Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Top 10 things your Rabbi will speak about on Yom Kippur

If you remember, last year Steve Jobs died before Yom Kippur.  His death was THE news story of the day and I am sure there were more than a few Rabbis who used his death as a springboard for a Yom Kippur sermon.  (I thought of 10 ways.  I am sure there were many more.)

This year there is no major news story that I know of leading up to Yom kippur.  Here are 10 things that your Rabbi may speak about tomorrow depending on what kind of Rabbi he is.

1. Iran -there is a big push from many directions to speak about Iran.  If your Rabbi is an AIPAC Rabbi, he will probably speak about Iran.  I have received many e-mails and even a high holidays guide from AIPAC urging me to speak on this topic.  Also, the chief Rabbi of Israel sent out this prayer to say in shul.  The OU and the RCA also encouraging adding the prayer.

2. The Upcoming Election - this is a bit trickier.  If a Rabbi comes across partisan then the least his problems is that he jeopardizes the synagogues non-profit status.  The bigger problem is that he risks alienating at least half of his congregation, plus the people who think that it is distasteful to bring politics into the synagogue to begin, regardless of which side the Rabbi supports.  never the less, it is a big election year and there are certainly big ideas to think about.

3. Turmoil in the Middle East / Arab World - If your Rabbi is liberal you are unlikely to hear anything about this.  But the story of how the middle east was ignited by an anti Islamic film is certainly something that has potential.  I have heard Rabbis use stories like this to speak against Jewish fundamentalism, and I have actually heard Rabbis take the counter intuitive and use it to challenge the congregation and say in what (positive) ways do we express that we care about Judaism?

4. The iPhone 5 - particularly if your Rabbi is a technologically savvy one.  Or your Rabbi can talk about how our worship of technology is idolatry (that is if he is a droid guy!)

5. Some new movie / pop culture reference - This is if your Rabbi is a new "young and hip" Rabbi.  Even though I myself am guilty of this sometimes (mostly references, never the center of a sermon) and I contribute to a pop culture blog, nevertheless, I think this is not appropriate for the high holidays.  It is a younger Rabbi thing.  He will grow out of it (as I did).

6. The Yom Kippur Avodah - The amazing Torah Musing blog just put up Rabbi Soloveitchik's analysis of the Yom Kippur service, written by his son-in-law Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein.  If your Rabbi has been through that and can deliver it like the Rav did then you will most likely be renewing your shul membership for next year.

7. Our relationship with God - I did this for the first day of Rosh Hashana.  I always like it when Rabbis bring God into shul!

8. Yizkor - The sermon is traditionally given immediately prior to Yizkor.  This is a safe crowd pleaser.  you generally can't go wrong with this.  Some Rabbis actually prepare two sermons - their regular one and a Yizkor one in addition.  That is not easy!

9. The Forbidden Sexual relationships that we read at minchah time - Unlikely.

10. The book of Yonah - I give a class in Yonah in the afternoon before Minchah.  There are so many amazing themes there.  Always a winner!

I will not be talking about any of these things at Beth Israel.  I still have a /few hours to go.  I am sure I will think of something good! 
Have a meaningful fast, may we all be forgiven for our sins, and have a wonderful new year.