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Yom Kippur 2021/5782

09/16/2021 09:20:56 AM


Rabbi Howard L. Jaffe

Good yontiff.

Two years ago, before the pandemic, but following a year of upheaval and disorientation, which now seems distant and remote, my colleague, Rabbi Rachel Timoner, addressed her congregation on Yom Kippur with these words:

“If we just sat here, all of us, and cried together today, that might be the most eloquent response to the year we’ve just lived through.”

I have to say...

Rosh Hashanah 2021/5782

09/07/2021 09:06:09 AM


Rabbi Howard L. Jaffe

Shanah tovah.

This is the 22nd year that I appear before you as your rabbi at Rosh Hashanah.

And as you know, it shall be my last.

It has been indescribably moving, fulfilling, meaningful, if at times challenging, and thankfully, only occasionally maddening.

There is still much for us to share in the months ahead, and if you want to hear my valedictory words, you will, I am afraid,...Read more...

Yom Kippur 2020/5781

09/28/2020 12:55:22 PM


Rabbi Howard L. Jaffe

"A Stolen Beam"

Perhaps the most foundational text of this day comes from the Mishnah, the early third century code of Jewish law on which all subsequent Jewish legal tradition is built: "There is no atonement for transgressions of one human being against another until that person has reconciled with the other" (Mishnah Yoma 8:9). We can spend this whole day fasting, reviewing our behavior over the past...Read more...

Kol Nidre 2020/5781

09/27/2020 04:33:20 PM


Rabbi Rachel M. Maimin

"Dedicated to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, z"l"

Two years ago,

I spent election day as a poll worker,

checking people in

and sending them to the right table to pick up their ballot

at my polling station in Rego Park – in Queens.

I woke up at 4:30 am

and walked the 5 blocks over to PS 206.

I have never been so inspired, exhausted, and disillusioned

by one...

Rosh Hashanah 2020/5781

09/19/2020 04:13:23 PM


Rabbi Howard L. Jaffe

"This too, shall pass"

There is a Sephardic custom of a Seder for Rosh Hashanah which includes words that I suspect all of us are prepared to chant: Let the old year end with all its curses! Let the new year begin with all its blessings!

Let the old year end with all its curses! Let the new year begin with all its blessings!

If there was ever a year when those words...

Erev Rosh Hashanah 2020/5781

09/18/2020 04:27:43 PM


Rabbi Rachel M. Maimin

"Loneliness to Hope"

“In the soft light of morning,

a couple of hours before a day game,

an empty ballpark is a beautiful,

holy secret you have been let in on,

the near silence a tease,

hinting at what came before

and what will soon come again.

The gentle scratch of a rake across the infield dirt.

The vapor hiss of a water hose.

A lone, between-starts pitcher...

Pulpit Exchange with Hancock UCC March 6, 2020

06/01/2020 01:52:46 PM


Rev. Barbara Callaghan

Temple Isaiah Shabbat 3.6.20
Rev. Barbara Callaghan

It is good to be with you this evening. I have offered prayers and some words here and there at Jewish services but this is my first time preaching at a Shabbat service. When Howard and Rachel shared with me the texts for the service tonight I diligently read them, quickly realizing these were parts of the Torah I really didn’t know much about. I read the Exodus passage about...Read more...

Yom Kippur 2019/5780

10/23/2019 09:19:34 AM


Rabbi Howard L. Jaffe

A rabbi once asked his students: "How do we know when the night has ended and the day has begun?" The students thought they grasped the importance of this question. There are, after all, prayers and rites and rituals that can only be done at nighttime. And there are prayers and rites and rituals that belong only to the day. So, it is important to know how we can tell when night has ended and day has begun.

So the first and brightest...

Kol Nidre 2019/5780

10/17/2019 04:11:46 PM


Rabbi Rachel M. Maimin

The Ethics of Responsibility

I don’t know about you,
but I’m feeling tired.
And not just the kind of tired
from being busy
and having too many things on my to-do list,
more to accomplish than I can in a day.
“Not just “sleepy,”
but “exhausted, weary, fatigued, and fed up”;
drained, disillusioned, and disenchanted”;
the opposite of “inspired, stimulated,
motivated and...

Erev Rosh Hashanah 2019/5780

10/03/2019 12:43:38 PM


Rabbi Rachel M. Maimin

We are all Miriam, We are all Aaron, We are all Moses

Miriam, sister of Moses and Aaron,
stands in the desert,
arms open wide,
heart open wide,
or is it broken?
No, she thinks,
I will not let this break me apart.
I will choose to let my heart be broken open,[i]
wide open,
swelling like the waves of the Sea of Reeds,
one on either side of us,
as expansive as this wilderness
which...

