September 2015 – From Rabbi Siemers
Samuel continued as Israel’s leader all the days of his life. From year to year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah, judging Israel in all those places. But he always went back to Ramah, where his home was, and there he also held court for Israel. And he built an altar there to the Lord.
– I Samuel 7
There’s not a word yet
For old friends who’ve just met
– Gonzo, The Muppet Movie
But he always went back to Ramah in Hebrew is ותשובתו הרמתה – Ramah was his teshuvah. This verse is a popular source of sermons every fall because it reminds that for all the energy we spend in this season on being “better” – on realizing the potential that must be achieved if we are to accomplish what life requires – we are not heading to a place that is entirely foreign. Our teshuvah – like Samuel’s – is not to someplace new but to someplace familiar. The path to the Jewish future takes us to where our own homes already are. As Gonzo sings, “We’re going to go back there someday.”
Part of this journey is personal. There are dreams we carry throughout our lives that become submerged in the daily routine of the world. The month of Elul and the High Holydays are precious opportunity to remind ourselves who we are and from where we come. Remembering that we do not have unlimited time or means to complete our task, we use this season to check our heading. And as restless as we have come to be in this world, we carry roots and baggage with us that demand accommodation whatever our future is to be. We do not dare pretend that we start from scratch.
But a larger part of our return is communal. We hear the melodies in synagogue, the voices of family and friends, and we recite words that have become part of our very being. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is the time when we indeed return home – to the true home that we carry with us wherever we may find ourselves in the world. We may be few in number, but where we gather together we are wealthy beyond measure in tradition and support. The High Holydays are then also a time of gratitude for the richness and stability that community brings to our lives, and a time of re-dedication to the work that sustaining this Jewish home requires. I look forward greatly to praying, singing and being with you at this pivotal season of the year, as we come together after our summer with determination to do everything that we need to do in service of sustaining and growing our precious Jewish home.
A Good Year
Rabbi Bill Siemers