Showing posts from September, 2015

The Religion Business

Yom Kippur Sermon 2015 Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz The Religion Business “So what do you do for a living?” We’ve all been there: waiting at the bus stop, train station, airport, in the checkout line of the supermarket or the doctor’s surgery and a well-meaning stranger strikes up a pleasant conversation with you and then they ask that question. I’ve come to dread answering it. People’s reactions can range from the stereotypical to the inane: ‘are there women rabbis?’ (clearly you’re looking at one!), ‘you don’t look like a rabbi?’ and my all-time favourite (not): ‘where’s your beard! Ha ha ha’. So I resort to an arsenal of conversational tricks varying from deflection (‘tell me, what do you do for a living?’) to outright deception—yes, on rare occasions, I’ve lied! Still, I love what I do and there’s no denying that I’m in the Religion Business. Rabbi Morris and I aren’t the only ones in the Religion Business here at Sinai. Everyone here is involved in the Relig

The World Shall be Built on Love

High Holy Day sermons – Rosh haShanah Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz The World Shall be Built on Love The Ashley Madison hack unfolded itself like a soap opera. It was the stuff of thriller novels and courtroom dramas. Over 38 million user accounts of the notorious adultery site (slogan: ‘life is short, have an affair’) have been made public worldwide. The media, of course, took a run with it. For those who saw the scandal unfold, some of us may have been torn between schadenfreude (admittedly) and compassion on behalf of the families affected. As tongues were a-chatter about the Ashley Madison scandal, I found myself reflecting upon it. In the grand scheme of things, was it really that important? Wasn’t this just an outbreak of moral hysteria? Placing moral judgment aside, could we glean any insights of the dynamics of personal conduct in an overexposed world? What is it that leads to families breaking apart? What is it that makes otherwise sensible and moral people mak

Hitting Rock Bottom

Parashat Ki Tavo Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz Hitting Rock Bottom Just when you think it couldn’t get worse, it gets worse. This has been a sentiment for many of us watching a world slide into increasing chaos and darkness over the last number of years and I’ve grown both accustomed and weary of pondering the question of how to address the tragedies of the world in yet another sermon. Shabbat is supposed to be our happiest day in the Jewish calendar. The happiest and holiest, only bested by Yom Kippur. Yet the Jewish tradition is brilliant in its ability to acknowledge that joy and pain are not mutually exclusive and that Shabbat may also be a time to reflect on what is painful and difficult. This is especially the case when both world events and the weekly parashah prompt us to do so. Most of you will be made aware of the ongoing refugee crisis. I gave a sermon on the topic a few Shabbats ago, and since this is the time of year where rabbis think abo