Thursday, April 25, 2013

Kedoshim: The Promises We Keep

Sorry for the Delay. Here's my sermon from this past week. 

Hoping to blog about the Consultation On Conscience before Shabbat!

If you want the ultimate image of disappointment, or if you decide you really need to feel like a failure, imagine a child or your spouse or someone you love looking at you with a hurt expression on their face and say, “but you promised.”  

When I woke up this morning, I didn’t think to myself, “I wonder if I’ll be a husband today?” “I wonder if I’ll be father today?” or even “I wonder if I’ll be a rabbi today?” Why? Because I promised. When I married Marisa, when Elishai came into this world, when I stood on the bimah of the Plum Street Temple, I swore an oath, I made a promise, one that changed my identity radically and permanently. I made a commitment to something larger than myself—marriage, fatherhood, the rabbinate.
Each of us has, in one way, shape or form, reaffirmed a promise made by our ancestors. We read this week, “Kedoshim Tihiyu”, you shall be holy. We assume it’s a mitzvah, a commandment, but really, it’s an affirmation by God of something we as a people had already said at Sinai. We said, “kol diber Adonai na’asei”, all that God has said, we will do. Only by making that commitment, that promise, was God able to proclaim our holiness. By affirming and reaffirming our connection to Judaism, we are making the same promise our ancestors made on that desert morning long ago.
Likewise, gathered in this room, are people—each of us—who has sworn an oath. We think joining a synagogue is like joining a country club, or a gym, but it’s not. It’s making a commitment to a community, to our family ,to our people. It’s swearing an oath, to support others in time of trouble, to celebrate with others in times of joy. To worship and study and gather and break bread with and party with and raise kids and grandkids with others. Because we promised. We made a covenant.

Sounds too simple, right? That’s not how our world works, right? To join a synagogue is a consumerist activity, we choose a synagogue by going ‘synagogue shopping’. We decide that our connection is tenuous: how often we’ve heard people say, “oh, I quit because my friends weren’t there anymore” , “we weren’t using it”, “our kids are grown.” But we are not consumers—we are CONGREGANTS. And congregants congregate. Because we promised.

Each of you, members of this congregation for 18 years or longer—a lifetime—understand what it means to make a commitment—not merely to a place, but to PEOPLE, not to an idea, but to GOD, not only your generation, but the generations that follow. People tell us it’s hard to get people to join synagogues, to retain membership, that it’s too threatening, too expensive, too much. Perhaps. But perhaps we’re asking the wrong question. Rather, we should be asking—what is your promise worth? Because when you join a congregation, when you come into a community that embraces you with open, outstretched arms, you make a commitment for life. For yourself, for your family.
A Promise is sacred. It is through promise that we became holy, and become holy again. It is through your promises that we become sacred community. It is why we’re here, and why we’ll be here eighteen years from now, and eighteen years after that, and eighteen years after that. Because we promise. 

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