Yom Kippur 5780 - 2019 - A Platform for All
Anthem - In My Life by The Beatles
My name is Rabbi Michael Sommer and I am not running for any political office of any kind. I am not delivering any messages that wish to divide us or make us angry or break our community apart. My platform is peace for all humankind built on mutual trust, mutual understanding and the ability to have civil discourse as mature citizens of this planet. The foundations of my message are built upon love, hope, kindness, faith and a belief that there are enough of us who want to mend the world in order to help cure the hatred that lives in the hearts of so many. My platform believes we all need to work to help the planet maintain a livable climate for all life forms in order to prevent massive catastrophic weather patterns and to teach the vast majority of people how to create lives of plenty, comfort and contentment.
To accomplish any of this we may have to abolish all religion because a large portion of humanity doesn’t seem to be mature enough to allow the rest of us just to exist peacefully. They believe in a divine being and want to kill everyone who does not believe in their vision of said divine being. Atheists have an incredible shirt describing how religions walk around fighting each other for supremacy. The t-shirt reads - “My imaginary friend is better than yours.” The unspoken threat is that many will murder the rest of us to prove that their imaginary friend is best.
Many individuals’ beliefs are so twisted that some say we aren’t Jewish enough, many others believe the need to convert us to their belief system and a third large swath threatens our lives because their version of God demands they do so. In their hearts they desire to return to a simpler time 1400 years ago when men were truly in charge of murdering everything in their paths over their beliefs, ideologies, religions, nations and desire for power. While we live today in a modern world of technology, hope, religious freedom, acceptance and partnership they continue to fear their loss of power and the secularization of the world. They claim to believe in God while desiring to be godlike and maintain their toxic masculine power over everything in their reach.
The real truth is God doesn’t care what religion we are. God doesn’t care what name we choose to call God by. God only cares about loving kindness and our stewardship of this incredible planet. God only cares about the end of war, the end of human cruelty, about us caring for those in need and the good stewardship and maintenance of our planet.
After 5779 years, as we start 5780, you would think humanity would have learned to move beyond holy wars. In my lifetime I thought we would be peaceful already. I had hoped that World War II would have taught us enough lessons to end war for good. Apparently not.
Humanity needs to move beyond the use of violence to enforce ideas upon those who believe differently. Rather than fight these senseless holy wars humanity needs to see our connectedness more than it needs to see our separation due to our differences. The Oneness of God we voice when we recite the Shema also stands for the oneness of humanity and the oneness of this planet we all share. Remembering the oneness of it all when the words of the Shema crosses our lips encourages us to take our understanding of oneness out into the rest of the world.
If we turn our hearts to the lyrics of the songs that have moved us throughout our lives we remember that the Beatles teach us that All you need is love. The Rolling Stones sing that Love is strong. Led Zeppelin sings about a whole lot of love and sharing that love with our partners unconditionally. Whitney Houston sings I will always love you. And the list goes on. There is a reason Love is the most powerful force in the universe. There is a reason love or a lack of love drives the narrative of almost every piece of writing, film, music and drama throughout history. Art and creativity itself often express an individual’s love of creating and sharing their gift and vision of Love with the world.
There once was a rabbinic school tucked away high on a mountain range where the students could study day and night and devote themselves to unlocking the secrets of Torah and the Talmud. After years of working and studying together the beloved teacher noticed that his students stopped being kind and tolerant to one another. The atmosphere in the school had become one of resentment and bickering. One day one of the rabbis’ beloved teachers came to visit and see how the school was doing. As the two walked through the school and around the mountainside, the head rabbi unburdened himself to his teacher. “My dear friend. It is so good to see you. I just wish I could give you better news. You see all my students working together in the gardens and tending the animals when they aren’t studying. You see the others studying when they are done with their chores, but what you don’t see is the bickering and resentment that has built up in them and how they’ve lost much of their kindness and understanding of each other. I’m at a loss and don’t know what to do.”
The visiting friend walked in silence taking in everything she was being told. When they returned to the head rabbi’s office and sat down she finally spoke. “I’ve seen everything you’re talking about and watched all of your students. I don’t know how to tell you this, but one of your students is the Messiah who we’ve been waiting to come in our lifetime. It is so good seeing you and all you’ve done. I must take my leave now and hope this brings you some comfort.”
