North Western Reform Synagogue
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|Massei Sermon 2008 - The Greatest Festival Every Week|
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When this week comes around in the Jewish year it is always momentous for me. We have finished the Book of Numbers the fourth book of the Torah. That means that there is only one left, Deuteronomy. And before we have even finished the end of that book we will be celebrating Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. And as you can imagine those days loom large over a Rabbi’s calendar. I know that there are now remarkably few weeks left to prepare for our Selichot study sessions, our Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur services and sermons, and then so few days later for Sukkot and Simchat Torah. Little wonder then that every year without fail, within the next few weeks my High Holydays nightmares will start. The normal scenario of these nightmares has me stuck on a train somewhere when I am meant to be beginning the Kol Nidre Service, or standing up to begin the service on Rosh Hashanah realising that I have clean forgotten to write a sermon, or turning up to the Synagogue tent to find no one there because this year we have decided to move out and no-one told me! Freudians among you in the congregation – make what you wish of that.
We all know that Rosh Hashanah will fill our Alyth Ohel Moe’d, Tent of Meeting to the rafters. We all know that year after year Jews who happily ignore all communal Judaism all of the rest of the year long will be with us that day – and for Yom Kippur. These two festivals are so personal that they cannot be ignored. They do not commemorate any event in Jewish history, they create the reality of our Jewish present – the way that we are going to be, every single one of us in the year ahead. Sukkot with Simchat Torah, Pesach, Shavuot are festivals of commemoration – as well as thanksgiving. The Jew whose Judaism is not really communal can easily ignore them because they will still happen in every Synagogue whether or not they are there, others can do it. But they need to be there for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur because these festivals are aimed squarely at changed each individual person. If you are not there then those festivals might well have never happened.
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