High Holy Day Sermons

2017/5778

Rabbi Mark Joel Mahler

DREAMS

Rosh HaShana

My first week of rabbinic school in Jerusalem, the first week of July 1973, I dreamed of June 3, 2018. Not the date next June, but the occasion now scheduled on that date. More accurately, in my dream I was in my home getting ready for that occasion, putting on a tie and a jacket.

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TALES OF TWO CITIES

CHAPTER TWO

Kol Nidrei

On Sunday afternoon June 25, Alice and I left for our month long summer sojourn in Israel. That Sunday morning we learned the news from Israel that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced two cabinet decisions that cut out the heart of the talmudic dictate Kol Yisrael arevim zeh ba-zeh, “All Jews are responsible one to the other.” No exceptions, no exemptions, no excuses: every Jew is responsible to and for all Jews. By rescinding these two prior agreements, Prime Minister Netanyahu does not feel responsible to all Jews; he feels responsible to his political base in Israel alone.

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TALES OF TWO CITIES

CHAPTER THREE

Yom Kippur

I was five or six years old the first time I stood before a congregation. It was Purim, and the synagogue was holding a kids’ talent show. The M.C. asked anyone who would like to perform to raise his or her hand. I raised my hand. I knew what I wanted to do: I was going to tap dance, just like those fabulous dancers who enthralled me on television variety shows so popular in the 1950s. When the M.C. called on me, I bounded up to the stage. The M.C. introduced me and my act. I started shuffling my feet, and waving my hands and arms too. In a matter of moments, I demonstrated my first profound insight before a congregation: I didn’t know how to tap dance. Simultaneously I experienced my first moment of profound embarrassment in front of a congregation. The thought of one day becoming a rabbi would have been the furthest thing from my mind.

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TALES OF TWO CITIES

Yizkor Meditation

One of my great delights over the years has been leading Temple Emanuel missions to Israel, six missions all told. If you are among the one-hundred or so people who have traveled with me to Israel, you’ve heard me claim that one of my life’s cherished blessings is that I know much of Jerusalem like I know the back of my hand. Another blessing that I treasure is to be a Jew dreaming in Jerusalem. Both are blessings that countless generations of the Jewish people could only yearn for and dream about. All the more reason that I thank God for these blessings in my life.

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