The head rabbi sat there stunned. He couldn’t believe one of his students was the Messiah and he hadn’t even realized. Was it Moshe or Isaac, Rachel or Rebecca? He couldn’t begin to figure it out. That evening he called an assembly in the great assembly room and addressed all of his students. “My dear students. I just had a most wonderful visit with my dearest teacher and friend. She told me something most remarkable. Here we’ve been studying together and working to maintain the school for so long without realizing that one of us is the Messiah we’ve been studying about and waiting to come all of our lives. She didn’t tell me who, but I just thought you should know this.”
Every student began murmuring and looking around. Their minds and hearts were racing. As a group they were pondering “Am I the messiah? Has it been me all along and I didn’t realize? Or is it Solomon or Yael? Maybe David, Jonathan, Shira or Danielle? They are often so nice. Oh my God, if I’m, the messiah, I haven’t been so nice to all those around me. I know I was mean to Sarah the other day and short with Nathan when I was tired. Holy cow, what if Sarah or Nathan are the Messiah and I wasn’t nice to either of them?!” Everyone’s mind was whirling as they murmured to each other and looked around the entire room to see if they could tell who was the Messiah among them.
The very next day the head rabbi began to see changes in all of his students. He noticed that they were kinder to each other, spoke with reverence to each other and listened with extreme patience. He noticed that everyone helped each other in their tasks around the school so that the chores were completed quicker and everyone could study more. At meals everyone treated everyone with kindness and respect and their conversations soared on the possibilities of creation, the love of God and when they thought the Messiah among them might reveal themselves, finally announce their coming, and enter the world once and for all.
In the story the knowledge of the Messiah among the students changes their behavior when they feel such proximity to God’s ultimate messenger or the fact that they themselves might be that messenger. In Judaism we wait day in and day out for Elijah to announce the coming of the Messiah. Yearly we open our doors at Passover for Elijah to visit and see that we maintain the traditions of telling our story in hopes of hearing of the coming of the Messiah. The violence and arguments of the Holy Wars all stem from everyone’s interpretation of who is the Messiah and who will be closest and right when the Messiah finally arrives.
In our modern Judaism we know we can’t just wait around for Elijah or the Messiah. We look around and wonder who will partner with us to usher in the days of peace. Our teachings teach that we each have a spark of God’s essence within us. We all hold the power to usher in the days of peace if enough of us can work together towards creating the peace we seek. With God’s essence within each of us we must all learn to unlock the essence of the Messiah that resides in us as well. As modernists we know we aren’t waiting for a single person to fix it all for us. Together we strive for unification, becoming a single movement towards mending the world together.
The majority of us who sit here are so loving, kind, understanding and accepting until those moments we are not any of those things. We all have days when we are grumpy and intolerant even if our days of love and peace outnumber them. I know I hate terrorism, racism, senseless violence, antisemitism, corruption and ignornace among so many awful human behaviors that are intolerable. I get frustrated with and downright angry at those who commit acts of violence in the name of their god. I become momentarily hateful of those who still hate for irrational reasons and threaten or murder Jews just for being Jewish. It takes everything within me to not wish violent deaths upon them and their families. I have so little understanding for their ignorance and abhorrent nature in this incredibly modern world.
And yet I pray for their enlightenment. I pray that peace finds its way into their hearts to provide them with an understanding of the true nature of love and acceptance. I pray they can find a way to put down their weapons, turn towards their families and believe in love and growth more than hatred and murder. I don’t have faith in any of them. I only have faith in myself to love them more than they hate me. I only have faith for those who believe in loving more than hating, in bringing peace more than violence into the world. I hold onto faith that someday they will work for the lives of their families and not the death of mine. I don’t know when that day will come, but I know hatred only ends up destroying too many lives.
Peace begins with an understanding that only by working together will we successfully create the world we wish to live in. In our lives we must believe in humanity as a whole, pray for the world to continue evolving towards loving co-existence. As Jews our culture, our family bonds and our perseverance have kept us working towards the Oneness of God, the Oneness of humanity and the Oneness of our world. We’ve been taught that we are to be a Light among the Nations. May we continue to shine our light of love and peace on all of humanity until everyone stands by our sides in love, peace and in mending the world. In my lifetime I hope to see the peace I always dreamed of leaving my children and my children’s children. In our lifetime I hope we can make this dream come true together.
May your fast be light. May this Yom Kippur inspire you to create the change you seek within yourself. May you find your life filled with infinite love and share it with the world. May you be eternally grateful for the blessings in your life. May this Day of Atonement bring us closer together towards grabbing each other’s hands to address the work before us. May you all be written in the book of life for a sweet and healthy new year.
Cayn yehi ratzon - May this be God’s will
L’Shanah tovah metuka.