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Showing posts from November, 2018

It's About Us

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Sermon Vayetzei 2018 Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz
It is About Us


While I am sure every generation feels the weight of its own history, there is no denying that recent global and national events press upon us. So many overused metaphors come to mind: a refiner’s fire, an alchemist’s crucible, as we must distill what we value down to its essence. These times focus our attention and remind us, grudgingly perhaps, that ‘aleinu’, it is up to us.  
I suspect many of us are still sorting and sifting through our emotions. I know I am. As we contend with complex issues of polarization, hatred, the call for increased security, the inability to speak to difference and the myriad reflections on our American Jewish identities, one thing stands out clearly for me as a non-Orthodox, ‘Reformative’ rabbi.
This is the hour of our Judaism. 
Reflecting on the Pittsburgh massacre, we can see that the congregations of Etz Haim Synagogue shares many of our values. Anti-Semitism is not just the hatred of individual Jew…

A Torah of Life: Post-Pittsburgh Thoughts

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Friday Night Sermon Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz
A Torah of Life: Post-Pittsburgh Thoughts

Brothers and sisters, acheinu v’achyoteinu,
In our weekly reading of the Torah, we are approaching the center point, the fulcrum, of the book of Genesis. Parashat Chayyei Sarah focuses on chapters 23 to 25 and deals with the aftermath of Sarah’s death. The Midrash suggests that Sarah died a traumatic death after hearing about her son Isaac’s near-sacrifice on Mount Moriah. As we can see, this is part of Genesis that addresses some of the experiences, concerns and questions that we are sitting with as a community tonight: death, mourning, trauma, fear, healing, celebrating life, honoring, rebuilding. Love, hope, legacy, vision, future. In fact, the portion is capped by the two deaths of our giants: Sarah at the start of the reading and Abraham at the end. In between, we witness a match being made between Rebecca and Isaac and reconciliation being found at the foot of Abraham’s grave between Ishmael and Is…