Sermon for Erev Rosh Hashanah – September 4, 2013 – 1 Tishri, 5774

Shana Tova u’M’tuka! A happy and sweet New Year to you all! On behalf of Sally and our entire family, let me say it is so good to see our entire extended Oheb Shalom family. It seems like almost yesterday that we last gathered here in convocation for last year’s Rosh Hashanah. Where has all the time gone? The older we get, the faster it seems to speed by. Yet we know that there are the same number of hours in every day and the same number of minutes in every year. In fact, I recently learned that there are 525,600 minutes in a year. That means there are 1,440 minutes in a day. While that might seem like a lot of time, let us take a few moments to break it down.
If we sleep eight hours a night, we use 480 minutes, a third of our day. If we work a minimum of eight hours a day and most of us work longer, that is another third of our day. Let’s say it takes us about an hour to get ready in the morning and prepare for sleep at night. That is another hour used, leaving us only seven left. What if you have to commute to work? Let’s say you have to drive an hour each way. Some of you commute longer than that. That leaves only five hours a day. Most of us eat three meals a day. With preparation and clean up of up to an hour each, that only leaves us with two discretionary hours a day. When do we do errands, pay bills, read the newspaper, go grocery shopping, talk with friends, have a date night, work out at the gym? How much time is left for prayer and reflection? Is there any time for volunteering, for serving the Jewish community, and the community at large?
Our daily schedules leave us little time for pleasure and growth. Yet there are very simple ways to make each minute count. We can listen to music or a recorded book while we commute to work. We can read a novel or the newspaper on the train. We can spend mealtimes sharing conversation with our family. We can find work that we find meaningful and even, sometimes, enjoyable. If we can’t make it to the gym, we can take the stairs instead of the elevator. We can schedule a date night with our spouse. We can take twenty minutes to start the day with our Mazer Morning Minyan, giving us a prayerful and calm beginning to a busy day. We can be cognizant that every minute we waste is one we will never have again. We are granted only 1,440 minutes a day, which add up to 525,600 a year. Once they are gone, they are gone forever.
Our challenge on this Rosh Hashanah of 5774 is to instill value and meaning into each minute God grants us. The clock has already started to tick in this New Year. How are we going to use each minute to its fullest? How will we make use of the limited time we have left? Allow me, my dear friends, to leave you with seven questions to ask yourselves. How will you possibly remember these seven questions? Well, let me make it easier for you. The questions are in the shape of an inverted pyramid, with the first question having seven words, the second six words and so on. You understand the structure. So, throughout these Yamim Noraim, these Days of Awe, and through the rest of the year, keep these seven questions in mind:
7. Is this where I want to be?
Am I dissatisfied with my life? Am I pleased with my current situation? If not, what will I do about it?
6. How can I make a difference?
What will be my legacy to the world? How can I leave this place better then I found it? How will I be remembered?
5. What are my new goals?
Just as we need professional goals, each of us needs to set personal goals. We might be happy with one area of our lives but frustrated in another. What are our goals for this year? They can be as simple as reading a few books and as daring as starting a new career. Whatever it is and regardless of our age, without goals we remain stagnant.
4. Why can’t I change?
Human beings, just like any other system, prefer stasis. It is easier and takes less energy to remain in a state of balance. It takes a lot of energy to apply change to a system, whether that system is a person or an institution. To make change easier, we need to have a compelling rationale for change as well as the energy and support to achieve it. It is incumbent upon us to develop this strategy before we undertake major changes in our lives.
3. Who loves me?
Let us keep uppermost in our minds that each of us has a large number of people who love us. Let us resolve to give them the attention and affection they deserve and we crave.
2. Remember me
At the end of our lives, we want to be more than a few lines in the Sun paper’s obituary page. We want to be remembered for something positive. We want to love and be loved, to do good and be good, to have achievements, great and small, written in our Book of Life. When our minutes finally expend, we want our lives to count for something beyond ourselves.
1. Return
Return, Teshuvah, is the most important word of these High Holydays. We make the extreme effort over the next ten days to return to God, to make amends with those whom we have wronged, and to make peace with ourselves. Then, and only then, will we have made these days and minutes really count. Return is the key to using our time very well.
May we make every single one of the minutes God grants us this year count for good and blessing. May we and all our loved ones have a year of health, fulfillment, and peace.
Amen and Shana Tova Tikateivu

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