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And the Results Are…Your Suggestions for High Holy Day Sermon Topics

Posted on: August 26th, 2009 by Hayim Herring 14 Comments

I promised that I would report back on the recommended sermon topics for this Rosh ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur. In no special order and with a little editing, here they are:

  • From Dawn Kepler: Of all the sermons I’ve heard, the ones I remember most are when the rabbi took a personal experience and made it a universal message. One spoke about a mentally disabled brother and talked about how we treat people who make us uncomfortable. …One spoke on a Chinese grandmother and what we learn from caring, ethical people. One spoke about what we put up on our refrigerator because it tells us what we value day to day.
  • From Robert Braitman: “Ladies and gentlemen, I am worried about your health. It’s time that each of us focused on being Shomrei HaGuf, caring for our wellness. So I am challenging our Men’s Club and our Sisterhood to develop programs for their members to improve their wellness, I am challenging everyone who serves food here to present healthy choices. Most importantly, I am issuing a ‘Yom Tov Challenge’. Between Sukkot and Shavuot, I want to see a change in our health. You develop the metric but when we study together Erev Shavuot, let’s celebrate our accomplishments!”
  • From Steven Kraus: The connections between the two Torah readings on Rosh Hashanah and what they mean in our lives.
  • From Robin Goldstein Schwartz: Something other than the usual renewal or Israel talk.
  • From Barry Lee: Renewal
  • From Lisa Elgazzar: We’re very excited about the topics our new rabbi (Rabbi Elon Sunshine) has chosen for the High Holy Days – Community Matters: The Power of Belonging; What Does God Want from Us?; Fixing a Broken World: You Can Do It!; and Balancing Tradition and Modernity: An Age-old Question. He has already posted the sermon topics as well as recommended background reading.
  • From makeforyourself (Twitter name): I can listen to my rabbi speak about parsha, teshuva, give mussar, the latest he heard on NPR, share some poetry. I’m lucky!

Additionally, here are a few other ideas I’ve seen floating around various list serves:

  • The impact of the financial crisis on the Jewish community
  • The boundaries of forgiveness (think Michael Vick)
  • Not such a good year for the Jews—what can we learn (no commentary necessary)
  • How much is enough—assessing what’s really important in life (full disclosure—I’m probably speaking on this)
  • What’s your big question this year—what should we be thinking about that’s of critical concern

And, Rabbi Kerry Olitzky suggests that rabbis should avoid speaking about:

  • The state of world Jewry
  • The Israeli-Palestinian conflict
  • The year in review
  • Health care reform.

I hope that the words you hear (or speak) will have the power to help close the gap between our current actions and our aspirations for the new year.

L’shanah Tovah,

Rabbi Hayim Herring

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