1st Day of Rosh HaShanah Sermon (5777)

1st Day of Rosh HaShanah Sermon (5777)


Shana Tovah. It’s such a privilege to be standing here.

Some of you asked us if we will be speaking about politics.

I really think is one of the dumber things a Rabbi can do.
When it comes to trustworthiness and honor, politicians score lower than any other profession in survey after survey. Considering that clergy score significantly higher on all these same surveys why on earth would I want to mess that up by getting into politics

Some churches as you may know have entered straight into the campaign

I have to admit that it seemed CUTE when I heard the story of the pastor who last week preaching from his pulpit said: 20 years ago we had Jonny Cash and Bob Hope and Steven Jobs and today we don’t have Cash, Hope nor Jobs. And he continued Please don’t let Kevin Bacon die.

It’s so good to see you and to see your family. You are here, and you are not alone. If you stretch out your hand, you will touch love-love in the hand of your dearest people.
Everything that is important- is really here now, either physically or in your thoughts and in some cases the thoughts are stronger than a presence.

Very often people ask me how do I manage to speak every week, if it’s not on Friday night, it’s on Saturday morning for the last 30 years?

This is my answer: Every time that I read an idea, or an idea occurs to me, or I read a book that might generate an idea or I have a conversation that lives a mark on me or I am aware of an experience in my life, either good or bad or in the life of one of you, and I think that it has the potential for a sermon, I keep it in a folder called “possible Sermons.

Today’s message has come from a different source, a different origin.,   It does not come from a concrete personal experience nor from a book, but rather from a book that is not yet published, but the author has announced its title and it will be for sale very soon.

Let me explain

A little more than a year ago, Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, lost her young husband Dave Goldberg Zl in a tragic accident. Btw Sheryl grow up in North Miami and many of her best friends are now here in the synagogue.
Thirty days after his death, to coincide with the end of sheloshim,   she wrote publicly in a Facebook post of June 3rd, 2015 of what she had learned in the hope that it might help someone else.

After expressing what she had felt and experienced in those thirty days and sharing some thoughts that had been helpful to her, she closed with a story:

“I was talking to one of these friends about a father-child activity that Dave is not here to do. We came up with a PLAN to fill in for Dave. I cried to him: “But I want Dave”, I want option A.”

He put his arm around me and said, “Option A is not available,

So let’s just kick the heck out of option B.

OPTION B Is the title of a book that she wrote and obviously I have not read it yet because it is yet available for sale, but its title has already moved me, touched me and inspired me

“Living an OPTION B life
” is the title of this morning’s sermon

Living an option B life is the inevitable reality that everybody here lives or will live simply because we are humans.

Rabbi Kushner once wrote “I think of all the weddings at which I have officiated every one of which ended with bride and groom embracing and walking back down the aisle with stars in their eyes and happy smiles on their faces.

Years later many of them were still comfortably happy with each other and the life they had made, but others had grown to dislike, even hate the people they were married to.
Some had separated or divorced others had settled into passionless coexistence.

And then  there are people who married with their hearts and souls filled with dreams of a comfortable home filled with the noise and scattered toys of children only to have difficulties conceiving children

And then they are couples marry and have children only to learn at birth that there is something wrong with their child physically or emotionally and that the dreams of achievement in the classroom or on the athletic field, dreams of seeing their child’s first love, marriage and grandchildren are significantly altered before they could be savored.”

I think of so many couples who lived happily married for 30 40 50 60 years and had plans of retiring together, aging together, traveling together, being generous grandparents together and one of them passed prematurely away shattering all these dreams.

I have seen people who started out in business, confident that they were going to be a success   And then – for whatever reason – or perhaps for no reason – it didn’t happen. You tried this, and you tried that; you consulted this expert and you consulted that expert, and nothing worked. And so, then came the sad day when you had to close or decide you will not work in your field or profession.
and suddenly  and unintentionally  without knowing if they could stand it you have to welcome your OPTION B

Most of the option B situations in life are imposed from outside.
But even if it’s hard to accept, if you look carefully inside the Torahs and at the Jewish people’s DNA there lies the idea that life is a series of OPTIONS B

Let me share some examples.
1) Adam and Eve had two children: Cain and Abel.  One day, when the parents were away, these two children fought with each other. Nobody knows what they fought about. One Midrash says that they fought over religion. One said: I want the Holy Temple to be built on my land and the other said: I want the Holy Temple to be built on mine. Another Midrash says that they fought over a woman. One said: I want this woman to be mine, and the other said: I want this woman to be mine.  One midrash says that they fought over who did Mommy love more. One said: Mommy loves me more, and the other said: No, mommy loves me more.

It doesn’t matter what they fought about. The bottom line is that they fought and that Cain killed Abel. And then, God appears and asks Cain: Where is your brother? And Cain says: How should I know? Am I my brother’s keeper? And for these two sins, for killing his brother, and then for denying his responsibility for what he did – God sentences Cain to be a wanderer and a fugitive on the earth.

