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Rabbi's Sermon

Rabbi's Sermon


Below is Rabbi Moshe's Inspiring Sermon from Rosh Hashanah 5778

Chag Sameach & Shana Tova!

A man asked his wife what she wanted for her fortieth birthday and she replied, “Oy, I wish I could be eight again.”

So, he took her to Disneyland, they went on all the rides, watched all the shows, walked the length and breadth of the park, ate hotdogs and drank orange soda. At the end of the day, exhausted and bloated, they lay down on the hotel bed to rest. He was trying to catch his breath and work on the kinks out of his shoulders when he asked, “nu, how does it feel to be eight again”?
She looked at him from under hooded eyelids and snorted, “Huh? I was talking about my dress size!!!!!

The theme of Rosh Hashana evident throughout the prayers and main mitzvah of the shofar is crowning G‑d as king. We do not delve into details of our behavior and confessions, rather focus on our general relationship with G‑d.

I want to talk about successful happy relationships, between each other and with G‑d.

There is a Harvard study – longest study ever done, over 80 years, begun in 1938 – that the key to happiness is close, deep relationships – not how many we have like Facebook friends which is a numbers game – but how close and deep they are, and this affects our general physical and mental health more than most other factors.

The Tzemach Tsedek once asked why is it that when children get upset they quickly forgive and move on, a few minutes later with a hug, a kiss, a candy and its over. While when adults get upset they don’t forgive and just dig in, holding grudges – years later they are still fighting often forgetting what even caused the fight. Aren’t adults mature while kids aren’t, yet adults don’t act maturely?

He answered, adults would rather be right than happy and children would rather be happy than right.

I was counselling a young woman who had a falling out with her parents and had not spoken with them for several years. I asked her - If you were to get a phone call today that they had died, would you go to their funeral?

The woman thought for a moment and said, Yes, I suppose I would. Why? I asked.

I guess I owe them that, the young woman responded. They are my parents. And I’m afraid I would feel guilty for the rest of my life if I didn’t, and I don’t want that. I would go because I would need that sense of closure.

Good, I said, so why are you waiting for a funeral? Why not go to them now, when you could both have a sense of closure? The woman started to cry, realizing that there was a part of her that didn’t want to go on being angry at her parents. She went home and later that day called her parents.

But how many people, spouses, children, siblings, friends, argue and don’t forgive. Saying, but I’m right! Let him apologize! I need to have the last word!

Now, are these people, who, maybe are right, better off now? Absolutely not. They continue to eat themselves up inside though they show a strong and bold face to the world and ultimately no one is further ahead.

What is it that makes us want to be right? The answer is our Ego. That small part within us that starts out healthy and nudges you to ambitiously discover life and the beauty in everything. Yet as one grows it starts separating you from the world, judging who you are through the eyes of others. It builds a defense and a wall between you and the outside world, thinking it’s keeping you protected. It can become dangerous and destructive to others …and you.

Last week we read the double portion of Nitzavim - Vayelech – 2 opposite statements! Stand, and Move forward. How do they fit together?
This is a key message for relationships, there are moments when we must hold our ground. When it’s about values, morals and trust, the things we must not compromise. But there are times when you have to let go and move on, especially when all you are trying to protect is your ego, pride and self.
Be happy, forgive and move on.

The shofar we blow today must be curved to be kosher. This teaches us that in life’s relationships we must learn to bend for others, only then can we nurture successful relationships and happiness. 

Happiness is feeling content, complete, living with meaning and achieving your goals.

Successful relationship will make you happy! Fulfilling a pleasure or desire through some object will never make you happy.

And if there is pain, forgive, let go.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev related how he learned forgiveness from a simple tailor, who he witnessed peeking through his window, pouring 2 shots of vodka and then he began to speak to G‑d, “I have sinned this year…. But so have you made some bad moves, you allowed new competition, sickness in my family, let’s just forgive each other and move on”. This may not be sophisticated and complex but it must be true and sincere.

When G‑d created man he said Naaseh Adam, let us make man. All others he created alone, but by man he said let us create – who is us? Man, you and I. We are the only ones who can play a role in our becoming complete and happy, by living with a purpose, setting goals and achieving them, by choosing good behavior.

