As many of you know, I conduct a Friday Evening Service at an Alzheimer facility. I have been doing this for nine years. I designed this Shabbos Services based on my perception of what would work best for the residents and their families. It normally lasts less than a half an hour, including time for everyone to enjoy challah and grape juice. I am often asked to deliver a sermon. I try to tie in the current Parsha, current events, and a touch of humor in a quick, off-the-cuff D’var Torah. Based on my singing and my sermons, no Rabbi or Cantor is in any danger of losing their job to me.
I was asked for a sermon the week before Rosh Hashanah. My back was out and I was trying to end the Service so that I could sit. Thinking quickly, I promised that I would not only have a sermon the following week on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, but that it would be the best Rosh Hashanah sermon, ever. And why would it be so great? The sermon would be less than two minutes! That seemed to please everyone. We did Adon Olam and we were done.
I’ve never actually written a sermon. The thought of delivering a great, short sermon did seem a bit daunting once I got home and realized the full extent of my commitment. This is what I delivered:
When does the day begin? When I wake up in the morning and see the light through the window, I can see that it is a new day. So is that when the day begins, 6 AM, 7 AM, or whenever I wake up? Or does the day begin and end per the calendar at midnight? But, we are Jewish, and our day begins at sundown. When does the Sabbath begin? Sundown, Friday evening.
And while we are talking about beginnings, when does the year begin? Does it start in the spring, a season of new beginnings? Do we begin our year as the snow disappears and the flowers return? Does the year begin, per the calendar on January 1st? No, again, because we are Jewish, our year begins now, the end of the summer, the beginning of autumn. Yesterday was the First of Tishrei, Rosh Hashanah, the start of the High Holidays.
Does our internal clock, our internal calendar, or respect for our heritage make us better, smarter, more worthy? Of course not. The goal of remaining true to ourselves is to be true to ourselves, to honor a higher truth.
On this day of Rosh Hashanah, in a land that welcomed us as we were and did not force us to abandon our heritage, it is important to remember that we were not the first immigrants to this great country and we will not be the last. May the New Year bring us all peace and the opportunity to live by our own clocks and to celebrate our own calendars.
Have a Happy and Healthy New Year.