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2019 Rosh Hashanah Day Sermon

10/01/2019 12:00:00 AM


Rabbi Adir Glick

Good Yontif. Good Yontif.

One of my favorite stories about Albert Einstein was about how he found inspiration.


Einstein was an unusual person. As a youth, he was a mediocre student. In college, instead of attending class, he would focus on playing his beloved violin and performing concerts in his native Germany’s social scene.


He struggled to find employment after completing his physics degree. Nobody believed he would amount to much.


After two years, he found a position as a clerk in a Swiss patent office.


In one year, coined later by scientists and historians as a “miracle year,” Einstein published five articles that transformed physics. He was in his early 20s.


What was His Method of Finding Inspiration?


Letting his mind find peace and quiet.


Einstein would go to the lake where he had a boat. He would take his boat to the middle of the lake. The lake was set against the beauty of the Alps. There was peace and quiet. He was surrounded by nature.


And then he would begin to play the violin.


The combination of all of that would calm him, allowed his powerful mind to think with clarity, and create his work of genius.


What is the definition of genius?


When we think regularly, we go from A to B to C to D. Our thoughts are predictable.

Much of the time, it is quite difficult to have clear reasonable logic.


But a genius goes from A and jumps straight to Z. It is not through rigorous thinking, RATHER, his/her creative mind goes to another place.


  1. mind could discover what no other could discover, because he put his mind in a place where inspiration would come flooding in.


Later in his life, Einstein went to Princeton.

Students would report seeing him walking around the campus deep in his thoughts, completely oblivious to everything around him.


Who knows what he was thinking about – what the power of his inward-looking mind saw – that he never revealed to the world?


I heard that after the creation of the atomic bomb, based on his papers, Einstein reportedly vowed not to reveal future discoveries fearing what people would do with them.


It is that type of thinking that we are taught the High Holidays are all about. This is the space of the holidays.


A dedicated time to open our minds, our vision, and to look ahead into the year before us. It is a time to order, to ponder, to set in motion, and to have moments of inspiration of realization about the way.


Every year Rosh Hashanah helps us, gives us hints, clues, and creates an internal map of what the year ahead will look like.


Rosh Hashanah Means Head of the Year


Our traditions teaches that the head of the year projects to the rest of the year what will happen, the unfolding of it all.


There is a spiritual element to this belief.


In the space of a few days, we can experience and receive a vision of how to understand our life; or how our life will be part of a greater whole – our place in the Divine plan.


There is a tradition on Rosh Hashanah not to take a nap so you will not have a sleepy year.


We have customs to do word games with foods that convey a blessing for the new year.


We place the head of a fish on the dinner table, because we want our year to be a head, not a tail. We hope for a year filled with energy and purpose.


A more modern custom is to eat celery and raisins for a raise in salary. We eat apples and honey for a sweet year.


These acts send the message to the universe, to our deepest self – this is how we want our year to be.


It is about creating the conditions for ourselves to receive inspiration and find a vision.


It is difficult enough for us in our modern lives to set aside a slice of time, in a dedicated environment, to really think about life -- all of it.


What are Our Plans?


Professionally, in our work lives?

With our families and in our closest relationships?

In our communities?

In our religious life, what do we hope to learn this year?


And within ourselves, where we usually do not look and others certainly do not,

in our heart of hearts - what fears are we prepared to face and what qualities do we aspire to developing?


Do we want to take on a new hobby like skydiving, or chess, or play an instrument?


Last year, I returned to playing an instrument I had not touched since I was 11 years old and found a very amazing teacher.


What intellectual subject do we want to explore?


What this period is most about is the deepest of these questions:


Where Am I in My Journey – In This Moment of Life?


Life comes and life goes, it passes by quickly. You wake up, decades have past. In our day-to-day life, we do not see the full picture.


Where are we? In the great decades-long turn of the clock.


Here finally, we are able to peer and see and think.

Find some insight to see the arc of our years and decades.


Rosh Hashanah is a time of transformation. This transformation grows out of being able to think and reset our priorities, and find the space to see ourselves.


That space gifts us the opportunity to let something new and fresh enter our minds.


That is the gift we are truly waiting for. That is why Rosh Hashanah is the head of the year


How you spend your Rosh Hashanah indicates what your year will look like.


It is that time of vision. All the factors are finally there


At this time of year, God is close (since Elul). All of Israel is close. Our tradition teaches that the heavenly soul of Israel – the spiritual presence of all the great Jewish souls that have lived over the Millennia draws near.


This leads us to find a deeper clarity about the way ahead.


I remember hearing of a friend who was going through a rough patch in his life. On Rosh Hashanah day, he was inside his hosts’ home and the door got stuck closed. He was locked inside for hours until a locksmith freed him.


He said from that moment on, he felt like his life got unstuck. He suddenly saw what he needed to do. He completely changed the direction in his life.


It is that clarity that we seek. We pray for decisiveness with our lesser important decisions and for clarity with the bigger decisions that HAVE a lasting impact on our life.


Rosh Hashanah is about having an opportunity to see the coming world. This is why we call it the birthday of the year.


On this day, ha yom harat olam, the world was created, and will be recreated.


A New World Awaits Us


At the beginning of a venture we have a vision before we plunge in – and a sense of deciding how to pursue it - this is Rosh Hashanah.


I remember the morning when I finally decided to be a rabbi. I could see the five years and the life ahead. I knew of course this is what I wanted. After – once you are in the middle – it gets more complicated.