Even more, by thinking of others, helping others, it has even been proven scientifically that when helping others you are much happier than whatever you will spend on yourself.

Just Look at the happiest Jewish holiday – Purim, and contrast this with the non-Jewish one Halloween. Purim’s central activity is to give to others, friends, and needy– boundless joy. Halloween is about taking from others.

The Alter Rebbe (echoed later by JFK) said that you must always remember not to ask what you need but what you are needed for.   

We have to take this guidance for our relationship with G‑d

I often hear people say, I can’t accept G‑d, because…holocaust, other tragedy, Irma, Harvey, a million good reasons etc.

Well, Elie Wiesel was a holocaust survivor who became voice of the holocaust martyrs and survivors.

Now, Elie Wiesel did not just write about the Holocaust, he also wrote about the Chasidic movement.  As he testified about himself, “As much as I wrote about the Holocaust, I wrote even more about Chasidism.”

So little Elie Wiesel once asked his grandfather how he had noticed that his stories didn’t always line up with the dates—that it seemed to him that the facts were sometimes subjected to some imagination.  And his grandfather replied: “Obviously there will always be someone who says that some story can’t be true from an objective view—but there is no importance to that.”  His grandfather then added, “An objective Chasid is no Chasid.”

And after the Holocaust, Elie Wiesel was indeed a Jew with lots of questions. But instead of looking for answers, he went back to the world of his grandfather—to the world of Chasidic stories.  And in the world of Chasidic stories, there are no questions.  

As the saying goes, “A believer has no questions, and a skeptic is not helped by answers.”  

We may have many questions about how G‑d runs the world. But we have to make a choice. Do we want to be right (until proven wrong) or happy, do we want to stay stuck in the same hole or move forward.

The Talmud relates a story about Rabbi Yehoshu ben Levi who once met Eliyahu Hanavi (soul descended in a body) and asked to accompany him on his mission he was then on. Eliyahu said yes but you cannot ask any questions, or else I drop you off. The Rabbi Agreed.

First place they saw a poor couple, old hut, beautiful hospitality and after they left Eliyahu muttered let their cow die – the Rabbi gasped but was quiet.

Next stop, mansion, non-hospitable people, they begrudging agreed – when they left Eliyahu prayed that crack in wall be restored – the Rabbi gasped again.

Next place, town of misers, when they left Eliyahu muttered may the all be leaders, the Rabbi gasped.

Fourth place, poor town nice people, when they left Eliyahu muttered they should have only 1 leader.

The Rabbi couldn’t contain himself and said ok I can’t take it anymore, everything looks wrong.  So Eliyahu explained and then threw him off trip.

First place women meant to die as they were so nice he prayed let the cow die instead, second place wall had treasure and the unhospitable people didn’t deserve to find it, third, imagine a city of only leaders, and fourth wow a strong leader what a blessing.

We buy products with guarantees, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, lifetime. The longest proven guarantee is from G‑d that if you choose a life of following in G‑d’s path and forging a relationship you will be content, happy, and the powerful relationship will allow you to overcome any challenge.

It works! Judaism works! and has worked for close to 4,000 years. There has never been a more happy, content, fired up, active, productive and successful nation and people as the Jews.

Torah doesn’t necessarily promise everyone wealth, power, even health in their lifetime. But contentment, happiness and strong relations, absolutely.

There was a young Chassidic man, with five young children whose wife was sick and passed away on sukkot, very sad, they buried her during the chol hamoed and in just a few days was simchat torah, when the Torah commands be joyful (even for a mourner). Someone witnessed how that man took his kids to shul that Simchas Torah and joined the circle and danced one step after the other getting more into it, pulling his kids in, as if life was normal for them, perhaps thinking then, if G‑d says be happy today I can argue all day long and maybe I’m right but I’d rather keep the relationship strong and be happy.

Let us use this opportunity to choose a strong relationship with G‑d, choose happiness which will be a springboard for real growth this year.

Some content thanks to Rabbi Lazer Gurkow


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