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The Hull Reform Synagogue - Ne've Shalom






This year, our High Holy Day Services were conducted by a team of the Shul's Lay Readers supported by members providing readings during parts of the Services. This original sermon was written by Tim Harris and delivered by Tim during our Yom Kippur Service. He has dedicated the sermon to the memory of Geoff Annis.


We will hopefully be publishing the Rosh Hashanah and Kol Nidre sermons in the next issue.


In recent months, I have taken up a new hobby which involves purchasing some very expensive equipment in order for me to pursue my new pastime. I have found myself almost religiously glued to eBay in the hope of finding that once in a life time bargain, which in itself possesses a dilemma. As I look at each advert I am constantly questioning myself as to whether the advert is genuine, what should I bid and will I be outbid by someone else? If I am successful have I paid too much, is the item in question what I really wanted and worst of all, am I buying a fake and ultimately losing my money? Equally, the seller will be having similar quandaries of their own.


These challenging predicaments beg a question which seems virtually impossible to answer: who ultimately bears responsibility for this obviously self-made problem? We might reasonably expect the seller to bear full responsibility if anything did go wrong . Yet should we not also expect as the purchaser to take some responsibility to safeguard our own interest, or is it a collective responsibility on both parties - even knowing that others will not always agree?


This tension between individual and collective responsibility is an important feature of the High Holy Days. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, contains a deeply evocative liturgy using the analogy of a shepherd inspecting every single sheep individually, making it clear that each one of us is judged by G-d alone. Yet, all of our prayers are delivered in the plural. Each person confesses transgressions that they may never have committed themselves because of a sense of collective responsibility for the whole.


A highlight of the High Holy Days Service is the moment when the 'kohanim', those who are of priestly descent, face the congregation and bless them. But what would happen if the whole congregation were of priestly descent? To whom would they direct their blessing? The Talmud poses this question and offers a fascinating answer. They must nonetheless, face an empty room and give the same Blessing. This conjures an image bordering on the absurd and yet, the conclusion is extremely powerful. The blessings given in our Synagogues are for everyone around the world and not just for those in front of us. We must be sensitive to, and, be in tune with the concerns and aspirations of those beyond our walls.


All citizens have a fundamental responsibility that extends beyond themselves. The great Jewish sage, Hillel, put it like this: "If I'm not for myself, who will be for me? And if I'm only for myself, what am I?"


At times when we are faced with our own daily dilemmas and predicaments, we should be mindful of the greater good. The High Holy Days teaches us to be prepared to give a little more and expect a little less in return.



An ancient Jewish teaching explores this question by contrasting Israel's two landlocked seas, the Sea of Galilee, important to Christians and Jews alike, and the Dead Sea. Both are famous. The former for being one of the largest sweet water lakes and the latter for its high concentration of salt, which inhibits sea-life in its waters. The River Jordan rises on the slopes of Mount Hermon on the border between Syria and Lebanon, and flows into the Sea of Galilee. At its southern-most point, the Jordan re-emerges and its waters reach the Dead Sea, from which there is no outlet.


The Sea of Galilee, which both receives and gives water, embodies kindness and generosity, leading to sweet consequences. The Dead Sea, however, as its name suggests, reminds us that taking without giving will never lead to anything positive. Existing only to receive is not an existence at all. In this spirit, the Hebrew for love, ahava, literally means 'giving'. A truly enriching relationship provides life-enhancing opportunities to give and share through selfless love.


On the eve of Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, there is a beautiful custom for parents to bless children. It is a time when we are mindful of the Book of Genesis which reveals details of Abraham's last will and testament. We are told, "Abraham gave everything he had to Isaac and he gave gifts to his other children". Now, how can this be possible? If Abraham gave everything he had to Isaac, what was left for the others? Isaac had proved his worth to Abraham and so he received all that meant everything to his father - his identity, his values and his faith, while to the others he gave material gifts. They received something to live with, while Isaac received something to live for.


The power of a meaningful existence was encapsulated by the renowned Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, who said, "Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'."


This is what we will be celebrating today on Yom Kippur. Through fasting, we will acknowledge the gift of a meaningful life, centred around our families, our friends and our communities and the values and deep principles which govern our actions; blessings that don't cost anything and which mean everything to us.


The greatest gift we can give to our children, families and communities, is to

empower them to have meaning, fulfilment and joy, through a life of values that

transcends a hunger for materialistic gain. Empowerment, unlike an unwanted gift, will never end up on eBay.







All contributions are accepted on the understanding that the authors are responsible for the opinions expressed which do not necessarily reflect the views of Ne've Shalom, the Hull Reform Synagogue.







Ne've Shalom
Great Gutter Lane
HU10 6DP