Where were Adam and Eve when this was going on? Nobody knows. My guess is that they were at a PTA meeting, learning how to raise children. But wherever they were, when they came back, they learned that they had lost both of their children in one fell swoop. One was dead, and the other was now a hunted outlaw. He ran away, and they never saw him again.
I will let you know later how the story continued

2) Abraham and Sarah
We just read their story how they tried desperately to have a child but were unable to do so.

So?? Abraham went to Hagar his maidservant to carry a child for them.
Sarah wasn’t happy at all with Ishmael, influence on her own Isaac therefore banishes mother and son. I will let you know later how the story continued

3) Jacob is being chased  by his brother  Esau and needed to leave home
All his life he had been a pampered, spoiled, favorite child, whose mother adored him and cared for his every wish. He is now escaping from his brother fearing death.
I will let you know later how the story continued

4) We just read Hanna’s story, the infertile wife. It is the story of a woman who could not have children, and who let that fact blind her to all the good things that she did have.
I will let you know later how the story continued

Do you want examples from the secular world people whose option A life disappeared very soon??

1) Abraham Lincoln lost every single time he ran for office. He ran for local office and he lost. He ran for state office and he lost. He ran for the Senate and he lost.  He lost every single time he ran for office.

2) Do you know that Churchill was defeated when he ran against Chamberlain, before the Second World War began, because the people thought he was too old to be a leader? And do you know that he was defeated again, when he ran for office after the War ended, even though he had saved England, and civilization, from the Nazis, because the people were tired of him, and wanted a new leader. What he must have felt.

3) Do you know that Nelson Mandela set out to teach nonviolence to the blacks and the whites of South Africa. And as a result, the government put him in prison for twenty-seven years.
Can you imagine sitting in a cell for twenty-seven years, without knowing till when??

4) Do   you know that when Stravinsky went to the World Premiere of his work: The Rites of Spring, he saw more than half of the audience walk out at intermission, and not come back, because they thought it was so bad?  Can you imagine how he must have felt, as he saw them leave?  He had worked for years to compose this work, which was a breakthrough into a whole new kind of music. He had put his heart and soul into this work and the audience walked out???

5) Do you know that Vincent Van Gogh sold only one painting, in his entire life? And that painting was bought by his brother, who bought it, not because he valued it, but only out of rachmones? Pity,  Can you imagine what Van Gogh must have felt.?

6) Do you know that Elie Wiesel of blessed memory was an happy brilliant kid in his home town in Rumania till one day he was shut in the ghetto of the city where he was born and then deported to Auschwitz were the nazis killed his mother and sister and then he was sent to Buchenwald.

1) So how does the story of Adam and Eve continue?
Listen to the Torah ” Vayeda  Adam OD et Chava, Ishto. Adam made love to his wife, Eve, again – OD again, another time.  She gave birth to another child and she named this child Seth.  Do you think that they ever got over the loss of their first two children? No parent ever gets over the loss of a child. She mentions both Cain and Abel in the very moment when she names this child. The Torah says, “She named this child Seth, which means a gift, because God has given him to us as a gift in place of Abel, whom Cain killed.”
It is a good thing that Adam and Eve had another child. Otherwise, we would all be descended either from a murderer or from a victim. Now, they are our uncles, and we are all descended from Seth instead.

2) Abraham and  Sara  beside the fact that their built a dysfunctional family  because of their values they are considered the  forefathers of the three major monotheistic religions of the world

3) How does the story of Isaac continue?

He was the guarantor of the Jewish Continuity.  It is easy to begin a project but to continue and pass it to the next generation, is a challenge

4) and the story of   Jacob?
because he was able to make teshuva and straighten the relationship with his Brother he become the father of the 12 tribes
5)and what about  Ismael, he is regarded as the ancestor of Muhamad and builder of Mecca.

6)and  Hanna ??She gave birth  to Shmuel who became the first prophet of Israel.

7)How did the life Stravinsky continue?: he is widely considered one of the most influential composers of the 20th century.
8) Van gogh one of the most influential figures in western art
9) Abraham Lincoln ran for president and won
10) Churchill ? he was voted consistently the greatest Briton of all time
11)Mandela became south Africa’s  first black president and Dismantle the legacy of apartheid
12)Elie   Wiesel among other things  had a platform that enabled him to rebuke President Ronald Reagan for a planned visit to an SS cemetery at Bitburg, Germany, and to confront President Bill Clinton with the need for US intervention to prevent a holocaust in Kosovo and the Balkans. And to ask the more excruciating question of why the Americans did nothing while genocide was taking place in Rwanda. Wiesel was a public man and what he did with his fame had a significant impact on American life.

