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High Holy Day Message from Our Clergy

Four older friends were sitting around oneg after services one Saturday morning.
For a long time, nobody said a word.
Finally, one of the four groaned, "Oy."
"Oy vey," declared another.
"Nu," said a third.
At this the last of the four men got up from his chair and said,
"Listen, if you guys don't stop talking politics, I'm leaving."

As I think back through our long and noble past, I truly cannot bring to mind a moment in history when politics hasn't been a part of our ongoing daily conversation.  Even our humor reflects our relationship with politics.  Whether it was how we were to deal with land negotiations ala Abraham, how we were to negotiate an exodus from Egypt and a subsequent journey through the desert, or how we were to deal with the whims of both benevolent and despotic rulers throughout the ages by applying the wisdom of our sages, politics was and remains an inexorable part of what it means to be Jewish.  In the modern age, with the introduction of guaranteed free exercise of democratic liberties we've taken our political involvement from sideline to the mainline; if not so much for our immediate, literal survival, than for our long-term spiritual and moral survival as a people.

Our congregation is definitely made up of individuals who fall into each of the four camps expressed in that opening bit of humor.  The "Oys" the "Oy Veys!" the "Nus?" and the "One more word and I'm out of heres!"  At either extreme, there are those longing to hear us address the current state of political affairs as well as those who would get up and leave our services if we did. In between there are those who are distressed and those who, conversely, are simply numbed by the omnipresent 24/7 assault upon their senses and spirit.

In actuality, I'm guessing there are probably more of us than not, who simply desire a couple of days to shut and bolt the gates against the endless, increasingly outrageous storm and reconnect again with a simpler purpose, a more uplifting affinity; who want to remember that there are other things and other people of import to enjoy and pay attention to as well, the company of family and community, the opportunity to reconnect with God.

It is impossible to avoid the caustic reality of this past year or its effects upon our higher selves.  On the other hand, neither can we avoid the call of the Holy Days to renew the sacred within and among us.  Indeed, if anything, the intensity of the time from last Rosh Hashana to this, from last Yom Kippur to this, compels us to embrace the healing, restorative nature of these hallowed days.  We are being drawn together to make meaning of our time shared.  We are being brought before Sinai to affirm this truism: the blessings that bind us are greater than anything that we have allowed to rend us apart.

For the sake of our peace, the peace of our friendships, the peace of our community and the peace of our families, to forgive each other our lesser selves and find the way forward toward a greater evolution of spirit, it is essential that we use these days well.

One cannot walk through a smog laden valley and come out the other end ready to run a marathon.  Likewise, one cannot endure the constant and bitter rancor; the accusations and bloodletting such as we have endured, and come away spiritually ready to ascend to acts of selfless, loving kindness. Political parties aside, we are human beings who have taken a beating of the soul.  We need to heal.   We need to renew.  We need to remember.  We need this season.  For these ten days, at least, let us rend no more.  May this be our time to sew.

L'shana Tova U'mtukah

Rabbi David S. Castiglione
Cantor Lori Wilinsky Frank

Click here for information about High Holy Day services at Temple Adat Shalom

Sat, March 28 2020 3 Nisan 5780