High Holiday Sermon

Sermon Yom Kippur
My Home
I feel very fortunate to have been to Israel several times since 1999.
I will never forget my first trip. My husband, Ron, and I went for our 25th wedding anniversary. I could not believe that I was finally going to see our Homeland, our Promise Land, the State that I teach children about year after year. Everywhere I went I had to touch things, even in museums! My husband for three weeks kept on repeating, “Put your hands in your pockets!” I was like a child in a supermarket. I had to touch everything our ancestors touched!
Ron and I went back three years later on a Hadassah mission with colleagues and friends during the Second Intifada, which was part of Operation Defensive Shield. It was a wonderful experience getting to areas we did not have the opportunity to visit on our first trip. Many of our friends and acquaintances questioned our decision to go. We had absolutely no concerns.
In 2005, I had one of the most memorable experiences of going back to our Home. I studied at the Fuchsburg Yeshiva in Jerusalem. Ron and I rented an apartment for one month. Ron stayed with me the first two weeks and he hiked in different parts of our land while I was attending classes. I met many wonderful people of all ages from around the world, and I am still in contact with a few from time to time. During my stay, things in Israel got even more heated. Some parents demanded that their children leave the Yeshiva and go home. I never felt any danger. I walked the streets with others all hours of the day and night.
Some of my other trips were teachers’ conferences, Ron’s business trips, and this last visit over the summer was to see our youngest son and family. They made Aliyah July, 2013. I was there for a teachers’ leadership conference at the same time.
Whenever I get to go Home, I feel like I can breathe the second I get off the plane. That is the only way I can explain my constant need to return whenever I can. I need that shot of reJEWvination whenever I can get it! I feel like I belong, I feel like I am HOME!
Israel is not a foreign country; it is not like going to Italy, France, and Spain. Israel is our Home; it is our Promise Land. That is why we are always concerned about Her when we hear things on the news like the war this past summer. We get emotional. Disagreement runs deep in the Jewish community and conversations challenge our deeply-held beliefs about Jewishness and Jewish identity, Zionism, anti-semitism, universalism, and particularism, and our minority status as American Jews. It is difficult when you have grown up with certain beliefs, or you have embraced a particular identity and some comes along and questions these.
It is funny, before my first trip to Israel, I could not join in any of the conversations or debates. I would just sit back, listen, and learn the different opinions and facts about my Home. I felt out of the loop; I felt like an outsider. Now I feel like I can speak up. But, do I have the right to have an opinion for a state I do not live in (yet)? Do we, in the diaspora, have the right to have an opinion for a state we do not live in? Why not construct a less messy and less conflict ridden Judaism rooted in study and prayer or one focused on less divisive social justice issues?
I came to realize that we do a disservice to our community if we try to dodge such an important issue as Israel. As American Jews, we are part of a larger Jewish community that is intricately connected to Israel, whether we embrace that or not. Israel is so bound up with Jewish life and community, with our sacred texts and prayers, with our history and our future. American Jews are interconnected with Israel in ways unimaginable in the past. As an American Jewish community, our voices matter.
When I teach our children I feel more comfortable for example, When teaching the Tanach (Torah, Prophets, and our Writings). I can say that I have been to this place or that place. I feel more comfortable teaching Israel to our children.
I can have an opinion about Israel and feel in the loop when discussing our State with others.
During the year, 5775, let us do our own soul-searching in order to articulate our own beliefs and talk constructively about our Homeland, our State, our Promiseland, Israel.
G’mar chatima tova – may you be sealed for a good year.
Written by Cantor Risa Askin

About cantorrisa

I am a Cantor, Judaic Studies, and music teacher. I enjoy sharing my knowledge, and help people from young to old love being Jewish. I teach and sing in several synagogues and schools in the area. I officiate all life cycle events and teach students, children and adults, privately for their b'nai mitzvah ceremonies. I also enjoy studying Bible with all faiths either individually or in small groups (chevruta). I conduct Shabbat and High Holiday Services at K'hilat Bayt Shira and Senior Communities in the area. In my spare time, I teach key board and guitar. I am married to a wonderful man, have two children and six grandchildren. My hobbies are writing, playing and listening to music, learning, reading, crocheting and knitting.
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