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Showing posts from September, 2011

Rosh haShanah sermon: The King and the Lighthouse

Rosh haShanah Sermon 2011, Sinai Synagogue Leeds Esther Hugenholtz
The King and the Lighthouse
Once upon a time, there was a traveller.
He travelled from place to place, wearing his cloak and staff thin, dust clinging to his sandals. He had been sent out on a mission he did not yet fully comprehend but he knew it was for good.
Curiosity drove him. A precocious child, he asked his elders daring questions. ‘Why do we worship the moon, sun and stars? Did not Someone else create them?’ He wanted to search out Who that Presence was, the Prime Mover, the radical Ground of Being.
He wanted no more of his father Terach’s idolatrous ways. Unimpressed by the clay figures he had smashed in his father’s shop, he packed his meagre belongings and set out westwards in search of the one God. A beautiful young woman caught his eye. Intelligent and strong, she too, had a deep moral understanding of the world. Not before long, Sarai pledged to marry him.
For years, they had been travelling. They pitched camp …

Parashat Ki Tavo

Leo Baeck College Sermon Ki Tavo Esther Hugenholtz
The Fruits of Our Joy
It’s easy for Jews to feel overwhelmed during the month of Elul, especially for us ‘professional Jews’. We fret about how many sermons we still have to research and write, we stress over the amount of liturgy we have to practice and we agonise over our own feelings of inadequacy when it comes to facilitating our own ‘teshuvah’ during this time of good deeds and introspection.
There is a measure of irony in this month of Elul-induced angst. It seems that the more we throw ourselves into the process of creating meaning for others, the higher the risk is that we neglect to create meaning for ourselves. We feel unbalanced. Between the heftiness of crafting a d’rasha with the necessary gravitas and managing the logistical challenges of the High Holy Days, we lose sight of what is most important: existential joy.
This week’s parashah, Ki Tavo, opens with an unfolding consciousness of existential joy. ‘...ki tavo el ha’aretz…