Rosh Hashanah 2019/5780

10/03/2019 11:16:22 AM


Rabbi Howard L. Jaffe

This is the 20th year that I stand before you as rabbi of this congregation. I know what some of you are thinking: how can that be? He does not look any older than he did when he first arrived here…

Those who have been here for high holidays over these years know that I generally prefer to focus on that which is timeless at this time of year, in the hope that what is shared can inform how we respond to the timely. There are times,...Read more...

Yom Kippur 2018/5779

10/04/2018 10:06:41 AM


Rabbi Howard L. Jaffe

Like many of us, when I was a child, I had a lot of questions about the afterlife. The religious school teachers in my Orthodox synagogue were not very helpful. They mostly avoided the topic, and if one of us had enough temerity to press the question, they were pretty evasive. The most specific answer I can recall is that there is such a thing as a world to come, Olam Haba, when everything will be perfect, and which we will experience when...Read more...

Kol Nidre 2018/5779

10/04/2018 10:04:59 AM


Rabbi Jill Perlman

America is a Worthy Argument - Kol Nidre 2018/5779 There’s a story about a rabbi who was new to a congregation. When it was time to share the Shema, half the congregation stood while the other half remained seated. The rabbi asked, what’s the tradition here? And the ones standing argued it was to stand, it had always been to stand. Similarly, the ones seated argued it was to stay seated, it had always been to stay seated.   So the...Read more...

Rosh HaShanah 2018/5779

09/25/2018 10:00:17 AM


Rabbi Howard L. Jaffe

On truth – Rosh Hashanah 5779/2018

As this is the season for confession, I would like to make one.

About 2 ½ years ago, I was in Israel, and attended erev Shabbat services at a wonderful community at Moshav Nahalal, in the Jezreel Valley, about a half hour drive east of Haifa, where I was staying with friends. I called Irene, mindful of the strict Israeli law allowing only hands-free calling from a cell phone, so had the...Read more...

Erev Rosh HaShanah 2018/5779

09/17/2018 01:35:05 PM


Rabbi Jill Perlman

A Growth Mindset for the New Year – Rosh HaShanah 5779/2018

This summer, I took one of my sons to a rock climbing gym. It was a new experience for us; we had never climbed before. We laced up our climbing shoes and let our eyes scan up the height of the wall. As we prepared ourselves for the challenge, we turned to the staff member nearby and said, “We’re ready.”

And he said, “Great. Now it’s time for your falling...Read more...

Erev Yom Kippur 2017/5778

10/20/2017 01:17:03 PM


Rabbi Jill Perlman

So I just spoke to you.

Right there, in front of the open ark.

We called out your name.

We called out Avinu Malkeinu, Our Parent, Our Sovereign, shma koleinu – hear our voice. We called out Avinu Malkeinu, halt the onslaught of violence and the reign of those who cause pain. We called out Avinu Malkeinu, have compassion on us and on our children.

Do you hear us?

In this tenuous time when the world...

Rosh HaShanah 2017/5778

09/26/2017 02:34:21 PM


Rabbi Howard L. Jaffe

There are certain events which are indelibly etched into our memories, because they left us with an understanding that the world is different from what we had imagined, or perhaps from what we had allowed ourselves to believe. Those of us who are old enough remember vividly where we were when we heard the news that Pres. Kennedy had been shot, where we were when we heard about the Space Shuttle Challenger, and of course, where we were the...Read more...

Erev Rosh HaShanah 2017/5778

09/26/2017 02:25:37 PM


Rabbi Jill Perlman

Shanah tovah.   A Letter to my Children   Dated the First of Tishrei in the year 5778   To my dear children, to Lev and Eli and Maya –   On the eve of this great big new year, I am think ing about the book that I read to you sometimes at night. The Hugging Tree by Jill Neimark. It begins:   “On a bleak and lonely rock by a vast and mighty sea grew a lonely little tree where no tree should ever...Read more...


07/30/2017 07:10:17 PM


Rev. Barbara Callaghan

Temple Isaiah Shabbat 3.6.20

It is good to be with you this evening. I have offered prayers and some words here and there at Jewish services but this is my first time preaching at a Shabbat service. When Howard and Rachel shared with me the texts for the service tonight I diligently read them, quickly realizing these were parts of the Torah I really didn’t know much about. I read the Exodus passage about the consecration of the...Read more...

Yom Kippur 2016/5777

09/10/2016 09:51:14 PM


Rabbi Howard L. Jaffe

This is my 17th year as rabbi of Temple Isaiah.  On Rosh Hashanah, I did something for the first time in all of those years: I spoke about politics, or more specifically, the election. But only a little, and as those who were here know, I really spoke about how to respond to the challenges that the election has inspired. I did not endorse a specific candidate or even mention the names of any candidates. The high holidays are, and Yom...Read more...

