies within. This is the journey of mastery of our souls.

The pottery, the gem, your soul, is beautiful to start. It’s worthy of repair. On Yom Kippur, we are the Japanese artists, we are the fabled servant of the king who finds the beauty within, who takes the cracks and creates a masterpiece of a life of wisdom, a life in which the concerns are not for how to restore that which was once whole, but to shape the brokenness into something more beautiful than what was there before.  

It’s certainly easier to speak of what is broken, than to speak of what can be made whole. How many times in the past year, did you throw your hands up in despair and proclaim, “It is what it is.”  How many times in the past year did you furrow your brow and dig deeply into the recesses of your soul to protect yourself from the appearance of critique, of shame, for all that you weren’t, for all the imperfections that you could not sucessfully plaster over?

Yom Kippur isn’t a day of stickers and glue. Yom Kippur is a day of soul artistry.

Imagine yourself as the artist with the broken pieces of a treasured family heirloom. Today is the day we gather, and before we hunt for the return label to ship our souls off to some warehouse in Memphis, Tennessee to await a shiny new one it its place, we have the rosin and the gold dusted powder, and the chisel and paintbrush to begin re-creating our souls.

There are three pieces we can focus on repairing over this day:

First, the personal cracks - Who am I? We are invited to enter a story of a man of Chelm. When visiting a public bath, he found himself in a terrible predicament. Without clothes, everyone looked essentially alike. He said to himself, “Among all these men who look alike, how will I know which one is me?” So, he devised a plan in which he tied a red string around his big toe so he could distinguish himself from the others. While washing and bathing himself, the string slipped off.  Unbeknownst to him the string somehow slipped onto another man entering the bath. When the man noticed the red string on the other man’s toe, he asked, “Pardon me sir, I hope you can help. It is very clear to me who you are. But can you tell me who am I?” (Qtd. In Let Us Make Man, Twersky, 1991, pp.43-4)

We are given permission and command to explore the parts of us that were not the best reflections of our soul this year. Words we spoke, judgments we made hastily, silence when we should have spoken.  Reflection upon these cracks gives us the contours of our soul healing.

Second. The book of Proverbs teaches, “Do not criticize a fool, for he will hate you. Criticize a wise person and he will love you. (Proverbs 9:8).  Looking at the broken pieces of our connections, between family and friends requires careful and caring discernment. There are times to speak and times to listen.  And the time is not always right to speak. Proverbs would have it that the people who need to hear that you have been hurt by them may not be capable of listening. Or, perhaps it is we who must listen even more carefully to our souls, to smooth the jagged edges and to refine our speech so that others can hear it in wisdom. Maybe it was an argument over how to care for an ailing parent, or maybe it was a fight over the correct routes to avoid traffic. Large and small, Proverbs reminds us when and to whom we should speak. Reflection upon these cracks affirm our morality and our obligations to sustain a healthy community. (Twersky, p.96)

Third. Let us listen to the prophetic voice. Over this day, the voices of Isaiah, Jonah, Micah, and Hoshea will resonate through our liturgy. What we can learn by listening to their voices is this, also said by Rabbi Abraham Twersky, “The moral rightness or wrongness of an act must be judged by what preceded it, not by what follows it.” (Twersky, p.89)  Today reflection begins not for a world as it ought to be, but to take note of the world as it has been created by us. Personal lives, communal lives and beyond are as much a consequence of our actions as they are forces that we are subject to. Reflection on the pieces of our souls that bolster our confidence that we do indeed matter, that our choices and actions do indeed make a difference in our own lives and in the lives of others is the artistry of Yom Kippur.

All of this is why we recite no less than 5 times throughout the day the words of Selicha, petitions for forgiveness. Selicha is the resin we use to bind the soul back together.

The act of repair is incomplete once the last of the shattered pieces is expertly replaced. Gems and pots are restored for their use. We, too, come to restore our souls here. Today, don’t let the world of brokenness be swiftly swept under a rug, or invite distractions of the more compelling and entertaining flaws of everyone and everything else. Today we take the shattered pieces and let the light shine through them.

May this day and the year to come radiate with the light of whole bodies and minds, whole hearts. It’s what we need the most of right now. G’mar Chatimah Tovah.[/collapsed]

Sun, July 5 2020 13 Tammuz 5780