Shana Tova. It’s so good to see you all here tonight! This is a very special Shabbat, because it is Erev Yom Kippur. For a lot of Jewish adults, Kol Nidre, the big prayer of tonight, that we heard Cantor Noni chant earlier, is one of the most important, spiritual, holy moments of the year. Something about that prayer makes people feel reminded of their Jewishness in a way a lot of us don’t remember day to day. The same can be said for High Holy days in general, and the blowing of the shofar, that calls people back to a memory of our ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah. But there is something extra special about Kol Nidre.
You’ll see it in movies and plays and stories (The Jazz Singer, Cutman). Young Jewish people like all of you that want to be singers or play an instrument. Or maybe they want to be boxers, or join some kind of club, and maybe those meetings or practices or performances conflict with their Jewish lives. In these stories, we see the main characters trying to find the balance between being Jewish and being a regular kid like their non-Jewish friends. But the big decision making always comes down to Kol Nidre. The big performance or boxing match that could make or break their careers and make them rich and famous, happens to fall the evening before Yom Kippur. Not to ruin any classics for you, but I’ll tell you, in the Jazz Singer, the main character chooses temple over his big performance, and it looks like the right choice but then movie ends so we don’t really know. In Cutman, the main character chooses his boxing match over temple and he gets beat real bad and decides to never miss shul again. I’m not saying that something bad would happen if you and any Jewish person decided to skip an Erev Yom Kippur service; that’s just a story. But you might regret it here [point to heart].
I’m sure some of you have had to choose sometimes, or maybe your parents have chosen for you, whether to go to soccer practice or Hebrew school. And maybe even tonight, your friends are having a sleepover or are all at the movies, but you’re here. It’s hard sometimes to remember to put your Judaism before your secular interests and hobbies. But it’s important to do, and probably in your future, this day will serve as the reminder for that. A lot of grown-ups don’t come to services every Friday night. Even if they know how important it is and they want to be able to do so, they maybe have to work late, or take care of their kids. Sometimes it feels like life gets in the way of being Jewish, especially for us as Reform American Jews. Or are we Reform Jewish Americans? Sometimes we forget or get confused about which part comes first. But when we hear Kol Nidre being chanted, we always remember we are Jews. May you continued to be reminded every Shabbat and holiday this year, and again, Shana Tova (Happy New Year).