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The power of speech.

There is an old Jewish folktale, and it goes something like this... In a small town somewhere in Eastern Europe lived a nice man with a nasty problem: he talked too much about other people. He could not help himself. Whenever he heard a story about somebody he knew, and sometimes about somebody he did not know, he just had to tell it to his friends. Since he was in business, he heard a lot of rumors and stories. He loved the attention, and was delighted when they laughed because of the way he told his “anecdotes,” which he sometimes embellished with little details he invented to make them funnier and juicier. Other than that, he was really a pleasant, good hearted man. He kind of knew it w

Be selfish so you can be selfless.

In Abraham Joshua Heschel’s writing “Entering the Synagogue,” he asks: “What does a person expect to attain when entering the synagogue? In pursuit of learning, one goes to a library; for aesthetic enrichment, one goes to the art museum; for pure music, to the concert hall. What then, is the purpose of going to the synagogue? Where should one learn the general wisdom of compassion? The fear of being cruel? The danger of being callous? Where should one learn that the greatest truth is found in contrition? We are all in danger of sinking into the darkness of vanity; we are all involved in worshipping our own egos. Where should we become sensitive to all the pitfalls of cleverness, or to the re

We too will fall flat on our faces.

There was once a chaplain who visited a jail to deliver a sermon to the inmates. While ascending the podium to speak, he tripped and fell flat on his face. The room erupted in laughter. He picked himself up and went over to the podium and said, "I have just concluded my sermon; the moral is that even when a person falls flat on his face, he can rise up again. The important thing is to never give up hope." This evening we celebrate Shabbat Shuvah, Shabbat of return. As Jews, we have the opportunity between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to return. Return to Jewish values, to God, and to ourselves. Our tradition teaches us that every person is capable of repentance. Every person has the ability

Made in the image of God.

Each year during the High Holy Days we spend time reflecting inwards, considering how we acted over the past year. Did we uphold our Jewish values? Did we prioritize the right things? Did we pursue our passions? These questions often get lost in the monotony of work, and school, and busy lives. We want to focus on them, but sometimes our to-do lists get in the way. Many of us are here today in the synagogue on Rosh Hashanah because we want the opportunity to recalibrate ourselves. To focus on what it means to act justly, and to treat others with kindness. There is a Jewish folktale that I love to read on Rosh Hashanah about a small Jewish village. It is titled “How does God See God’s Self?”

We were all refugees once...

During the High Holy Days, we often are reminded of the term tzedek (justice). These is a Jewish value that many of us practice, or at least try to practice. Many of us give financially to organizations that we believe are making a positive impact on the world. Some of us serve on boards to help those organizations make important decisions. A few of us even get out from behind our busy schedules and go out to volunteer with an organization. In Leviticus 19:9-10 we are taught to care for the stranger and the poor. God says: “When you harvest the crops of your land, you shall not harvest all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your crops. You shall not pick your vine