Avinu Malkaynu

Sermon Sunday Morning
Second Day Rosh Hashana
Temple Emeth, Delray Beach

Dear God,

At the start of a new Jewish year and decade, I , HaRav Moshe Shemuel ben Eliezer v’Sheindle have come to you to once again to pray on behalf my family and my community. This was a long and difficult year for me. We were not able to even have this conversation last year. So it is way past time for us to get back on speaking terms.

I was not angry with you about the difficult time I had in St. Paul. I had given the congregation all that I could but for some people there, it was not enough. I am thankful for my time there. In that short stay I was able to really make a difference in the lives of some really good Jews. I will treasure the memories of those successes long after the frustration and anger are forgotten. When I realized that my time in Minnesota was increasing my distance from you, I knew that you were letting me know, my time there had come to an end. It was time to move on.

And, I must say that it was truly humbling and instructive to sit in the congregation for the past year. To watch other Rabbis be in charge, to meet lay leaders and ordinary Jews from the position of equals rather than spiritual leader was profoundly humbling. I did miss terribly the work of the pulpit that has always been so much a part of my life, but the opportunity to meet the members of Anshe Chesed, the worshippers of Minyan Me’at and the students at the Jewish Theological Seminary and to live, for the first time in my life in a truly urban setting helped me grow in ways I could have never imagined just the year before.

And now you God have brought me back to South Florida, to this wonderful congregation called Temple Emeth, and once again I have the privilege of guiding the members of this synagogue as they try, each day, to sense your presence, and to understand what it means to live a spiritual/religious life. I first of all want to thank you God, for bringing me here, and introducing me to all those who have welcomed me to this city with open arms and open hearts. We are still learning a lot about each other, but with your help, our relationship will only grow stronger each day. I am trying to learn all their names all at once, it is a huge task. Give me the patience to learn not only the names but to know the individual, the essence of the members themselves

I’ll tell you God, This past year was a very tough year all over the world. People who are very close to me lost their jobs and even for Rabbis and Cantors it has been a tough year trying to support a family. For so many people, life is filled with so much uncertainty. On the one hand, I am happy that it is not death that stalks the doors of our country. H1N1 may be a concern but it has not turned into the killer we imagined it would be. AIDS is slowly coming under control, the fight against terrorism goes on but the terror attacks are getting fewer and farther away from our doors. I meet so many people who have survived in their lives the very diseases that killed their parents. I am very happy that we have no reason to fear for our lives as the new year begins.

But on the other hand, the uncertainty of where the next paycheck will come from, if we will be able to buy our next meal, If we will have enough retirement income to live on, If we can afford to keep our homes, these are real fears that are undermining whatever good news we may receive. It is hard to be charitable, to extend a hand to those in need and to support the most important causes if we are unsure what will happen tomorrow in our personal lives. I drive through neighborhoods with “for sale” signs in the yards that have been there for almost a year. Many of those signs indicate a “short sale” or a foreclosure. Each one represents a family in crisis, unable to pay their bills, unable to pay the mortgage, unable to make ends meet. I am not the only Rabbi making less than I did a few years ago. I find myself grateful for the blessings in my life that let me reach out to others in need instead of my being one who is in need. But as I reach out to others who are not so fortunate, I recognize that all of us are only a check or two away from financial disaster. I am thankful for the blessing of being able to pay my bill with income that I receive from an honest days work.

God, this is a very special congregation. Like all congregations, things seem so chaotic at first glance. I know better than to believe first impressions. I have found here a leadership that sincerely wants to do what is best for the congregation and for Judaism. I find the members here can reach back to a solid Jewish education and they let that education influence their personal lives. Everyone I have met has their heart in the right place when it comes to making this congregation the best that it can be. If they seem to argue a lot, that is only because they are passionate about their beliefs. In a world where one often can only get attention by shouting, I am hoping that Temple Emeth will be a place where one can argue passionately but everyone will, at the end of each day, walk hand in hand as friends. Keep bitterness and strife far from these walls and help us to be understanding as well as understood by others.

God, I do want to thank you for the blessings not only in my life but I want to thank you for all the blessings in the lives of my family as well. Ashira and Tim were ordained as Rabbis this year. I am always proud of their lives, but I celebrated their accomplishments. It was a very bittersweet moment as they fulfilled their dreams of service to the Jewish community; and yet, as I watched Ashria receive her tallit from my hand and as her dean conferred ordination upon her, I was only thinking of how proud my father would have been to be there that day, to see her cross the stage and to hug her on her exceptional work. I cried that day for their happiness and for my sadness. Joy won out over the sorrow. Our family celebrated with thanksgiving for the blessings of Learning and Leadership. I am most grateful that they too were able to find meaningful work in this terrible economy and have begun a new chapter in their lives, one that no longer includes school and grades but does include teaching, learning and reaching out to others. Ashira has been a source of information and support for her younger brothers and has taken on some leadership responsibilities in her synagogue. She is blessed with a practical wisdom that her supervisors and her colleagues have come to treasure. Like all young people, she is a little short on patience, but she learns quickly and understands that all her blessings come from you, God. More than that I cannot ask, of her or from you.

