Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Rosh Hashanah 2018

First day Rosh Hashanah. Rabbi Ari Sunshine’s sermon. I quite liked it and will try to share some parts of it, though, of course, I cannot and should not try to summarize all of it.
It was about our conception of ‘time’. The creation story was a product of its era. It is one of a few such creation stories from that region at that time. But there is at least one significant difference. It shifts the perspective from cyclical to linear time. The prevailing view was of a world sequentially and cyclical created, developed and destroyed, only to be recreated again. In the Hebrew bible God creates the world, almost destroys it, but then vows to Noah never to do so again. Time unfolds linearly, relentlessly. Each moment is unique, the past is gone forever, there are no do-overs, but there is also the opportunity to create something completely new in the future.
Rabbi Sunshine quotes the Psalmist who talks of how we fail to appreciate the gift of each day and, that most amazingly insightful of all biblical works, Kohelet (Ecclesiastes). There is a time for all things good and bad, a time to grieve and a time for joy – and if you do not grieve in the appropriate time you will not feel the joy.
Whereas our ancestors experienced an abundance of time, however, we with all our conveniences are always short of time. With the rapid explosion of technology, we now face a myriad of options with only so much time to experience them. And sometimes we lose track of the value of the important uses of time. We are so tethered to our cell phones that we forget to put them down during meals – a time to connect with friends and family. We rush from one experience to another with hardly any time for reflection.
In this wonderful but harried world we should deliberately slow down and turn to the sanctuary of Shabbat, once a week. He repeats Rabbi Joshua Heschel’s famous characterization of the Shabbat as “an island in time” and Sunshine embellishes and talks of 'islands of familiarity'.
I liked the way he connected aspects of the Jewish religious experience, at this time of Rosh Hashanah – Yom Kippur, when we are so emotionally conscious of the passage of time, to the truly exceptional conditions of our everyday world.
One little bit of humorous irony. This sermon about our experience of time, as apparently is true of all rabbinic sermons, was about one-third too long.

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