Sign In Forgot Password

All in-person gatherings are suspended until further notice.

Rabbi Burt's 2012 erev rosh hashana sermon

02/16/2013 05:37:54 PM


Tonight I’m so happy to share some thoughts with you.   Specifically, I’d like to share the THREE WISHES I have for all of us.

The first wish I want to share with you is my wish that we will all do what we can to break down those walls that separate us. 

On Rosh Hashanah, we blow the shofar.  The most well known story in the Bible is about the Shofar.  As Joshua and the army of the people of Israel entered the land of Canaan and reached the city of Jericho, Joshua told the people to march around the city, six times for six days.  As they did so, the priests walked behind the Holy Ark, each one holding a SHOFAR.

On the 7th day, as they marched, they sounded the Shofar and the walls of Jericho came tumbling down.  So, the beginning of the Israelites living in the land that was to become the land of Israel… the walls came tumbling, crumbling down.  And those were the walls of Jericho. 

There are so many other walls, like the walls of Jericho, that separate us from each other.

We need a metaphorical Shofar in our hearts to break down those walls that separate each of us from each other.

Some of those walls, in some places in the world, have come down.

Still, even in our country, there are walls that separate us from each other, the walls of race, religion, economic class, sexual orientation (we see this in the bullying of gay children…and the suicides that often follow).

The walls are still standing.  We have not broken them down.

That’s no world for any of us – separation, barriers, walls, fences. 

We sure need some kind of SHOFAR to break down those walls that keep us so apart.

Those are walls we see, those walls we can experience.

But there are more subtle walls…less obvious, not really visible, but we can feel them.

Those are the walls inside that keep us apart from each other.

We create secret walls inside because – for some of us – we think that somehow we’re not ”ENOUGH”  Something’s lacking.

We think that somehow everyone else is “more ENOUGH.”  They are not lacking.  And so we hide a part of ourselves.

We build a wall around ourselves so no one will see that we’re not “ENOUGH.”  What if someone saw what we lack?  So we hide behind that wall.

When we build a wall to keep people from seeing us, to hide, we become separated from life itself.

And some of us feel that we’re somehow helpless.  We just can’t deal with life; we’re overwhelmed by the difficult situations that come our way.  Somehow we think, everyone else is not helpless and so we build more walls and hide, so no one will see how helpless we are.

So we separate ourselves from life.

We all do some kind of building of walls.  These are just two of the possible ways we separate ourselves, building walls and hiding.  We all do some kind of hiding.  Most of us don’t let people see all of us.

We need a Shofar inside to break down these walls we have created.

So, my first wish is that we will all do whatever we can to break down those walls that separate us from others – and from ourselves.  Walls outside and walls inside ourselves.

Robert Frost said, “Good fences make good neighbors.”  I’m not so sure.  What if there were no fences?

My wish is that we build bridges, not fences.  Not walls, but bridges.

My second wish is that we recognize and really feel the great courage we all have within us – in the way we live our lives.

We realize that we live in an unknowable mystery.  Everything is a mystery.  From minute to minute, we don’t know…

We stumble about – like in a game of blind man’s fluff.  One minute everything seems OK then the betrayals, the out-of-nowhere divorces, the sorrows, the broken friendships, the losses…

Of course, wonderful things come along also, but I want to look at all  of this from a certain perspective tonight.  Living in this unknowable, impenetrable mystery, we all live with extraordinary, great courage.  In our spiritual nature is courage.  The only way we can live this life is with great courage.

And we have in our spiritual nature that courage, more courage than we ever dreamed we had, more courage than we ever knew.  Where does this come from?  Who knows?  Maybe it comes from some kind of psychic energy?  Maybe it comes from a survival instinct?

For me, courage comes from God.  It is a gift of God.  The gift of courage.  Spiritual courage every day.

We see it when we deal with the most difficult situations.  Illness in ourselves.  The illness of one we love.  We see it when we deal with heart-breaking losses and disappointments.

Courage, you see it every day in yourself and in other people.

Courage.  Courage.  Courage.

Don’t deny your courage.

Don’t turn away from your courage.

The only way to embrace life is with our courage.

Now, courage does not mean we are not afraid.   It means being afraid and not letting the fear immobilize us.  It means not letting fear keep us from living.  It keeps us committing to new beginnings, not giving up, as life seems to fall apart. 

Courage is the resilience we discover about ourselves.  The word “courage” is from a Latin root that means, “heart.”  You see this in many languages.  Coeur in French means heart, Core – means heart, Corazon means heart.  Courage means heart.

The heart…….We have a heartfelt willingness to take the next step beyond the fear, despite the fear, with the fear at our side. 

Courage does not come from the head; it comes from the heart.

If there was ever anything I wanted to say as a Rabbi.  That’s one of the most important.  Never doubt your courage, see yourselves as people who go toward the unknown future with courage.  Some timidly, some more boldly, but all of us with heart, with the courage that is at the center of our innermost lives, minds, and hearts.

So, that’s the second wish I wanted to share with you.

On Yom Kippur, I’ll share the third wish.

Please take these wishes – that we are all able to break down walls that keep us apart, and that we are able to know our courage.  Think about them; open your hearts to them.

Breaking down those walls that separate us outside.\

Breaking down those walls that separate us inside.  

That is Life.

Seeing in your heart the wonderfully courageous person you are is Life. 

In the words of the Torah, “Therefore choose life!”

Wed, July 15 2020 23 Tammuz 5780