Showing posts from August, 2016

The Heart of the Matter

Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz The Heart of the Matter
Kol ha’olam kulo gesher tzar me’od v’ha’ikar lo lefached klal’ – ‘All the world is a narrow bridge, but the essence is to fear naught’.
These famous words from the Chassidic Rebbe Nachman of Breslav have been rehashed time and again. They’re the staple of youth movements, summer camps and sing-along Friday night services to the point that they have almost become trite. Still, this simple aphorism speaks to the universal human experience of existential fear and encourages us to overcome that fear. However, the fulcrum on which the verse is balanced – ‘all the world is a narrow bridge’ and ‘fear naught’, is ‘ikar’ – ‘the essence’.
The essence of something is distilled, purified, intensified. It cuts out clutter, does away with fluff, and purges the dross, as in the words of our Prophets. Getting to the heart of the matter is to find truth through restriction, through philosophical editing and spiritual discipline.
Lurianic Kabbalah, formulat…

Power of the Person

Power of the Person – Shabbat Av/Parashat Devarim Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz
You are powerful beyond compare.
It’s a message that’s unexpected, counter-cultural, radical even. We live in times where many of us feel adrift, swept along on currents and riptides that are very much beyond our control. Our world seems more unstable and volatile than we’ve seen in generations and an instinctive response is to be paralysed by our own sense of powerlessness. What can we do, after all, about the many problems that beset us? About war and hunger, poverty and destitution, hatred and bigotry?
The answer is: everything.
The Talmud, in Tractate Gittin 55b, tells us the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza. A rich man decides to throw a party and asks his servant to invite his friend, Kamtza. The servant, however, makes a mistake by mixing up names and invites Bar Kamtza instead, who is a sworn enemy of the rich man. When Bar Kamtza shows up to the party, the patron shoos him and tells him to go home. Morti…

Coming Out/Into the Promised Land

Sermon Pride Shabbat Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz
Coming Out/Into the Promised Land
During last year’s Pride Shabbat, I spoke about journeying from acceptance to celebration. We commemorated the murder of a young Israeli girl during Jerusalem Pride. A similar, more devastating, sermon could be given today where we touch about the horrific tragedy of the Orlando Shooting. Yet, I am choosing not to address the tragedies that have befallen the LGBT community over the past years. Not because they are not significant – they are, and we should mourn, remember and fight – but because this should not define our sacred journey into acceptance, celebration and sanctification.
What far more illustrative of our journey as a LGBT community, is the focus on settling our promised land.
What is this promised land? To each individual, it will be different but I want us to dream about the place in which we find the fulfillment of our soul. The embrace of a loved one, the empowerment of self acceptance, the legi…