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Sermon - Rosh Hashanah 5775 - DVR's and Diversity

09/30/2014 10:11:19 AM


          This past summer, Ellen and I went on a cruise. In the evening, we liked to go to the comedy shows. At the beginning of each show, they played a small movie clip of George Lopez. The bit was about kids on cruise ships. He talked about how great it was that cruise ships have kids all over the place. He went on to say just how crazy some of these kids acted. He said, "Just yesterday, I saw some seven-year-old in the pool, with her floaties on, and a walkie-talkie attached to her shoulder. The girl was even able to walkee her mom, ‘Hey mom, can you bring me down a towel, a corndog, and oh, can you bring me a juice box.’”

            Hearing George Lopez's bit made me think, “Yes, kids are spoiled.” But how did they become spoiled? This inevitably leads us to their parents. And I can honestly say that we, all of us, should not feel surprised seeing spoiled kids. Why? Think about this for a moment. When you go home tonight and you turn on the TV, will you watch something on your DVR? Or what about this? How many of you, when you get in your car or when you are at work later this week, will you put on music that is from some playlist that you have created or algorithm made through Pandora, Internet radio, or satellite radio. Why are kids spoiled? Because we are spoiled. Yes, I said it. And I am one of the worst ones. I have had TiVo since the early 2000’s, I use Pandora religiously, and I have been streaming Netflix since its inception. I cannot remember the last time I watched a prescheduled show or waited for the radio to play an actual song I wanted to hear. Remember those days when we would wait hours for our favorite song to play on the radio? Now we get what we want, when we want it. So we spoil ourselves. But it’s really awesome!!!

            Now you might be thinking this is going to be a sermon about how spoiled our lives are. While this might be true, I find the topic a little trite. What I really want to talk about is the natural ramification of our "on demand" lifestyle. You see, while it is great being able to watch and listen to what we want, when we want it, it does lead us to a natural place – impatience. We all have very little patience. And of course we do. None of us has the patience to watch a show that we don't like. It is hard enough having to sit through another episode of Power Rangers or Pretty Little Liars, because that's what the kids want to watch. But if we have time to sit in front of the TV on our own, God has given us the ability to watch what we want to watch. Therefore, that is what we are going to do. And there is no way I'm just going to turn on regular TV and pray that there will be something that I want to watch. Those days have gone out the door with the rabbit ear antennas.

            And with this high level of impatience that we all have, we then become extremely challenged. This challenge permeates so many aspects of our world today. As the years go on, while we as a society are expressing such a high level in of impatience, we are finding it harder and harder to accept others. This manifests itself in our feelings about other people's lifestyles, opinions, or even values. In the Western world, we are supposed to be living in an advanced society that accepts the free market of ideas. And yet, in board rooms across this land, diversity of ideas and individuals is something that is hard to find. We have become less patient with hearing and understanding those that are different from us. We have become less patient and therefore are more unable go beneath the surface. We have become less patient with those that choose a different path.

            From Fox News to MSNBC, from the Real Housewives to Washington DC, the extremes fill the airwaves. The extremes make money. The extremes are what we experience day-in and day -out. The problem is that in an advanced society, acceptance of the other needs to be a pillar. It should not surprise us when we hear about someone who is gay. It should not surprise us when we hear about someone who marries someone of a different race. It should not surprise us when we hear that someone has a different idea or a different way of doing something. We do not have to agree with the other. But it is incumbent upon us to accept the other, perhaps even striving to understand them.

            On Rosh Hashanah, we celebrate the birthday of the world. In some Reform congregations, they even read the Creation story. One of the oldest questions asked by the great Rabbis is, "Why did the Torah begin with the Creation story? Why didn’t it begin with the 10 Commandments? Why didn't it begin with the story of Moses and God freeing the slaves from Egypt? While Creation is important, why did God begin the Torah with that story?” In their wisdom, the Rabbis explain, “God began the Torah with the Creation story because the Creation story is for all peoples, not just the Jewish people. The 10 Commandments were written for the Jewish people. The Moses story is about the Jewish people becoming free. The Creation story is about the creation of all peoples. This teaches us that the Torah is not just for the Jewish people but it is to teach lessons to all peoples.”

            Diversity and acceptance of the other are not things that we do naturally. You see, most people gravitate to others that are like them. Most people enjoy the camaraderie of others because this validates their perspective and worldview. Most of our friends have similar likes and dislikes that we have. However, what human behavior and history has taught us is that if we are to move forward and grow, we need others that have a different perspective to help us become better. The greatest example of this is, is that most of us choose spouses that are different than ourselves. The reason we do this is because we need to accept and understand different opinions, worldviews, and ways of doing things, in order to grow. We choose mates that are different than us because, underneath it all, we want to move forward, having lives where we improve ourselves, making us better.

            The challenge is that being with people that are different than us requires patience - that characteristic that seems to be waning in all of us. Rosh Hashanah is the perfect time to realize that we all have become in one way or another more impatient. Therefore, if we are to grow and better ourselves, and therefore this world, we must challenge ourselves to be more understanding, more accepting, and more open.

            Does anyone here know what the following people have in common: Mozart, Edison, Beethoven, Dickinson, Jefferson, Michelangelo, Twain, Newton and Einstein. All of these individuals are believed to have displayed on some level autistic tendencies. And, all of them moved our world forward. Temple Grandin, a well-known advocate for autism, wrote, "If by some magic, autism had been eradicated from the face of the earth, then men would still be socializing in front of the wood fire at the entrance to a cave." By writing this, Grandin is truly challenging us to accept those that are different from us. We need to do this not because it is cool or because it's something that we should be forced to do, rather we do it because the acceptance of the other, moves us forward.

            Consider this. After the destruction of the world by a flood, Noah and his family leave the ark. Then, God places a rainbow as the symbol to remind all existence that God will never again destroy the world by a flood. But why did God choose the rainbow as the symbol for that message? Jewish tradition teaches us that God chose the rainbow because it represents all existence. A rainbow encompasses all aspects of visual light. Every color that one can see is there within the rainbow. Judaism is teaching us that God chose the rainbow to tell us that we must be accepting of all of the colors.  Regardless of how different one from the other is, we must be patient enough to realize that they are all a part of the rainbow.

            We live in a world that is making us more and more impatient. A byproduct of that is that we have become less and less accepting of the other. We must recognize that. We must challenge ourselves to understand those that are different from ourselves. We must challenge ourselves to realize that there is more than just one color, our color in the rainbow. A beautiful rainbow is one that is filled with all of God's creations.

May it be G-d’s will, Amen.

Fri, April 10 2020 16 Nisan 5780