Sermon on Sacrifice

Hi all!  I’m sharing my sermon from Kol Nidre. Hope you enjoy!  And join us for Simchat Torah Shabbat October 21 at 6:30 pm in Ashland Park – 1650 Ashland Avenue. Santa Monica Ca 90405.   We will have a Torah activity, mini Shabbat, and (of course!) unroll and surround ourselves in the entire Torah.



So, I’m fasting for Yom Kippur. So far so good considering it’s only been a few hours. I fast every year, and I must admit, I really look forward to it. Fasting allows me, with every inch of my being, to sense that Yom Kippur is truly a day different from all others. It allows me to concentrate on the spiritual journey I present to you and go on myself without distraction. And let’s face it… by the end of the day I’m feeling pretty punchy, and it’s wayyyyyyyy easier to embody some of the themes of these holy days and give myself over to the Divine. Remember the sermon about connecting to blessings (for you blog readers, this was my last blog!) from Rosh Hashanah?  Doing so is much easier on an empty stomach. 🙂

You probably know there are many cultures and religions that include fasting in their observances. I mean, come on, even just being a Los Angelino encourages SOME kind of fasting… Anyone out there ever done a juice cleanse? That’s a fast for sure, and honestly, I think that is way harder than not eating at all.
In researching how various religions connect to fasting, I found a list of fasting religions  as well as why they do it, and when. On the list were the Baha’i, Buddhist, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Hindu, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, Pagan, and Evangelical and Mainline Protestant faiths.
And the reasons for the fasting? Take each one in…

To focus on love of God.

To purify oneself.  

To teach control of fleshly desires.  

To feel solidarity with the poor.  

To open oneself to God’s grace.  

To enhance concentration during meditation or worship.

To sacrifice.  

To atone for sins.  

To make special requests of God.   

To find closeness to God.  

To petition for a special cause such as healing a sick person.  

To raise vibrational levels.  

To counterbalance the modern consumer culture.

Was there one that spoke particularly to you?
Now, I am a Universalist Rabbi, which means I don’t expect myself or you to follow the traditional letter of Jewish law, and even when we do choose to follow law, I expect many of us often find reasons to do so that vary from the traditional ones. All of those reasons for fasting I just mentioned are pretty noble, and I kind of accept them all for myself as for the reason behind why I fast on Yom Kippur. I hope that at least one moved you as well.

So, here is a conversation starter for you…

Maybe you are fasting too, but maybe giving up food just isn’t the way you choose to achieve the spiritual quest we are on for the next 24 hours. Maybe you can’t fast because of age or health or pregnancy or nursing or any other reason. Maybe you just find you don’t connect to transformation through a fast.  But you heard all of those worthwhile reasons to shake up the norm by giving up something desirable. Let’s not make it so that we can either fast from food or not fast at all. Let’s open up our minds to some new possibilities.
I ask all of you to take a moment now to think, brainstorm, talk to your neighbor about ideas.  What could you give up, other than food, for the next 24 hours that would open a door for a spiritual transformation for you? Now, it has to be something you would truly miss… Kids can’t say “brushing my teeth.” Adults, don’t say “Oh! I won’t pay any bills for 24 hours.”

What about giving up looking at your phone? At all!  Fasting is probably easier. 🙂 What about sleeping without a pillow or sleeping on the floor and giving up your bed? Maybe you can give up wearing make up, or putting lotion on dry hands, or taking a hot shower. Take a moment and chat and think… Even if you are fasting from food right now, consider something else for the day when there is a reason why you can’t fast.

And here is a challenge…

I challenge you to give up something for the next 24 hours. I challenge you to allow a little discomfort to remind you that today is the Shabbat of all Shabbats… The ultimate Jewish experience of release, renewal, and return. It’s hard to feel all this in your core when (other than sharing this service with me) we live life as it always was. Remember the fasting purpose that spoke to you most. Grip it tightly in your mind and… Give up something. Shake things up. Mess with your body’s and your mind’s expectations.
Sacrifice. Not for me, but for yourself.


P.S. For all of you reading this long after Yom Kippur, just choose a day to do this.  It doesn’t have to be a Holy Day to try to mix things up and focus on our souls.

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