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I Like You Just the Way You Are Kol Nidre Sermon 2018

Good evening, gut yontif. I want to tell you something… just between us, you and me.  Ready?
I like you just the way you are!
Really.  I do.
I like you just the way you are!
It may surprise you a bit to hear me talking like Mr. Rogers on Yom Kippur.
And it may surprise you to hear me say how much I like you as you are.
After all, Yom Kippur is NOT a time to be satisfied with who we are. It’s a time to take a hard look at who we are and ask ourselves how we might become better. It’s a time to take stock of our souls and our relationships and do what we must to fix what needs fixing. Many of us practice the tradition of knocking on our hearts as we recite the litany of things that we, as a community, have done wrong, like we will be doing a little later this evening.  “Ashamnu bagadnu – We abuse, we betray, we destroy, we gossip, we . . . spend too much time on Facebook.”
And yet, in the midst of all of this soul-searching and chest-beating, here I come -- Rabbi Mr. Rogers --  saying “I like…

The World Exists Because of the Breath of School Children - Rosh Hashanah First Day Sermon 5779/2018

Shannah tovah.

Our liturgy Declares: HaYom Harat Olam: Today we celebrate the creation of life itself… and we read Torah and Haftarah passages about the birth of two precious children, Isaac and Samuel. And so, I thought it would be appropriate to speak about children. I so love the children in this community and I like to think some of them, at least, love me, too. It does my heart good when a child shows a little affection. One little girl, for instance, often comes to Tot Shabbat and when the service ends, she always runs up to me and gives me a big hug. And she always says, "Don't worry rabbi! When I grow up, I'll give you LOTS of money."
I've always chuckled, but one recent Shabbat, had to find out what exactly was in her head. So, as usual, she jumped into my arms and said, "Don't worry rabbi! When I grow up I'll give you LOTS of money!" But this time, when I hugged her back, I said, "That's very sweet of you, honey. But why do you…

The Song of Existence: Yom Kippur Day 5776/2016

Let’s begin with a story. Or two. Once upon a time, a young man went to his rabbi and said: “Rabbi, you know I’ve been a pious Jew all my life. But something has changed. When I was a child, I felt very close to God.But now that I’m older, it seems as if God has left me. I go about my daily business, I say my prayers, but I no longer feel God near me.” The rabbi smiled, as though he’d heard the problem stated many times before. “You may be certain God has not left you, my friend,” he answered kindly. “When you teach a child to walk, at first you stand very close.The child can take just one step, so you must catch him.But as he grows, you move farther and farther away, so that he can walk to you. God has not abandoned you. Like a good parent, God has moved farther away, but is still close by, waiting for you.Now you must learn to walk to God.” Isn’t that a nice story? I think so – except for one thing: I don’t buy it. I don’t buy the rabbi’s answer. I don’t believe God ever moves away from u…