At the beginning, we can set a course.


We say this on our birthdays, too. Before blowing out the candles we make a wish for the coming year. We hope for blessings, for the year ahead to be one of joy, love, health.


The Midrash imagines Abraham after he received the command to sacrifice his son Isaac in today’s Torah reading. For three days, he was beset by doubts and great fears. How could God command him to do this? Who was this God? What would he do? At every step Satan was challenging him, at every river he crossed, every step of the way.


Until finally, as he prepared to raise the knife, an angel appeared. Then his vision opened up, he realized it was a test. The place was called “God will see.” Because it is usually only after great difficulty that we break through the wall and our vision opens up.


We receive a vision that has a tremendous effect on OUR future.

Thomas Jefferson wrote in Bill 79, for the more general diffusion of knowledge. He had a vision that a broad education was a public good and that citizens of Virginia had a right to it, regardless of their status.

He wrote that because experience has shown, under the best forms, those entrusted with power have in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny. The most effective way of preventing that is to illumine people’s minds and give them facts, history of what occurred in other countries and ages, so that they can know ambition as far reaching as possible and use their powers to defeat a sinister purpose.

His vision was not realized at that time, but decades later. The first public school in the United States opened and in Massachusetts in 1827, all public schools, in all grades were offered free of charge.

We Never Know When Our Vision Will Come to Bear


Space and contemplation is what gives us that vision.


We need to find that space.


It is a need that is understood across many traditions. Twice a year, we have a dedicated time away to reset - Fall and Spring – High Holidays and Passover – Repentance and Freedom.


The wisdom of living life with purpose.


A few years ago I was part of an interfaith dialogue. We discussed the modern relevance of the world’s ancient traditions thousands of years old, not only in their ethical and moral teachings, but also in their wisdom in how to live life, come from many centuries of contemplation about human nature by inspired men and WOMEN.


Having these periods of contemplation is part of that wisdom of how to live life.

It is up to us to take advantage of them to create your reality.


The mind is very powerful. It creates reality.


This was first impressed on me with a book read to me as a child, that made me very fearful, “The Gluck that Got Thunk.” About a child who loved to think different things, create realities. One day, the child thought up Glunk, a monster she couldn’t unthank. The Glunk ends up making long distance phone calls 9000 miles away at $10 a minute. She’s unable to unthink it until her brother helps her to banish it.


I saw the power of the mind.


I was frightened. Our minds can do that?


Last year I attended a wonderful lecture. It was part of the Gottlieb Physicians Series organized by our members, Hai and Carol Solomon, about the latest findings in the relationship between the gut and the mind.


Millions of Americans suffer from debilitating symptoms in the digestive track. There are those who say they would give 20 years of their life to not have these symptoms. The latest studies showed that the most helpful recourse was psychotherapy, especially hypnotherapy.


It was incredible to hear. According to peer-reviewed studies the best practice to deal with debilitating digestive diseases was hypnotherapy or meditation. The latest therapies are about teaching patients to find a calm place within their own minds. That had the greatest effect.


This was one area where science proved that the mind – beset by anxiety and other psychological difficulties, was linked to serious health implications and affected all areas of life.


I am certain that it also applies to many other AILMENTS.


As the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidim, says, you are where your thought are. You can be on the most beautiful mountaintop watching the sunset, but if your thoughts are in the office, that is where you will be. But you can also be in the office, and if your thoughts are on a beautiful sunset you will feel that calm and expansiveness.



This is the High Holidays in a Very Real Way


It is a whole process to reset ourselves. We go from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur to Sukkot, even to Hannukah, creating an arc that gives us opportunity to set our minds in the right place.


When we set an inner engagement – and reinforce it – we make it firmer into reality - important and powerful.


It begins with these ten days, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which is an opportunity to disengage with the regular rhythm of life and contemplate all of it.


Then we pave the way to reengage with our lives in a different way.


We set a new groove.


We create an opportunity for something greater to enter our minds.


In our modern life, I tell people again and again, there is nothing more important than space.


Space allows us to breathe, to feel, to see. To experience. To be away from it all.


Space is what we need. If we don’t have a lake and the Alps and can play violin regularly, we do have this sanctuary and we do have the holidays.


To be inspired. To find new insight and direction.


The shofar is also the Eureka moment.


Of finding what we are looking for.


To change and shift all of it.


And then ---


We look to integrate it deeper on Yom Kippur.


And celebrate and give IT STRUCTURE, WALLS on SUKKOT - or take away the walls and allow it to breath, dance with the Torahs in joy during this new beginning.


Then we allow the internal process to do its work.


This is the Purpose of Being Here.

Of the time dedicated –


Think, see, peer far ahead. Let the new year take shape within us.


As the shofar sounds, we reach higher and higher, deeper and deeper.


We pull more strands from every direction, we find ever greater clarity, the wish that we began with, the blowing of the candles on the cake, takes shape into a new vehicle for our year.


That is the real reason we do not want to be asleep on Rosh Hashannah.


There are few opportunities for us like this.


To find a vision.


To set a course for the whole year.


To see the meaning and purpose we so desperately seek.


To find the place of joy and gratitude within.


To let go of grudges and small mindedness.


To find expanse and openness


To create a new beginning and a new world


Shanah tova um etukah!



Thu, May 19 2022 18 Iyyar 5782