We have elections coming. More than 50 percent of voters have expressed discontent with both candidates
They expressed having reservations about their candidate but they are voting simply to prevent the other nominee from winning
Which means most   Americans will vote for the first time  Option B

We as a Jewish community are the ultimate OPTION B lives
When two third of Europe Jewry and one third of TOTAL world Jewry including 1.500.000 children were eliminated by the Nazis did we wither or die??
NO, we kicked the stuff out of Option B
We reinvented ourselves establishing an homeland in the State of Israel, ….the only country in the world were   Iraqi PROYECTAILS  explode, Lebanese ketushas explode, suicide bombers from Gaza EXPLODE  Syrian MISLS EXPLODE  and despite all of that an apartment of three rooms costs more than One in Paris

WE immigrated to strange countries and became disproportionally flourishing contributors in the fields of Science, Medicine, Technology and the Arts, because we knew that barely being alive and struggling WE DIDN’T WANT TO DIE WHILE WE WERE STILL ALIVE

And you and me??

When life creates chaos in our universe we do have a choice. You can pull the covers over your head and not get up or you can choose OPTION B and make a plan to live purposely despite losses.

Every day in life we have roads that are less travelled, some that don’t take us on the path that we never EVER imagined taking
But often times is that OPTION B that takes us to a place that develops our character, that strengthens the fabric of who we are and makes us better understand the reality of life.
What would human existence look like without OPTION B?
The idea of an existence without allowing OPTIONS B! It’s devastating.
Can you imagine how terrible it would be to live with the idea that there is no option left after finding the wrong job, embarking on the wrong carrier, marrying the wrong partner, being disabled due to illness or aging????
Are you going to stay stuck in a UNREALISTIC option A the rest of your life, or this year will I be able to add your name to the book of those who take their own OPTION B seriously??

Due to the work of my parents I spent all my childhood in theaters, and I learned that most of the time when the end of the first act comes and the curtain falls, the main Character is almost always in trouble.
Why do you think people stay for the next act???  I suspect to see how he prevails.
I grew up and became a Rabbi and life allowed me to witness a number of people clinging to OPTION B “rising from misfortunes, recovering and learning from diseases, addictions, anger and despair.
My rabbinate was inspired by those who knew how to grasp life after OPTION A was gone. My personal life is an Option B life.
A second marriage a immigration to foreign country with a new language

Starting in a synagogue were I lasted 10 months because I wasn’t enough for them

According to our tradition we are celebrating today the birth of the first couple
I love that line, in which it says that Adam made love to his wife OD  עוד– another time, because it is easy to love the first time. Anyone can do that. Your libido makes you do that. But to love and lose – and love again, that takes courage,  and persistence.  And that is why I am impressed by what Adam and Eve did. They loved, and they lost. They lost, not one, but two children. And then, they got up off their knees and they made love again. Therefore, they are models for all of us.

Another role model one of the giants of all times SHIMON PERES of blessed memory is also part of this category

In the early days of the state, he was the head of the Defense Department, and he was the one whom Ben Gurion sent to France to negotiate for the sale, not only of war planes, and not only of ships, but for the sale of uranium and for help in building a nuclear facility at Dimona.

That was an amazing achievement! It made Israel a member of the nuclear club –long before North Korea or Iran or any of the other countries in the world could even think of joining. It made every Arab country that might think of invading Israel hesitate and consider what Israel could do in response. And for that alone, for making Israel a country that you knew you could not destroy except at the cost of your own existence. And for that alone we are inde(b)ted for ever.

This was his OPTION A

And when he understood that the Jewish state is unbeatable he choose option B dialog even concession with Israelis neighbors for the sake of peace

He dreamed and never stopped dreaming that peace is possible

Now listen to me carefully.
Because letter B comes after letter A don’t even think we are speaking of compromise. We are speaking of reality.

Are you ready to intensely live and option B LIFE IF NEEDED?

Ready to offer it?

I began with a story let me conclude with another one.

At the conclusion of the sermon, the worshippers filed out of the sanctuary to greet the rabbi. As one shook the rabbi’s hand, he said, “Thanks for the message, Rabbi. You know, I bet you’re smarter than Albert  Einstein.” Beaming with pride, the rabbi said, WOW thank you, son!” As the week went by, the rabbi began to think about the man’s compliment. The more he thought, the more he wondered why anyone would deem him smarter than Einstein.????

So the following Shabbat he asked the man, “Exactly what did you mean that I must be smarter than Einstein?” The man replied, “Well, Rabbi, they say that Einstein was so smart that only ten people in the entire world could understand him. But Rabbi, no one can understand you.”

So just in case let me be clear

What I have tried to say in our first High Holiday message is that sooner or later life imposes on us in different ways OPTIONS B, AND WHEN THIS HAPPENS  God will put his arm around you and me and say, “Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the heck out of option B. And you and me, little by little will UNDERSTAND THAT THIS IS A REALITY IN LIFE AND It’s a miracle


[Annie sings]





Let’s just kick the heck out of option B.


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