Did you ever wonder how Chizuk Amuno Congregation got its name? Back in 1871, if you were sitting around your living room with some friends to select a new synagogue’s name, is that what you would pick?
Chizuk Amuno is not a known phrase in any Biblical or Rabbinic literature. In an American setting it doesn’t come rolling off the tongue. Why did our synagogue’s founders choose “Strengthening Faith?” As the result of a discovery made in our synagogue archives last spring, on Rosh HaShanah I’ll answer this question.
I actually begin thinking about what to speak about on the High Holy Days just after Passover. On Rosh HaShanah I like to think externally, about the condition of our world, and what Jewish idea or practice can be a meaningful response. There’s a lot of cynicism and disillusionment out there this year. I want to respond with a message of faith, which I will define.
On Yom Kippur, I turn inward. I prefer to discuss something personal to us all and spiritual, a subject that may enhance our repentance and reflection. The prayer Unetaneh Tokef declares, “On Rosh HaShanah it is written and on Yom Kippur it is sealed. Who will live and who will die? I’ve written a new English version of this prayer, which we’ll read and my sermon will interpret. It concludes, “On Rosh HaShanah let’s consider and on Yom Kippur let’s decide. Not if we will die, but how we will live.”
I look forward to sharing my thoughts, as well as hearing yours, and celebrating the New Year with you.