I don’t usually do this but to “get” this blog you might like to go back a few months to the blog of January 17th titled, “Is It Good Enough?” It was about these blue cards I found that date back to the 70’s – sermons – typed – like on a typewriter – and filed away, forgotten till now.
I was reluctant to read them, not knowing what I would find: Were they good; have I grown; did I bring insight and meaning to my listeners? They are my “chameitz” – the yeast that causes the dough to rise. Passover is over but all that attention to labels and order freed me from the power of the past to bubble up and control me. Passover worked for me; it gave me the ability to start again knowing the doubts and sense of inadequacy would be back, but that’s why we play this Seder game year after year.
So the genie is out of the box. I’ve opened the files and on a beautiful Florida day, I schlepped them outside and sat in the sun reading my past. It helped that our granddaughter, Sammy, was sitting next to me. So here are a few reflections.
They are mostly High Holy Day Sermons and they are mostly too long. I think I love my words too much and find it hard to hit the delete button. But they are interesting in ways that surprise me. Themes reoccur: I talk a lot about my self and what I am struggling with (as a parent, a teacher, a believer, a skeptic). I talk a lot about Israel; it is fascinating to see how that conversation has changed over the years.
There are some good stories that I have forgotten and can probably use again. Like: “When a Yeshiva student came to his Rebbe and boasted that he had gone through the Talmud five times, the Rebbe turned and asked: ‘And how many times has the Talmud gone through you?’” It leads me to ask: How much have these words gone through me?
My eyes were better then. I can’t believe the size of the typewriter font. But was my vision? I’m impressed that even then when Israel’s survival was sometimes in doubt, I thought out loud “survival can not be enough. We cannot be dependent on our enemies to define us.” Why be Jewish is not a rhetorical question; it touches the heart and the soul of each of us.
Forty years ago, in 5736, (I dated my files by the Jewish year), I announced, “Babka is back” and in 5776 its back again. According to the Today show it is here to replace the cronut as the latest pastry obsession. Everything is cyclical or as we use to say in New Jersey: “What goes around comes around”. But that has a somewhat different connotation and usually involved a little bit of self-satisfying glee. It is good to be right. Which brings me to an ending. I wasn’t always good. I wasn’t always smart. But I tried and sweated out every word. I tried to reach beyond the lectern. I laughed when I read one of my sermon openings: “Relax – let down your defenses – I am not here to yell at you. I am here to search with you.” Yes – for leaven, for yeast, for anything that can help us rise above ourselves.
And by the way or to the point: where is there good Babka in South Florida (chocolate – the deep dark rich kind that doesn’t crumble when you cut it, that can be toasted and spread with butter.)? OMG, I’m in trouble.