In the time of our great leader Moses, G-d freed us from slavery in Egypt.  It is so stated in our Torah, and The Almighty did so unconditionally.  6 months later we journeyed to Mt. Sinai, where Moses received in writing not only the 10 commandments, but hundreds of other commandments as well.  It took me by surprise when I recently discovered that some congregants thought that only the 10 commandments are in the Torah.  The hundreds of other commandments include not eating swine, such as bacon, ham, and pork ribs, not eating shellfish, such as crab and lobster, and observing Shabbat ,rules which many Jews openly violate.  On Shabbat, we work, we shop, we read our mail; we live as if it were an ordinary day.  Hashem says "Do as I did, and rest, for MY sake and for yours.  Study My laws, read My book.  Live as I'm instructing you to live.  You'll be happier, live longer and prosper, I promise."

Contrary to the unconditional emancipation from bondage, the commandments were given to our people at Sinai as part of an eternal agreement between our ancestors adn G-d; an amicable pact whereby the Israelites pledged to follow all of these statutes, for all time, and Hashem would lease us to land promised centuries earlier to Abraham, and sustain us therein.  This, to, is stated in our Torah.

For all of Jewish history's trials and tribulations, times we sinned heavily and paid hard consequences, and times we performed mitzvot and were rewarded as a result, through it all, our righteous deeds must outweigh the debased ones because the Jewish people remai vibrant in the Holy Land.  This is not to say that our status quo of sinning is acceptable.  Contrarily, it remains unacceptable in G-d's eyes.

It is impossible to keep all of G-d's commandments; difficult to keep so many of them.  Some we knowingly break, some unwittingly.  We may be thinking "Give up my stone crabs" Not work on Saturday? Pass up a sale and not spend money on Saturday, on Shabbat? Hmmm, I don't think so.  I'll continue to break that commandment."  some of us have no remorse over this, and even make light of it sometimes.  There's a joke about an observant Jew talking wth a friend of the great lengths he takes to be observant, even when wearing dentures.  "I have 5 sets" he boasts. "Really!" says the friend.  "Sure.  A separate set for milk, a separate set for dairy, and for Passover, again a separate set for milk and a separate set for dairy."  "Wow, that's amazing!  What's the 5th set for?" asked the friend.  "Well, to tell you the truth, every now and then I like to eat a ham sandwich."

Today, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, we must realize that eating pork, and eating shellfish, and spending Shabbat, as we do any other day of the week is truly in violation of what G-d considers important.  Teshuvah is repenting, and turning or returning to ways of holiness, an action our Torah commands us to do on Yom Kippur, after deliberate introspection during the High Holy Days, Moses Maimonides, one of Judaism's most noted, well respected and authoritative Rabbis, wrote the folloiwing as it pertains to teshuvah:  "Awake you sleepers and rouse yourselves!  Ponder your deeds; you who are cuaght up in the daily round.  Look closely at yourselves.  Remember your Creator, remember your Savior in Egypt.  Change your ways. Improve your ways.  Turn to the Almight in full repentance, every one of you."  These laws were given to Moses 3,000 years ago.  Our everlasting pact with Hashem is revisited at this time every year.  Surely there are shortcomings in each of our lives that we recognize and can work to change for the better, as a further appreciation of our being alive, for being free, and for having a Jewish homeland.

I have addressed sins that are hurting ourselves and hurting G-d.  What of sins that not only hurt ourselves and G-d, but others as well?  The Torah says "v'ahavata l're'acha kamocha," love your neighbor as yourself.  This concept is so important that our sages incoporated this Torah reading on Yom Kippur.  I will read it this afternoon.  We should, at the very least, acknowledge our neighbors, if not love them, and respect their ways, as they should acknowledge and respect us in return.  We shouldn't make fun of them to our friends, to our family.  No snide comments or jokes.  Perhaps mocking people was funny to us as children and adolescents, but we need to realize as adults that when we behave in such a manner, it is hurtful to them and shameful upon us.  You know I like hearing and telling jokes, but making fun of people is not funny.  Labeling an idiot or trouble maker as being a particular color, nationality, profression, religion, sexual orientation, as having a medical condition, as being a specific gender, as having a particular hair color ... casts a dark shadow upon everyone of that background, even if it be self-impsed casting by someone of the same ilk.  The joke I told earlier, as absurd as it is, is still derogatory to every observant Jew.  I shared it to show how easy it is to hurt someone and sometimes not even know it.

In Judaism gossip and rumors are known in Hebrew as "evil tongue," lashan harah.  Some folks recognize the same words prounced in Yiddish as "lushen hora." Torah prohibits, speaking gossip, yet how many of us are guilty of that sin?  Nearly everyone, I would guess.  "I heard that so and so is not doing well.  I heard that so and so made a lot of money." "I heard"... We spread rumors by mouth and, using the internet, we receive and send similar words globally in seconds.  Because it is our nature to share news, it is our responsibility to prove the validity of words (we hear and read), and then discern between news and gossip, before forwarding on to friends, relatives and perhaps those we don't even know.

