Deadlines - Rabbi Batsheva Appel Opening Ne'ilah 5777

October 12, 2016
Rabbi Batsheva Appel
Temple Emanu-El
Tucson, Arizona

You might remember a famous skit from Saturday Night Live that is now almost 30 years old. A man is sitting in an office and receiving a call, realizes that he missed a deadline and things are dire. He immediately finishes the project that is needed and goes to Einstein Express.  Their claim is that “Using a patented superconductor matrix, coupled with Einstein's theory of space-time continuum, we can transport any document or package up to ten pounds into the past.” The package is sent three days back into the past and the man’s job is saved. It ends with the tagline: “Einstein Express. When it absolutely, positively, has to be there the day before yesterday.”

Deadlines. As we begin the Ne’ilah service, we are facing the deadline of the end of Yom Kippur, the end of this 25 hours of repentance and atonement. There is just a little bit of time left to get our final prayers for the day in. As Rabbi Cohon noted last night, we cannot go back in time to redo this year, this month, this 10 days since Rosh Hashanah, or even to last night – the weight limit for Einstein Express is 10 pounds after all. We reach the service of Ne’ilah knowing that we are at the deadline.

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Erev Rosh Hashanah 5776 - Praise God & God Prays

September 13, 2015

Rabbi Batsheva Appel

Temple Emanu-El, Tucson Arizona

It was Erev Rosh Hashanah, in a small synagogue, in a small town, according to the Hasidic story. As the services proceeded, an illiterate shepherd entered the synagogue.  He was moved by the words and the music, but was unable to join with the congregation because he could not read and he had never learned the prayers. Out of desperation, out of a desire to become part of the congregation and connect with God, he took out the flute that was in his pocket, and began to play the music that he always played when he was tending the sheep. Immediately there was an uproar as many of the worshippers were outraged. Who was this? How dare he desecrate services on one of the holiest days of the year? People yelled at the shepherd to stop and there were calls for him to be thrown out immediately.  The rabbi ended the geschrei. He thanked the shepherd and explained why to the congregation, “As we were praying, I could feel our prayers being blocked from ascending to heaven. The shepherd’s prayer came from his heart and it was so pure that it helped our prayers ascend with his, straight to the Holy One.”

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Erev Rosh Hashanah 5774: Life is a Knuckleball

September 4, 2013

Rabbi Batsheva Appel, Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, AZ

I'm sure that by now you have realized that there is a change in the line-up this year. Rabbi Holtz is bringing his rabbinic skills to a congregation in London, England and will be translating his coaching ability from softball to cricket whenever the season starts there.

I am Rabbi Batsheva Appel and have been tapped to join the Temple Emanu-El team and am excited to be part of this community. I am more bookish than athletic, and was very upfront with the lay leadership of this congregation that I am really not very accomplished in any sport that involves hitting something with something else. I have been doing some research however on how we might use the knuckleball in our softball games.

I learned about the knuckleball when I heard about the memoir of R.A. Dickey, currently a knuckleball pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays. When I began listening to Terry Gross' interview of Dickey on Fresh Air, I thought that the story would be straightforward: pitcher learns new skill through lots of practice and extends his career in Major League Baseball. Dickey's story is actually much more complicated.

He is very candid in his memoir, Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball, sharing difficult details about his childhood. He does well at baseball and plays at University of Tennessee. Dickey is drafted by the Texas Rangers with a substantial signing bonus that is then lost when the Rangers take back their offer. It turns out he has no ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow, which will affect his pitching. They end up making him a much less significant offer, because of his elbow. He continues to work to achieve his dream of being a Major League Baseball pitcher, but at times it seems farther and farther away. He plays in the minor leagues for a long time and is eventually called up to the majors.

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Erev Rosh Hashanah 5775: Let's Have a Catch

September 24, 2014

Rabbi Batsheva Appel, Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, AZ

One of the downsides of being a rabbi is that people complain to me... about other congregations. I remember being at my cousin's wedding and listening to a distant relative complain bitterly about his synagogue's expectations of his son who was to become bar mitzvah that year. The synagogue is being entirely unreasonable, he said, given that his son is playing on a Little League team that will very likely go to Williamsport, Pennsylvania and win the Little League Baseball World Series. His son has to be at practice, he cannot go to mid-week Hebrew. His son has to be at games, he cannot go to Sunday School. His family cannot be expected to attend services. My relative set up private tutoring for his son, but the synagogue is still making what he thinks are unreasonable demands.

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