MAZON Sermon Seeds

Yamim Noraim

Rabbi Michael Rothbaum, JCJM '19 + '20

Rosh HaShanah, Day One — Gen. 21: the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael

  • While Hagar has been a faithful servant to the family, the story explains thatAbraham expels Hagar and her son with very little notice
  • Despite her dedication and service, Abraham only gives Hagar some bread andwater
  • The meager rations are quickly exhausted
  • The story highlights the problems of poor families
  • Often, families on the margins find themselves in economic trouble through no faultof their own
  • Despite this, poor families are often seen as having character defects — lazy, lackinginitiative, so on
  • God’s non-judgmental assistance to Hagar and Ishmael is a model for us to providefor poor and hungry because of the Jewish demand to create love and justice.

Rosh HaShanah, Day Two — Gen. 22: the binding of Isaac

  • Isaac’s life is in danger, though he is never consulted regarding the decision
  • Abraham intends to put his son through an ultimate sacrifice, for a vision thatdoesn’t include Isaac
  • Many Jewish commentators are horrified by this possible destruction of life
  • There is a parallel for poor people in the US
  • Cuts to food, housing, and medical assistance threaten the lives of poor Americans,though they are almost never consulted regarding such decisions
  • Political forces sacrifice poor people for a vision that values low taxes andderegulation over the lives of poor people
  • American Jews should insist that our political leaders pursue a vision that includesall residents of our country, regardless of economic status.

Kol Nidre

  • The traditional Kol Nidre prayer asks God for a second chance
  • We’ve made ndarim — vows, promises — both to God and to the people in ourlives
  • Since we’re fallible people, we were not always able or willing to fulfill thesepromises
  • Kol Nidre is a reminder — just because we fell short, doesn’t mean we shouldn’tkeep trying
  • As Jews, we are required to provide basic sustenance to all people, in the form oftzedek, a just distribution of wealth
  • With millions of Americans in poverty, it’s clear that we have fallen short
  • On Kol Nidre, we declare that we cannot give in to fatalism or despair
  • We should recommit to fulfilling the promise our people and our country have left unfulfilled to America’s poor.

Yom Kippur Morning — Leviticus 16: the two goats

  • The reading describes a ritual of expiation
  • Two goats are selected: one sacrificed for God, one for Azazel
  • The method of selection is random — it has nothing to do with the quality of the goats
  • The reading reminds us of the randomness of life
  • Many of us have been randomly born into families of means
  • Others have been randomly been born into poverty
  • In a country in which economic mobility is increasingly impossible, birth is becoming destiny
  • The Yom Kippur reading reminds us that much of our fate is due to happenstance rather than merit
  • We are horrified to live in a country in which some citizens are randomly sacrificed on the altar of economic injustice, deregulation, and cuts to basic material needs
  • As Jews, we need to work toward the vision of a country that provides for all its residents, regardless of the economic class into which they happen to be born.

Booklet Section: Prayers, Sukkot & Simchat Torah, New Year Blessings, Prayers for Healing & Peace, Core Daily Prayers