5781 High Holy Day Sermons

Shana Tova and welcome to 5781! To watch Rabbi Blumofe’s and Rabbi Swedroe’s inspiring sermons from the High Holy Day season, please check out the recordings below.

Erev Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah Day 1

Rosh Hashanah Day 2

Kol Nidrei

Yom Kippur

Meditations Read during Services

Meditation Before Hineni (author: unknown)

Here I stand, pixilated and buffering before You, streaming on behalf of your people Israel, even though my wifi is insufficient for the task. Therefore, as I stand frozen before you because my internet connection is unstable, I beseech you—the platforms of Zoom, Facebook, and AT&T, and Shulcloud—I plead for help as I livestream my prayers for those I represent and who have entrusted me with the shul’s Zoom login credentials.

Do not judge them for my poor video quality, nor charge them because of my personal search history. Let there be no service outage to obstruct my prayer. Accept my prayer as the prayer of one who is uniquely qualified—someone who is wearing pants and is in a pleasant, well-lit room. Remove all firewalls and passwords.  May my prayer reach the cloud.

Praised are You, who unmutes everyone’s prayers.

VIDUI (authors: unknown)

For the misdeeds  that we have committed before You.

We appealed to authority — as opposed to our getting involved

We harbored bias blind spots —  ignoring the impact of bias on our own judgment.

We cherry-picked evidence — ignoring contradictory evidence.

We created double standards

We made our egos and reputations most important to us 

We feigned openness to evidence when really we had no intent of ever changing our minds.

We let groupthink and social pressures shape our beliefs and distort our reasoning.

We branded as heresy conclusions we disliked, impeding intellectual debate and open-ended inquiry.

We created ideological echo chambers, surrounding ourselves with homogeneous thinking to shield ourselves from dissenting ideas.

We jumped to conclusions, judged issues (and people) without hearing alternative sides or doing sufficient research.  

We acted as know-it-alls, professing to have knowledge we did not, and having too much pride to answer a question with “I don’t know.”

We lost our curiosity, stopped listening to others, and became focused instead on winning debates and scoring points.

We engaged in magical thinking, positing positions without evidence.

We made ourselves naïve and dogmatic, neglecting to educate ourselves to think critically, especially concerning our own beliefs.

We ostracized dissenters in our in-group who pointed out our errors or who acknowledged valid points that disagreed with our own.

We conflated possibility with probability, deeming “possible” explanations on equal footing with explanations backed by the weight of evidence.

We were quasi-scientific, employing jargon but failing to apply the methods or rigor of science.

We ridiculed and leveled ad hominem attacks at people as a substitute for addressing their arguments.

We made straw person arguments, knocking down inaccurate and feeble versions of opponents’ positions.

We used trojan horse tactics, smuggling in wild speculation by surrounding it with well-established facts.

We were unyielding, refusing to acknowledge when a valid point was made by the other side.

We were needlessly verbose, using endless and complex verbiage in the attempt to exhaust our interlocutors.

We withheld knowledge from ourselves and our children in order to maintain our beliefs.

We misused our expertise, wielding our credentials to speak about areas we aren’t sufficiently knowledgeable in.

We made the “yarmulka defense,” under the guise of religion, rationalizing false and/or unethical statements.

We were so ideologically zealous that we became fundamentalists for our own positions.

 Moreover, for the sins we’ve committed by:

Allowing the systems of our culture to be pervaded with discrimination and injustice …

Not demanding that our leaders be held to higher standards …

Benefiting from the privileges of whiteness and not working to undo systems of racism …

By allowing racism to go unchecked in ourselves and in those beside us …

Letting our sense of loneliness and isolation overcome our devotion to the fight for equality …

For not extending our circles of socialization beyond those who are like ourselves …

Consuming of the earth in ways that harm our ecosystem …

Not honoring the spark of the Divine that exists in every human being …

Al Chet for a Time of Pandemic

By Rabbi Manes Kogan and Rabbi Fabian Werbin with the collaboration of Rabbi Joshua Kullock and Rabbi Claudio Kupchik

על חטא שחטאנו לפניך….

For the sin that we have sinned before You by taking for granted…

      availability of hospital beds, the air we breathe,

      being able to buryour loved ones, B’nai Mitzvahs with full sanctuary, BBQ with friends, breathing without masks,

      carpools, commuting, camp, checkups,

       dating, davening with a minyan, driving our children to sports, dressing up for a party, direct flights to Israel,

       employment, education, events,

       funerals without restrictions, family and friends at home, first responders,

       grandparents’ visits, packe gyms,

        hugging and kissing our loved ones, human touch, hairdressers,

         indoor dining, immune systems, internet connection,

         Justices whom we have lost

        kissing the Torah, Kiddush in the shul

        large group gatherings, learning in person, laughing together, looking at people in the eyes and not through Zoom windows,

        movie theatres, meals with family and friends

        nursing homes open for visitors, no masks, no social distancing, not understanding how painful loneliness could be

        open stores, ordering food at a restaurant table,

        physicians seeing patients in person, parties, Pesach with family,

        quarantine being a foreign word,

        riding on buses, recitals and reunions,

         shaking hands, swimming in a pool, Shabbat with friends, steady income, sleepovers, shivah visits in person

        traveling without restrictions, toilet paper,

         university and college in-person classes, using a public restroom, using someone else’s phone without fear,

        visiting our parents and our children, visiting our loved ones in the hospital, ventilators available, vaccines ready,

         working out at a gym, wearing suits and ties, attending weddings, wipes, working from an office every day,

        xenophobia condemned by all in society, XOXO,

        Yom Kippur in person,

        Zoomless meetings.

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