With the end of Simchat Torah earlier this week, we’ve come to the close of another High Holiday season. For some of us who work at synagogues, are lay leaders in our communities, are rabbis or synagogue-goers, this moment brings a sigh of relief. We’ve crossed the finish line of Judaism’s annual holiday marathon—we have completed our prayers asking to be inscribed in the Book of Life, and we have rolled the Torah scroll back to chapter one so we can begin again.
The High Holidays offer us a yearly opportunity to pause, take stock, and try again. This personal and communal time of introspection is capped with sermons from our rabbis, our spiritual leaders who spend the days and weeks before Rosh Hoshanah and Yom Kippur sequestered in their offices, gleaning wisdom from our tradition and composing words from the heart that are meant to guide us and teach us about how to proceed in the year to come.
The Center for Small Town Jewish Life is blessed to have rabbis Erica Asch, David Freidenreich, and Rachel Isaacs as leaders within our organization. During Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, they each led services and gave sermons at Temple Beth El in Augusta, Adas Yoshuron in Rockland, and Beth Israel in Waterville, respectively. Talk about busy people.
Their sermons have been delivered and the book is closed, but in the digital age, we have the opportunity to revisit and share these sermons from the Days of Awe. And what a crop of sermons they are. From references to “Hamilton” and orca whales, to tales of beauty in brokenness, to choosing to see the good within our Maine communities as they are—the stories and teachings our rabbis shared are timely, personal, at times lighthearted, and above all, sincere.
There is so much wisdom here, wisdom to carry and to live by in this new year. It’s worth revisiting these sermons in these first, fresh days because, as Rabbi Erica Asch told her congregation on Yom Kippur, “Our Judaism teaches us to read texts not once, not twice, but over and over again. Each time we find something new. We study the Torah year after year.” As the rabbinic sage Ben Bag-Bag said(Pirkei Avot 5:22), “Turn it and turn it again, for all is in it.”
From the Center for Small Town Jewish Life, we wish you a 5779 full of learning, wisdom, and growth. We look forward to being in community with you during the year ahead.
Program Coordinator, Center for Small Town Jewish Life
You can read, reread, and share sermons from the three CSTJL rabbis here: