Soon we will be celebrating Purim. It is a one of the great pure fun holidays of the Jewish calendar: costumes, good food, exchanging gifts, games and a wild story. Some people even have the custom of getting drunk enough that they can’t tell the difference between Haman (the bad guy) and Mordechai (the good guy). All drinking should be done responsibly and with consideration. So why has our tradition kept this custom in the “archive” as it were, as something that people still do?
A friend just returned from Cape Town, South Africa which is in the middle of a fierce drought. People are forced to buy water and what is available is not sufficient to meet people’s needs. The winter in North America is one of the coldest in a long time. In Australia and elsewhere coral is dying at unprecedented rates largely due to rising ocean temperatures. Yam Kineret - the Sea of Galilee in Israel - is so low that it is in danger of becoming salty. All around us the climate is changing in ways that impact everyone.
Shanah tovah and gm’ar chatimah tovah. It is wonderful to be here together to celebrate Yom Kippur.
How many of you are feeling a sense of joy at this moment? Maybe a strange question to ask on Yom Kippur when many of us will be in services all day, not eating or drinking, focused on what we did wrong and how to atone.
Before we look at that question more closely, I want to share a story. When I was a kid, I remember Rabbi Stern, our community’s rabbi, telling this story during a sermon one High Holiday season. I have looked all over and cannot find a source for it, nor have my friends and colleagues been able to find one either. So I offer it as a mistaken memory or an Ira original, but one I hope will resonate with you as it did with me.
Our big move is almost upon us. On December 9th, our amazing volunteers will pack up the last of the boxes and move them from the AWC to our new home, the building we will share with our sister community Beth Hillel. Our last event of 2017 will be a Chanukah party on Saturday 16 December with havdalah (the short ceremony that marks the end of Shabbat) and a pot luck dinner.
Shanah tovah and G’mar chatima tovah.
I’ve been watching a show on Netflix called Elementary. The main character is named Sherlock Holmes and he is a detective- consulting for the New York Police department helping them solve difficult unsolvable crimes. He left is native London, because, in this series, Sherlock Holmes is a heroin addict. He spends significant parts of the show dealing with his addiction. Sherlock regularly attends Narcotics Anonymous meeting where he, like all the other participants, stands up and says “Hello, my name is Sherlock and I am an addict.”
This is the season of new beginnings. The new academic year started, autumn has begun and we celebrated the beginning of the Jewish New Year as well as Simchat Torah where we started reading the Torah again from the beginning. It also a new beginning for the IJC. As of January, we will be housed in our new home, sharing facilities with our sister community, Beth Hillel.
There is a story told about the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidism. He would pray for many hours every day. His disciples, who had long concluded their own prayers, would form a circle around him to listen to the melody of his prayers and feast their eyes on the spectacle of a soul soaring in meditative attachment to its Maker. It was an unspoken rule among them that no one would leave until the Baal Shem Tov concluded his prayers.
One day, a great fatigue and hunger befell them. One by one, they slipped home for a bite and a few moments rest, certain that their rebbe’s prayers would continue for several hours more. But when they returned, they found that he had finished praying while they were gone.