Expectations & Every Day - Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Sermon Yizkor 5777

October 12, 2016
Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon
Temple Emanu-El
Tucson, Arizona

A guy goes to see his rabbi.  He tells the rabbi’s secretary that he must see the rabbi because he is so depressed.

He starts by reminding the rabbi his father died just three weeks before.  The rabbi says, “I know, I’m so sorry.  Your father was a wonderful man.  Everyone loved and appreciated him.  I did his funeral and was at the shiva.”

“I know, rabbi,” the man says.  “Thank you again.”

“Of course,” says the rabbi.  “You are depressed because you need to talk about the loss of your father.”

“Well, rabbi, not so much,” the man answers, “But I do need to tell you that my dad left me five million dollars.”

“Oh,” says the rabbi, “Well he was a remarkably successful businessman, and I’m sure he wanted you and your family to be well provided for.”

“Yes,” the man continues, “But what you don’t know, rabbi, is that two weeks ago, the week after my dad died, my uncle passed away, too.”

“Oy,” says the rabbi, “And is that why you are depressed, so much loss all at once?”

“No,” says the man, “But you should know that he, too, left me five million dollars.”

“Goodness!” says the rabbi.  “That was very generous.”

“Yes,” says the man, “And then, just last week, my cousin Bernie the orthodontist died also, he had several clinics, and he left me five million dollars, too.”

“All this death must be very devastating and terrible.  You have my deepest condolences,” says the rabbi.  “No wonder you are depressed.”

“No, rabbi,” says the man, “You don’t understand.  I’m depressed because so far this week—NOTHING!”

Read more: Expectations & Every Day - Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Sermon Yizkor 5777

Our Goal Today - Rabbi Baruch J. Cohon's Sermon Yom Kippur 5777

October 12, 2016
Rabbi Baruch J. Cohon
Temple Emanu-El
Tucson, Arizona

Here we are again, aren’t we!  Joining in doing something we don’t do all year long.  Spending the entire day here, together, for a purpose we all share.  What brings us here?  What can this concentrated day do for us that no other religious occasion does?  Not a week with special food like Passover… not an 8-day party with songs and gifts like Hanukkah… just one solid day.  Why?

We know why we’re here, don’t we?  We have a goal to aim for, and it takes all day to hope to reach that goal.  Last night in our services, we quoted from the Book of Numbers a desperate line that Moses prayed: S’lakh na la’avon ha-am ha-zeh k’godel khas-dekha – “Please forgive the sins of this people, in Your great kindness.”  And he gets the answer: Salakhti kid’va-rekha – “I have forgiven according to your words.”  Later in today’s services comes the poem that starts Yashmi-eynu salakhti – “Let us hear Salakhti – I have forgiven.”  That’s our goal.  That’s why we are here. We want to hear – to feel – that word of forgiveness.

Read more: Our Goal Today - Rabbi Baruch J. Cohon's Sermon Yom Kippur 5777

Giving: the Secret of Survival - Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Sermon Kol Nidrei 5777

October 11, 2016
Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon
Temple Emanu-El
Tucson, Arizona

Last week on Rosh HaShanah I spoke about flat tires, and particularly, bicycle flat tires, of which I have had a plethora of late.  Thank you for your kind comments about that sermon, and those who shared their own cycling stories with me, including suggestions on how to avoid flats.  One of you even suggested we start a new program at Temple, in which we bike 25 miles and then stop and have coffee and argue about the Torah portion.  We would call it “The Weekly Torah Cycle”, or maybe, more appropriately, “Ride and Rant”.

In any case, a week ago, on the morning of 2nd Day of Rosh HaShanah, before I helped lead our Northwest 2nd Day Rosh haShanah service with Rabbi Appel, I decided to go out for a quick ride—20 miles on a cool morning, perfect way to start the second day of the new year.  I ended up riding at the same speed as another guy, and we struck up a conversation about biking.  And then—you probably guessed it—I got a flat tire. 

My new friend stopped and helped change the tire, and as we were finishing I said, “I really hate getting flat tires.  But I’m a rabbi, and at least I got a sermon out of it this week.”

He looked at me strangely, and said, “Did you just say you are a rabbi?  Then I have something to tell you.  You now have a story about a rabbi and a priest.  Because my name is Jim, and I am a Jesuit priest…”

Read more: Giving: the Secret of Survival - Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Sermon Kol Nidrei 5777

Late…Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Opening Yom Kippur, Kol Nidrei Eve 5777

October 11, 2016
Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon
Temple Emanu-El
Tucson, Arizona

 

October. 

There is something surprising about a Jewish year that begins in October.  Mostly, it’s that we expect Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur to fall in September.  Last year, for example, the beginning of the 5776 year, Rosh HaShanah was in the expected range, September 15th; Yom Kippur was September 23rd.  By this time, October 11th, we were nearly done with Sukkot.  Three years ago, in 2013, Rosh HaShanah actually began September 4th, and Yom Kippur was September 13th.  So of course this year everyone is saying that the High Holy Days are so late…  especially Yom Kippur.  October 11th and 12th!  That’s much too late, rabbi.

Actually, I kind of agree with writer Mitch Albom, of Tuesdays with Morrie fame: he says, “It’s never too late or too soon.  It’s when it’s supposed to be.” 

That is, Rosh HaShanah always begins on the 1st of Tishrei, and Yom Kippur comes on the 10th of Tishrei, according to a Jewish calendar established more than 1500 years ago.  Rabbi Hillel haNasi, the president of the Sanhedrin, balanced the astronomical cycles of the moon, sun, and earth and created most of the remarkable Hebrew Calendar we still use today.  It has been adjusted several times, most recently in the Middle Ages, but it has served our people all around the world through the better part of two millennia. I think we can safely assume that this is the correct date for Yom Kippur 5777.  It’s when it’s supposed to be.

And yet it seems late…

Read more: Late…Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Opening Yom Kippur, Kol Nidrei Eve 5777

The Chai Year: The Best You Can Be - Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Sermon Rosh Hashanah Morning 5777

October 3, 2016

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon
Temple Emanu-El
Tucson, Arizona

“Hi, there everybody, and a very pleasant good afternoon to you wherever you may be.”  So began the final broadcast of the marvelous Los Angeles Dodgers’ announcer Vin Scully yesterday, as he completed an unbelievable 67-year career as the best sports broadcaster who has ever lived.  67 years, three score and seven in Biblical terms… The last day of our Jewish year 5776 was also the last day Vin Scully announced a Dodgers’ game.  For some perspective, his first game as an announcer was in the Jewish year 5710; Harry Truman was president of the United States.  Scully started as the 21-year old voice of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950, palling around with Jackie Robinson, and he retired nearly seven decades later with accolades from Sandy Koufax, Clayton Kershaw, and movie star Kevin Costner.  Vin Scully was not only an incredibly talented and enjoyable broadcaster, he remains a thoughtful, humble, and generous gentleman.  And he was something more.  He was an inspiration.

Read more: The Chai Year: The Best You Can Be - Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Sermon Rosh Hashanah Morning 5777