Monday, 24 August 2015

Yom Kippur Sermon

This is what I said yesterday in Shul. Yom Kippur October 4 2014/ 10th of Tishrei, 5775:

"Hello friends, family, teachers, rabbi’s - pretty much everyone here has been with me on this journey from where I first stood, trembling and clinging to my notes, to here today.  Life can truly surprise you sometimes - with support from a loving community and having the willingness to go on despite the tremendous fear.  

Here we go. 

The most useful thing I learned last year was this from Martin Buber. We experience our lives constantly in relationship. 

As he describes it, there are two kinds of relationships we experience. Both have their place. Both are necessary in the real world. The first is I-it where you see the other person or thing as something that exists for your benefit, separate to you. In technical terms this is called: instrumentalizing the other.
The second kind of relationship we can experience is where you understand for an instant that you are part of an infinite us. In this relationship, we are fully present and open to the other. You experience the other as having a complete existence beyond your need of them. This kind of relationship feels like grace, love, connection, peace, home.

It feels like us.

But to experience us, you have to let go of me. You have to forget for a second what me wants, and see instead who you truly are, - part of a whole, part of us, part of the Israel of shmah Israel, part of the entire shem chavod malchutu … and that you don’t run the show. It’s very easy to forget.

That’s what the opportunity we are given today

On Yom Kippur, we are given the chance to push control, alt, delete and see when we reboot, more moments of I –thou and less of I-it.  To see if we can hear the still voice, quiet voice and experience the thing that connects us, which we are all living expressions of.   

We are given the chance to do better, because we know better.

It’s a big ask. It’s a long, hard day.
We will be hungry and tired.
But we will be together, taking comfort in each others' presence, and letting the service, the machzor, and the music have its way with us.

We are now standing together as a community to confess collectively.  

There’s a shorter Ashamnu – all of us as a community at times this year, we have all scorned, we have all turned away, and we have all been wicked,

This is followed by the longer Al Cheit which lists 44 moral failings - including harsh speech, hardness of the heart, and baseless hatred.

We’re all standing up to the same sins, all of us in this room, and beyond this room, encountering the same words our people have encountered for generations. What we share is the space between us and the words.
Let them all wash over you. Some will resonate, others will jar. I notice that even in the moment I am reading them, I am judging and being arrogant.  I catch myself thinking my way is the best way, the only way.
I beat my chest with my right hand as I confess and through the corner of my eye I see I am not the only one standing up to these sins.

We are all in this exercise in humility together,

The Viddui section ends with these words from the Talmud

“My God, before I was formed I was of no worth, and now that I have been formed it is as if I had not been formed”

Humility is a necessary precursor to seeing your true place in the world

Later on in the service, we will literally get down on our knees and bow down together,

And when we stand together before the closing gates tonight, we say seven times that thing that is so hard to understand – that defines us – our clarion call of monotheism- Adonai Hu Haelohim

When I get there tonight, I hope I remember to listen not just to those words, but also to the spaces between those words - that we are privileged to be a part of an undivided whole, responsible for ourselves and responsible for each other."

Gmar tov

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