September 7, 2012
Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon, Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, AZ
In polite society if you wish to avoid controversy, you are taught early on in life, two subjects are off-limits—religion and politics. Well, here we are in synagogue on Friday night and you know we are going to talk about religion. So why not go for the homerun and talk about that other great taboo subject, politics?
Frankly, this week that's hard to avoid. This week some of you have been watching the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, which concluded last night after President Obama's acceptance speech, and last week I suspect some of you watched the Republican National Convention, which was held in Tampa, Florida and concluded with the nomination of Mitt Romney. I must admit that what impressed me the most about these political extravaganzas of self-congratulation and vilification of the opposition most was the quality of the production values in both shows. I recall watching national political conventions as a child and thinking that they seemed really, really boring—lots of politicians getting up and talking for a very long time; in those days the only interesting stuff happened outside the convention hall where people were rioting. The convention itself was a dreary succession of speech after speech after speech.
Read more: Ki Tavo 5772: The Politics of Holiness
September 16, 2012
Rabbi Jason Holtz, Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, AZ
A couple of months ago, my wife Jodi and I were traveling to visit our families. We are still at that stage where we don’t know each other’s more distant relatives very well. So, I decided to share a few old family stories in preparation of the get together. She immediately interrupted and said, “Jason, before you tell me any stories, just assume that you’ve already told me. At least fifteen times.”
I think I may have already shared that story with some of you.
On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, rabbis all over the country are going to try and say something new to their congregations. They will try to share fresh ideas and insights or to craft some new story. I often do that myself, not just on the High Holy Days, but weekly on Shabbat. Tonight, though, I do not have a new story for you. I do not have a new teaching or a new idea that nobody has ever thought of before. Rather, I am going to talk about something that has been talked about for millennia. I am going to talk about Creation. After all, this is Rosh Hashanah and we are here to mark the creation of the world.
Tonight marks the year 5773, traditionally understood as 5773 since the creation of the world as described in the Hebrew Bible. Now, I must say. I do not believe that the world came into existence almost 6,000 years ago in six days. All of the scientific evidence we have points to a much older earth and universe. I think Rabbi Cohon has one of the better ways of explaining the number for the Jewish year. Now I hope I don’t misquote him, being that he’s my boss and sitting right behind me, but he said that a few thousand years ago the best Jewish minds got together and looking at all of the evidence they had available to them at the time and this is the number they came up with. Now that we have more evidence that leads to a different conclusion, there is nothing wrong with modifying our estimates by a few billion years or so. As the great economist Alan Keynes said, “When the facts change, I change my mind.”
Read more: Erev Rosh Hashanah 5773: Tikkun Olam