My Rosh HaShanah Sermon is Written, but What Will Happen Next?
I am sitting at my desk in my office, Maroon 5 playing on Pandora, anxiously perusing a variety of news websites: Jerusalem Post, CNN, Haaretz, and yes, even Fox News. Sure, my Erev Rosh HaShanah sermon is already written, but as I pore through these articles, I realize that things could change any moment. The sermon I have prepared could very well not be the one I deliver. We live in an ever-changing world, so therefore our best plans sometimes get left behind. After all, how did God respond when man said, "I had plans"? God laughed.
This is not anything new. The only way I can be totally sure of the sermon I'll give on any given night is to write it five minutes before services begin. And while I believe I do a fairly good job with writing sermons (and sometimes quickly), I am sure I could not accomplish that feat! The message, then, is write, write, write, and prepare to rewrite. After all, you never know when certain events will occur and require a response from the rabbi. It has been suggested to me by several congregants that sometimes they really desire to hear our thoughts (and rest assured, sometimes they do not).
During the past year, we had so many deaths in our congregation that at one point, I decided to write a sermon titled "How We Speak to our Children about Death." I believed (and I still do) that some of our parents were challenged with regards to how to speak to their children about death. There is no one right answer, so my sermon presented several options. From the response of those that approached me afterward, I know that this sermon proved to be helpful in some regards. Of course, there are still other issues I have chosen not to address from the bimah. Maybe my thoughts will change as the years go; we shall see.
What happens this week if the United States and Great Britain address the current and ongoing situation in Syria with force? Will we find ourselves in another World War? What are the goals that we are trying to accomplish? Will these goals be presented before an response occurs? I cannot answer these questions, so I, like everyone else, will have to wait to find out what happens. There is no need (at this point) to become frantic or to panic. What we can and should do is to pay attention to a variety of news sources, follow what is going on, and do our best to read as much as we can so that if and when the situation escalates, we will know how to best react.
Will I give the sermon next Wednesday evening I have already written? My hope is yes, for that means that whatever happens between now and then would have been swift and not problematic. Or maybe there will be no response. During this time of reflection, during the month of Elul, let us approach each day with love for our family and friends; let us approach each day with a calm demeanor and live our lives as normal as any other day.
My hope is that we will bring the new year in with sweetness, hope, and joy.
Baruch Atah Adonai, Asher B'Yado Nefesh Kol Chai v'Ruach Kol Basar Ish.
"Praised are You, Adonai, in whose Hand is every living soul and the breath of humankind."
Rabbi Erin Boxt serves Temple Kol Emeth in Marietta, GA. he blogs at Rabbi Boxt’s Rabbinic Journey, where this piece was originally published.