One of today's most controversial hot buttons in our contry, and other parts of the world, is Islamic preachings and teachings.  Muslim hysteria.  Muslims are multiplying faster than the rest of the world's religions so they can take over the world and demand that everyone oby Shariah law.  They train their children to be terrorists.  Their holy book, the Quran, teaches that everyone who does not believe in Islam is an infidel and needs to be converted or killed.  To accelerate this process, the Quran further states that it is permissible to smile and lie in the face of an infidel if necessary.  As part of Islam's global holy mission, mosques are forever changing the American landscape.  The Imams' words, and curriculums taught in Islamic schools, carry the message of jihad.  American Muslims funnel money from their businesses, mosques and schools to promote their fundamentalist Islamic mission.  ... Are thes statements truths?  Half truths? Lies?... By the raw, heartfeld delivery of some of the messages we receive, and by the finely produced delivery of others, it is easy to accept all at face value if we choose to do so.  By such accounting, Muslims are despicable people.  What I know to be the truth about Islam and the mission of Muslims, as much as I've read, isn't much.  Ignorance about what Islam teaches is widespread.  That so much of modern day death and destruction is caused by radical Muslims hasn't convinced me that the causes they fight for are upheld by the majority of the 1 billion Muslims in the world.  And consider this:  for over 200 years the United States existed and Amercians had no cause to denounce Muslims.  Islam is the same religion, and the same teachings, today as it was when it was given by Allah 600 years ago.  It is the radical fringe from every sect that twists and distorts the truth in an effort to incite us to fight against each other.  In the words of David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee,"We must continue to challenge bigotry and hatred where ever they exist, we must continue to make ourselves heard in the face of indifference and we must continue to speak out steadfastly for democracy and mutual respect."

In an effort to gain a greater knowlede and understanding of Islam, to show solidarity against terrorism, to promote the goodness adn Divinity shared in different teachings, and to explore the differences therein, Ahavat Olam has begun a journey with 3 other congregations:  Killian Pines United Methodist Church, St. John Newman's Catholic Church, and the Islamic School of Miami.  I sat with the respective clergy individually and felt they genuinely had the same desire  We met and it was decided to have events and gatherings that, initially, would be noncontroversial.  During Ramadan, a holy Islamic period, there is daily fasting until sundown, followed by a meal and final prayers.  A small group from each congregation was invited to the Islamic School of Miami to observe them praying inside their beautiful mosque, the dome of which still bears the bullet holes from a crazed sniper.  Afterwards we joined them in breaking their fast.  Everyone was friendly.  Everyone was polite.  The evening was an enlightening exchange we hoped it would be.  Should you wish to be included in future experiences, please contact our office and let us know.

Getting to know you, as it concerns Muslims, Jews and the rest of the world, is not the simply rosy cheeked approach that Anna took in song with the king of Siam and his people.  Sometimes "getting to know you " necessitates overcoming prejudices we harbor, and falsehoods we perpetuate. "Let There Be Peace On Earth, and let it begin with me."  If the person penned in this song states "and let it being with me", then he or she had a relevation; for if this person was already promoting peace, the lyric would not state "let it begin."  The relevation was "I realize I have not been promoting peace."  The commitment "and let it begin with me" is the promise to do so.

Let's ask ourselves, truly ask ourselves on this Day of Atonement "Am I promoting peace, or are things I do prolonging peace?  Do I let the vitriol thoughts of others poison my thinking by blindly accepting them, or do I seek further validation and understanding?  Do I spread gossip?  Do I tell jokes that would offend an individual or particular group of people?  Do I eat pork or shellfish?  Is my life on Shabbat different than my life on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday?  How else am I a sinner?

This morning in our Torah we will read from the port Nitzavim, where Moses is saying his farewell words to our people.  He is about to recound memories of their past, and remind them to follow all of G-d's commandments in the future, for all time; an everlasting covenant.  he begins "Atem nitzavim hayom, kulchem,"  "You stand today, all of you".  Our sages cannot state emphatically enough the importance of the words "all of you."  The phrase "You stand today" is all inclusive of the people.  the subsequent following words, "all of you," drives the point home that each individual counts, is counted upon, and is accountable.

We pray today as a communal body.  Our prayers for Yom Kippur were purposely written by our sages in the plural form so that no single persn should feel embarrassed confessing a paticular sin.  But atonement must be made by every individual.  "I'm starting with the man in the mirror.  I'm asking him to change his ways.  If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and make that change."  All of us must strive for greater purity, resolve to better ourselves as much as possible, be as considerate as possible, and give careful consideration to that which we know little or nothing about.

Chazak v'Ematz.  May we find the strength and courage to change our negatives into postives, and to be that light unto others, for G-d's sake, and for our sake.  G'mar Chatimah Tovah - May our repentance find favor in Hashem's eyes to seal us for a Shanah Tovah, a good year, a favorable year in G-d's Book of Life.

Let us say "Amen."