Here’s the sermon which cantorial soloist David Curiel delivered today. Enjoy!
I’m just getting over a cold. It’s okay, I’m fine: it was a warning sign. Beyond the epidemiology of the thing, it was a way for my body to tell me, in no uncertain terms what I already knew, but was denying myself: Starting the school year at two separate Hebrew Schools, starting two new classes as a student AND preparing for my first ever High Holiday pulpit was a lot to take on in the last couple of weeks. OK, I got it!
We are all repositories of deep inner wisdom, sometimes manifested in really obvious ways, but more often much more subtly. In a short while, we’ll encounter the Unetanah Tokef—the centerpiece of Rosh Hashana liturgy—and sing about the “still small voice.” While we might argue with the prayer’s theological implications—is there REALLY a Shepherd On High writing “who by fire, who by water?”—the imagery and poetry, even in translation, are both powerful and beautiful, reaching their crescendo in that “still small voice.”
This still small voice, our deep inner wisdom, is nothing less than the part of God that is within us. This isn’t to say that we’re God, God forbid! But rather, that we are a channel for God to act through us. But that still small voice gets drowned out and the channel gets clogged. You only need to turn on the TV during primetime or try driving through Boston at about 5:30pm any weekday to experience that.
But even if we avoid the obvious pitfalls—limiting our media intake, turning off our mobile devices—it’s easy to get distracted by the vagaries of the mind—re-arguing old arguments or pre-arguing potential new ones, because maybe this time, it’ll come out right.
Herein lies one of the great paradoxes of being human: we have the faculties to act out God’s will in the world, but by that same token of free will and conscious thought we distract ourselves from the things that are truly important.
And yet, our tradition equips us with a roadmap: the cycle of the Jewish year. This map signals rhythmic inflection points for great joy, disconsolate sorrow, self-examination, contrition and renewal. It is rich with traditions, food, music and all the commentary you care to discuss. But it is only a map, and as we know, there’s a world of difference between the maps we use and the world they represent. More than most, the cycle of the Yamim Noraim—the Days of Awe—draws us into that place of contact between map and reality.