Kol Nidre 2016/5777

09/09/2016 09:49:04 PM


Rabbi Jill Perlman


Every year at the beginning of the second semester of our tenth grade confirmation experience here at Temple Isaiah, I create two concentric circles of chairs, one facing in and one facing out so that my students can look one another in the eye as I ask them a series of questions. Every once in a while I say switch and the inner circle moves down by one.

It’s like speed dating…but not.

I ask them to listen...

Rosh Hashanah 2016/5777

09/01/2016 09:50:20 PM


Rabbi Howard L. Jaffe

Noting that this is the time of year for apologies, I begin with one this morning.

For those who our here today hoping that I would talk about the presidential election and even endorse a particular candidate, I apologize for disappointing you.

And for those who came today hoping that I would talk about timeless matters, and not reference the presidential election, I apologize for disappointing you.

Because we need to...

Erev Rosh HaShanah 2016/5777

09/01/2016 09:48:01 PM


Rabbi Jill Perlman

The Moral Courage to Be Our Best Selves

Tonight, I want to talk about courage.

I don’t mean the courage to stand up in front of a room packed with upwards of a thousand people, but come to think of it, that’s not a bad kind of courage to have either.

I want to talk tonight about moral courage, and about the moral choices that we make every day from the small to the grand to do right, despite our fear of punishment...Read more...

Yom Kippur - 2015 /5776

09/10/2015 09:45:52 PM


Rabbi Howard Jaffe

A defendant was on trial for murder. There was strong evidence indicating guilt, but there was no body. In the defense's closing statement, the lawyer, knowing his client would likely be convicted, resorted to a trick.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I have a surprise for you all," the lawyer said as he looked at his watch.

"Within one minute, the person presumed dead in this case will walk into this courtroom." He looked...Read more...

Kol Nidre 2015/5776

09/09/2015 09:46:45 PM


Rabbi Jill Perlman

You’ve probably heard it before. I know that I’ve said it before from this very spot on this night in years past: that Yom Kippur comes to us shrouded as a rehearsal for our death.

Yom Kippur asks us to imagine that we are living the last day, preparing for our last breath. Traditionally, we wear white like the shrouds in which Jews are buried. We recite vidui or confession just as those facing death traditionally do. We reject...Read more...

Rosh Hashanah 2015/5776

09/01/2015 09:44:37 PM


Rabbi Howard Jaffe

The year after I became Bar Mitzvah, my parents gave me the choice of attending Rosh Hashanah services or not.  Exercising my newfound autonomy, I chose not to attend.  And you know what?  I missed it.  Terribly.  And you know what I missed most?  I am guessing it is what you would have missed the most. 

I missed the sound of the shofar.  And I vowed that as long as I was physically able, that...Read more...

The Armenian Genocide is Not Past

04/01/2015 09:43:48 PM


Laura Boghosian

Shalom.  I am honored to commemorate Yom HaShoah with you this evening and to speak with you about the Armenian Genocide.  On behalf of the Armenian community, I would like to thank Temple Isaiah for its valued support, and, in particular, I would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to Rabbi Jaffe for his principled dedication over the past seven-and-a-half years to the cause of Armenian Genocide recognition.  Your...Read more...

Rosh Hashanah 2014/5775

09/01/2014 09:41:44 PM


Rabbi Jill Perlman

Shanah tovah.
I want to begin tonight with a story, a story shared by Rabbi Chaim of Tzanz:

A person had been wandering in the forest for several days, unable to find a way out. Finally in the distance he spotted someone approaching. With a heart full of joy, he thought to himself, “Now I will surely find a way out of this forest.” When the two neared one another, the first asked the second, “Will you please tell me the way...Read more...

Rosh Hashanah 2014/5775

09/01/2014 09:40:49 PM


Rabbi Howard Jaffe

Seek Peace and Pursue It
It was a mild Tel Aviv evening, a bit cooler than it usually is in the middle of July. I was sitting with my friend, Rabbi Eric Gurvis of Temple Shalom in Newton, on Rothschild Boulevard, sipping a cup of ice coffee on a bench by one of the ubiquitous kiosks that line that thoroughfare and give that part of the city much of its character. He was on the phone with his son, and I was looking at email on my...Read more...

Kol Nidre 5774/2013

09/10/2013 09:43:03 PM


Rabbi Howard Jaffe

100 years ago tonight, on Kol Nidre 5674, 1913, Franz Rosenzweig, one of the most important Jewish philosophers of the 20th century, entered a small Orthodox synagogue in Berlin for what he expected to be the last time he would attend worship services as a Jew. Rosenzweig, who by the way, as best as we know, is not related to my wife who carries the same last name, had become convinced, as did many modern Germans of his day, that the path to...Read more...

Thu, September 21 2023 6 Tishrei 5784