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

Flat Tires - Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Opening Erev Rosh Hashanah 5777

October 2, 2016

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

There was a woman’s post on Facebook that struck home recently.  It read, “I saw my ex broken down with two flat tires this morning which made me late for work.   Nine times I drove past before he noticed me laughing at him.”

Well, this past year I have taken up cycling in earnest.   I’m not sure this is something that should interest anyone besides me, but after struggling for a couple of years to come up with an exercise regimen to replace running, it turns out that road biking works.  I ran for 35 years or so, and then I needed a new hip, and now after a couple of other tries it turns out pedaling a road bike for a couple of hours very early in the morning is just the ticket. 

There are fabulous bike paths that run next to our dry Tucson riverbeds.  Unlike our potholed streets, these bike paths are also very well maintained.  You can ride as far as you like—my longest rides are 50 or 60 miles—without competing with cars or trucks.  You get to enjoy our magnificent Southern Arizona scenery early in the day before it gets too hot, there are lots of interesting and dangerous forms of wildlife you zip past in safety—oh, look that was a rattlesnake!  and five or six hungry coyotes—and in my experience bicycle people are incredibly helpful and polite when something goes wrong.

Like a flat tire.

Read more: Flat Tires - Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Opening Erev Rosh Hashanah 5777

Finding Our Way Home - Rabbi Batsheva Appel's Sermon Erev Rosh Hashanah 5777

October 2, 2016

Rabbi Batsheva Appel
Temple Emanu-El
Tucson, Arizona

Saroo followed his brothers everywhere growing up in a small town in India. He was one of four siblings being raised by a single mother. There wasn’t much food at home, and the boys would hop the trains at the train station in the town center and go to the next towns over to scrounge for food. He was only 4 years old the day that Saroo followed his brothers on the train to the next town. When his older brother told him to stay in the train station, Saroo, 4 years old, took a nap. When he woke up, he didn’t see his brother anywhere and thinking that he must be on the train that was in front of him, he got on. Saroo ended up in Kolkata, a thousand miles away from the town and family that he knew. He knew the names of his mother and his brothers and sister, but he didn’t know his own last name. He didn’t know the name of town he had come from. He didn’t know the language in Kolkata. He was lost in a vast city of millions and no way to go home. He survived for five months on the streets of Kolkata and in an orphanage before being adopted by a family from Tasmania, where he grew up.

Read more: Finding Our Way Home - Rabbi Batsheva Appel's Sermon Erev Rosh Hashanah 5777