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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Eikev 5773: No More Strangers

July 26, 2013

Cantorial Soloist Marjorie Hochberg, Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, AZ

I recently watched an HBO special starring African-American comedienne, Wanda Sykes. Among other comments she made about growing up black in a mostly white society, one was especially memorable to me. She said her mother would not let Wanda and her siblings dance in the car. Picture it: a great song comes on the radio. Wanda and her brothers and sister kids starting grooving to the beat. And their mother slams on the brakes. She would say, "There is no dancing in the car. Either we are driving or dancing, but not both." She would continue, "White people are watching you."

"White people are watching you." Today, in the wake of the Trayvon Martin case, those words seem ominous. A little over a week ago, a Florida court acquitted George Zimmerman of charges of 2nd degree murder and manslaughter in the death of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin. Many of us heard this verdict on television as it was delivered from the Florida court. More than any other verdict in recent memory, this one has spurred a flood of discussion, commentary and criticism about many issues, including the nation's gun laws, the state of the nation for African American youth, and race relations in general in our country.

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Sh'lach L'cha 5773: The Why Factor

May 31, 2013

Reverend Canon John E. Kitagawa, Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, AZ

Shabbat Shalom!

I am very pleased to be with you once again, and I am honored be here at the bimah to address you. My starting point this evening is a little unusual, so please bear with me. All Episcopal clergy in Arizona have seen a video featuring Simon Sinek talking about How Great Leaders Inspire Action . Sinek's premise is rather simple. He uses the "Golden Circle" to illustrate. Imagine a target with a bull's eye in the middle, with two concentric circles around it. He labels the center "Why", the next circle "How", and the outer ring, "What". Sinek says most people are pretty clear about "What" a company or organization does, "How" they do it, but tend to be fuzzy about "Why" they do it. He goes on to use this simple construct to explain Martin Luther King, Jr's. ability to succeed where others had failed. Sinek's contention is that King succeeded because he focused on the "Why" rather than on the "What" or the "How". Many of us remember his "I Have a Dream" speech (08.28.1963).

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Vayigash 5771: Welcoming Interfaith Families

December 10, 2010

Rabbi Jason Holtz, Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, AZ

My grandmother, in just a little more than two months, will be 99 years old. She still lives on her own, more or less independently. My grandfather passed away back in the spring of 2003. When he died, they had been married for over seventy years. That's uncommon fact #1 about them. The second uncommon fact about them is that they were an interfaith couple. He was from an Orthodox Jewish family and she was from an Italian Roman Catholic. That is not as rare today, but when they married, now closer to eighty years ago, it was quite uncommon. After the wedding, much of his family wanted nothing to do with him. His father disowned him. For me, I have had almost no contact at all with my grandfather's family of origin. Looking back, I sometimes wonder what might have been if his family was a bit more accepting. What sort of relationships would I have with cousins that I don't know even exist? What family memories would there have been?

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