Photo by Charles Ward

"My job as a Rabbi is to bring people closer to G-d..to be an extension of G-d...to be with people in their happiness and in their sadness."

The Wisdom of Dove Chocolate

Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tovah! 

I have greatly missed all of you.  The High Holy Days this year are so strange.  On Rosh Hashanah, our community typically comes together to hug, shake hands and wish each other a sweet and good New Year.  We see people from our community that we may not have seen all year at services – but everyone seems to make an appearance at some point during the High Holy Day period and for that, we are grateful.  I hope we will be able to create community through the miracle of Zoom!

This year has been unusual in so many ways.  Our Temple has been mostly closed since March 15th.  Six long months have gone by since we were last together.  I have literally not gone anywhere but my home, my daughter’s home a couple of times and the inside of my car in 6 months.  This is true for so many of us.  You discover all sorts of new things when you are shut in your house for months.  You discover how much there is to clean and sort out.  You discover that you too, can feel low and have bad days. You discover (hopefully) that you chose the right person to spend your life with if you are alone with your spouse or partner and you are grateful that you have enough in common to get along and make things interesting. 

One new thing I discovered was Dove Chocolate.  I am not a candy eater…never have been.  But, when a Rabbinic colleague of mine started reading me some of the quotes that were in her Dove Chocolate wrappers, I decided to try it out…more for the quotes than the candy.  Now, I have eaten lots of chocolate in order to find a few pearls of wisdom in the wrappers.

I would like to share a few of those with you tonight:

“A smile is the quickest way to brighten a room.”  How true!  Even though some of us have masks on and others are far away in a little box on a screen, it is easy to see whether or not you are smiling.  We can see it in your eyes.  We can see it on your faces on the Zoom screen.  One of my voice teachers a long time ago, told me that when I was singing something that was supposed to be about a happy theme, it would always help if I smiled while I was singing.  She said that smile would shine through the words and people would feel the emotion.  She was right.  Let’s see everyone smile.  That’s beautiful!

Perhaps the best pearl of wisdom Dove chocolates gave me was:

“Inhale the Future…Exhale the past.”  When I saw that one, I knew I had a sermon.  This has not been a pleasant year.  2020 will go down in history as the year that we would most like to forget.  Not only have we had to deal with the COVID virus for most of this year, but on top of that, we had a category 3 hurricane blow through our communities.  This hurricane blew lots of wind and air into our state causing much destruction.  The COVID virus is also about air and breathing.  The virus attacks our lungs and affects our ability to breathe.  Bob told me when he was at his worst with the virus that he felt like the virus had taken over his body.  In Hebrew, the word for breath is n’shema and it literally means the inhalation and exhalation of air in and out of our bodies.  Sometimes, we also see the word n’shema translated as “soul.” 

So, it may be true that when our ability to breath is compromised, so is our soul.  So is our very being.

Right now, this virus is so confusing and scary.  There is so much about it we do not understand.  But, each day we are learning more about how to treat it, more about how to stop it from spreading and more about how to create a vaccine to get it under control.  At some point, we will have more answers.  At some point, we will rebuild from the destructive winds of Hurricane Laura.  At some point, we will be able to congregate safely together in our beloved sanctuary.  But until that time….

We must be able to exhale the past and inhale the future.  We must be able to let go of the drama and the trauma of the past few months and look forward to a new and better year. The future is all we have to hang onto.  We must be brave enough to safely venture back out into the world when the time is right. We must continue to plan so that we have things to look forward to.  Otherwise, the world becomes a very dull place.  The world is not going to stop, we are not going to stop getting older, celebrations and life cycle events will continue to happen and we must look forward to these things in our lives even if the way we celebrate them may have changed.  It is scary….it is unknown.  I pray that we will all continue to be safe and healthy.  I pray that we will know when it is safe and right to congregate again no matter how long it takes.

I pray that this year will end with the beginning of our Jewish New Year and we can move on from 2020 now without waiting for December to come.  On this Rosh Hashanah, we pray that the year 5781 will be a better year, a healthier year, a more prosperous year, both a more eventful and uneventful year, a more peaceful year….truly a New Year where we can begin anew and look forward to a brighter future. 

I would like to end with a personal prayer:

I thank You, God for the sacred privilege of serving this holy community.  I serve you each and every day whether I am physically there or not.

May I find meaning and purpose in my role during these High Holy days, and may I help to elevate this moment through the wisdom of our tradition.

May I find the strength and insight to support this community

in moments of sadness, and times of celebration.  And, may we all continue to be a part of the holy community that was created here in North Eastern Louisiana over 150 years ago.

O God, allow us to Exhale the past and Inhale the future.

Chein y’hi ratzon…. May it be God’s will.  Amen.