Eitan, my son, has matured into the top echelons of his field. Other computer programmers come to him with their problems and glitches and he, shares his time with them so they can learn and grow as he has. Even in his spare time, he has received permission to work on a new application for a new product that he very much want so see succeed, and with his help, it will only get stronger. He is in a new apartment in NY, near his brother and sister and is in a new relationship that, while I don’t know where it will go, at least he has found someone kind and caring. He calls me sometimes with some of the frustrations he encounters, As my parents did for me, I try to hear his question behind the question and help resolve the challenges. His life is still coming together and I can only ask you, God, to help him, every day, find his way in this crazy, noisy and chaotic world, which is so different from the elegant world of mathematics and computers where he chooses to dwell by day. Thank you God, for keeping Eitan healthy and happy.

On my shelf at home is a picture of my youngest, Hillel with his fiancée Sarah, just hours after he asked her to marry him. Even in the picture, the smile on their faces lights up the room. A great adventure awaits them this year as they prepare to be married sometime this summer. He has a thousand questions each day about weddings, about marriage and about life in general. He has a deep understanding of the differences between the love he has for his parents and the love he has for Sarah. The kindness in his soul, the care and concern for others has him trying to rebalance his life to let in his love of Sarah. Hillel has become the great negotiator in the family. At the slightest sign of a quarrel, he can draw out the essence of the conflict and propose a solution that will resolve the differences. He knows to stand up to that which is not fair and to admit when he is wrong. He knows how humor can lift up someone who is down, change the opinion of one who may be stuck, and gently bring down someone who may be just a bit too full of themselves. It is all done with kindness and compassion. He is an amazing young man and I thank you God for guiding his life. I also thank you for the privilege of raising up these three wonderful children and bringing to the family two new “children” who compliment them so perfectly.

I want to thank you today especially for the gift of life and health you have given my mother. She has endured much in her long life. To be sure there have been times of great joy and celebration. But recent years have been less kind. Sometimes I look at her and see her as being so frail and fragile. But to talk to her is to hear the same fire and determination that help her raise all five of us children, through good and bad times. My dad and mom raised up a lawyer, an Insurance Agent, a Cantor, A Rabbi and an electrical engineer. All of us have children of our own. We think our mom did a pretty good job. And each day that we get to talk with her or visit with her is a joy. Perhaps these days she is a bit more mellow when it comes to her commentary on the world around her but when it is a matter of family, her love and passion for the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren knows no bounds. With your help, God, she will turn ninety, or perhaps we should say, she is turning thirty for the third time. We hope to gather for her birthday, as many as we can round up in this far flung family, and remind her again of all that she has done to make us all who we are today. God, don’t let me let a day go by without letting her know how important she is in my life.

Finally, I have to thank you for the past 33 years with Michelle. We have been through a lot over the past couple of years and, quite frankly, without you, God, and Michelle, I would not have made it. I still cannot imagine what I ever could have done more right than to marry her and to share my life with her. I rely on her wisdom, her wit and her steady hand. I have learned to see the world through her eyes and see life in multiple layers through her heart. We have shared every adventure together and each one has been richer because of her presence. Each year I think I have reached the pinnacle of love with Michelle and each year she shows me how to reach ever higher. Thank you God for bringing Michelle, and her love into my life.

I heard once a story about a little girl who was writing in her diary. She paused and turned to the back of the book. The pages there were all blank. She said, “This is the one book I would love to be able to read the ending and see how it all turns out.” I know, God that how the book of life will turn out depends a great deal on the decisions that I make today. I know God, that if I aspire to the kind of old age that my mother has modeled, then I need to get working on it right away. A good future is not a small production and if I want it to be the best it can be, I will need years more of hard work and determination. You have blessed me God, with the health, wisdom and the heart that I will need this year and every year to serve the members of this congregation and to help them navigate the twists and turns that their lives may take. It is my sacred duty to be there for those who trust me to guide them in difficult days and to help them appreciate the good days. I don’t always know why you send me the challenges that I face, but I hope that I can meet them all with your help and support. Help me share your light with those in need and may I reflect your light into the hearts of all who may know only darkness.

You have taught me, my Creator, that Judaism is less about judgment and law, as it is about knowing your ways and sharing your love. I hope that this year will be a year where I can show a new community and new friends how you can guide them as you have guided me, how knowledge of you will help them master their world and how they can trust you, in the darkest of days, to carry them when they no longer have the strength to walk themselves.

Thank you God, for your constant companionship in my life. I know that there are times when I don’t understand you and I cry out to you in my frustration. I know in my soul that I could not do any of this alone, without your help. I may not always understand you but I will always trust you. I promised you that I would do all in my power to spread your wisdom and compassion to whatever community to which you might send me. I feel honored that you have trusted me with these good people of Delray Beach and Temple Emeth. I will work hard every day not to let you down.

All I ask in return is a year of life, health and joy for myself, my family, my congregation and my community. Let everyone share all of your divine blessings and may this new year be even better than the year before. May it be a year of blessing, of sustenance, of prosperity for our country and a year of peace for the world. And for you, God, may it be a good year too. L’shana Tova U’metukah. May you and all of us have a good and sweet new year.

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