Every week, members of the clergy work diligently to deliver inspiring messages to their congregants in sermons from the pulpit. For rabbis, the upcoming Jewish High Holiday season is a time when they seek to deliver their most inspirational messages.
This year, Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) begins at sundown on Sept. 28. Beginning that evening and throughout the holiday season, West Hartford synagogues will be expecting capacity crowds. Rabbis will have additional pressure to impart words of wisdom to overflowing sanctuaries.
Perhaps not surprisingly, based on a small survey conducted by Patch, several rabbis said this year they will sermonize about spiritual renewal, befitting the theme of introspection and repentance at the onset of the New Year.
Rabbi Brahm Weinberg, of , plans to discuss how we are “sometimes too afraid to take risks for fear of failure; but it is the ability to try and, if we make mistakes, to try again and then re-evaluate and re-assess – these are the keys to our advancement.” Weinberg added, God was “most proud of in creating humanity that He had created a being who had the same capacity to look back, learn from mistakes and change.”
A similar theme will be one of several topics to be discussed by Rabbi Jim Rosen of , a Conservative synagogue on Albany Avenue. He will talk about “the hidden blessings of sin, mistake and regret” and the “paradoxes of life and how they can shape us.”
The ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (Day of Judgment) is a time when Jewish people repent for misdeeds and wrongdoings during the past year, and seek forgiveness and start anew. In addition, after confessional prayers, Jews pray they will be inscribed and sealed for the coming year in the “Book of Life.”
Rabbi Debra Cantor, spiritual leader of , on Still Road on the West Hartford/Bloomfield line, will explore the metaphor of the Book of Life.
“There are very different ways to understand and be inspired by this metaphor,” said Cantor, who will share some rabbinic/Talmudic teachings and insights. “And the main question will be: How do we write ourselves into the Book of Life for this coming year?”
Rabbi Ilana Garber of Beth El Temple added: “When we ask ‘who shall live and who shall die’ in the Unetaneh Tokef prayer, if we know we will all meet the same fate one day, how do we face each and every day until then?”
As a mother of two young sons, Rabbi Garber said she thinks about her own family’s future and wonders what role Judaism will play for her children in years to come. She is still fine-tuning her sermons, but she said she wants to challenge congregants to think about what is meaningful to them and how Judaism relates to our everyday lives.
Rabbi Michael Pincus, newly named senior rabbi at in West Hartford, said his congregants will hear sermons about “the meaning of community, the importance of knowing why we do what we do, and reflecting how we can be angels for each other.” This year marks the 75th anniversary of Beth Israel’s current building on Farmington Avenue.
Some rabbis’ sermons will be topical and will speak to current events and how world events affect our lives.
Rabbi Yitzchok Adler of , an Orthodox congregation on Dover Road in West Hartford, will discuss, “Common Cause--Finding Alliances in Unexpected Places.” Often, he explained, “disparate voices” are brought together by common cause.
“I will be challenging my congregation to be open to other potential alliances with unlikely partners where the well-being of the Jewish community has benefit to gain. One excellent example might be the support of Israel by Evangelical Christians.”
Another of Rabbi Adler’s topics will be “Finding Hope in the Depths of Despair,” and will focus on how “pain and suffering are excellent catalysts for motivating individuals and communities to become more pro-active in regard to struggles they have personally experienced.”
Rabbi Rosen of Beth El will also discuss “Learning from Judaism How to Thrive in a post 9/11 World,” and Beth El’s Rabbi Garber will address the topic of “Living in an Unpredictable World, How do we go on Living with these Vulnerabilities?”
Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on Wednesday, Sept. 28 and concludes on Friday evening, Sept. 30. Yom Kippur begins at sundown on Friday, Oct. 7 and concludes on Saturday evening, Oct. 8.