Office address: 9085 SW 87th Avenue, Suite 210, Miami, FL 33176 Phone: (305) 412 - 4240 Fax: (305) 412 - 4249 e-mail:

Services, Bible & Brunch class & Choral Society rehearsals and Religious School Classes Are held at the grounds of Killian Pines United Methodist Church. 10755 SW 112 Street Miami, FL 33176

Shabbat Service: Friday at 7:45 P.M. Bible Class: Saturday at 10:00 A.M.

Good Yom Tov,

So why are we here today and what are we supposed to be doing?  Well, we know, of course that this is the day of atonement:  The day we are to do an audit of our souls.  A day of circumspection when we ask ourselves what we are doing well, and what we can do better.  On this day we reflect deeply and honestly, and then change the trajectory of our lives to be more pleasing to God and to our fellow man.  Can we all agree on that?  That this is, in fact, why we are all here?  OK.  The title of my sermon today, however is "Finding the Joy in Yom Kippur"  We use adjectives like "serious" and "solemn" to describe this day.  It is considered the strictest and most solemn day of the Jewish year.  A day of physical deprivation.  Many of us will be getting hungry, and as the day goes on, some of us get tired and cranky.  We spend the morning beating our chests and listing our sins, with liturgy that reminds us how very fragile our lies are. Perhaps you have always considered this day to be profound, transformative, meaningful, deep ---Well it's all these things, but that Yom Kippur could be joyful?  Well, you may not have thought about this day as being particularly joyful.

But there is joy, the joy is the recognition that on this one day, more than any other day of the year, we truly take the time to connect with God, and when we do, for just a few minutes, we are able to put aside the troubles and pain in our life, and feel the happiness and, yes the joy, of being in God's presence.  While we no longer feel the special joy that our ancestors in Biblical days experienced on a daily basis, when dwelling in God's immediate presence, on Yom Kippur we re-engage God and reclaim his place in our lives.  Throughout the year, God often visits us but, honestly, most of the time we aren't home.  On this day, however, God is invited to enter by a private door, into each of our lives.

Remember, we are God's chosen people, chosen to be part of a covenant between God and the Jewish people over three thousand years ago at Sinai, and that covenant extended to their descendants for all generations to come, an everlasting covenant that continues this day.  The covenant entails mutual commitments and responsibilities.  As His responsibility, God assured the Jewish people of his everlasting love and protection.  Remembering that assurance today, in itself, should certainly be a cause for joy.  Of course, as our responsibility in this covenant, we, in turn must be loyal to God, follow his commandments, live ethically and teach our children to, as well.  We are also expected to be a light unto all the peoples of the world, and set an example based on the principles of Torah.

Yom Kippur is also a joyous day because it is the day that God forgives us.  We should feel that a weight has been lifted off our shoulders.  The burden of guilt and shame that we have been carrying around has been taken from us.  This day gives us a "fresh start", a clean slate (provided we have taken the ten day journey of repentance, which began on Rosh Hashanah).  We should feel joy, because getting rid of all that baggage allows us to move about more freely and unburdened in the year to come, (until we buildup more baggage).  But this is our chance to bend the moral arc of the universe, at least a little bit, in favor of goodness and justice, by striving to be better; better next year than we were last year.  To be partners with God in the pursuit of a more perfect world.

Judaism teaches that what goes around comes around.  You want good, do good, and good will find you.  You want bad (personally, I don't believe any one really wants bad) but, do bad and bad will find you.  We all must consciously work on cultivating the "doing good" alternative.  On Yom Kippur and every day, we should focus on the joy derived from doing good.  We should learn to recognize the joy we can bring to each other's lives, and delight that it is so.  By perpeuating the joy of mitzvot, the joy of community, of familyand friends, we initiate an endless chain of goodness to assist God in that pursuit of a more perfect world.

Utopia would be if everyone always chose the "doing good" alternative, but unfortunately stuff happens.  Yom Kippur reminds us that we cannot control everything, but what really matters is under our conrol.  The prescription for joy and happiness, is to be involved in a life filled with values, meaning and significance.  It is to recognize all the gifts that come our way and appreciate these gifts and those around us.  The National Institute of Health recently funded a study on just what makes people joyous and happy.  They indicate the number one thing is to discover our strengths, and utilize them for good in the community.  Well we already knew that.  Torah tells us we are all created in God's image and must believe in our own ability to create, and use that ability to assist our fellow man.  The second thing is to perform acts of altruism and kindness.  We know that one too.  Torah tells us to give tzedakah and be kind, just as God is.  The third thing is being grateful.  Here they suggest a "Gratitude Journal," a book in which we list our blessings, each day.  Their study says that when people actually take the time to do this, their happiness level increases greatly in as little as a few weeks.  Our tradition also teaches the importance of gratitude.  Observant Jews recite the Modim prayer, part of the Amidah, three times a day. This prayer expresses gratitude to HaShem.  So in essence Judiasm embraces the top three requisites needed for us to be happy and joyful.

Americans might think they have the answer to finding happiness and joy, by collectively spending hundreds of billions of dollars on entertainment each year; movies, sports, vacations, fancy cars and lavish homes.  These are supposed to bring us happiness and joy.  The truth is, for most people at least, all it brings is a distraction, a fleeting distraction from the realities of life.  One study even compared those who won the lottery with those who didn't and discovered that there was no increase in jou or happiness, or decrease in unhappiness, past the first few days.  As we've often head said, money just doesn't bring happiness.  (Between us, somehow I still find it a little more comfortable kvetching in a Lexus than a Yugo, but, that's just me).  Seriously though, true happiness and joy really come from being happy with our lot, with the love we receive, and with having the ability to give to others and know, deep down, that we are making a contribution to those things that mean most to us.

Are we spending our days doing things that are important to us?  Are our actions consistent with the kind of person we want to be, or are we just doing what we have always done?  Yom Kippur is a day when we realize that if we're not pleased with the anwers to these questions, we can still change. Let this Yom Kippur be a day of joy for all of us.  Let us find the courage to change what needs to be changed so that we emerge from this long day, celebrating a life that will bring us fulfillment and joy.  Yom Kippur is, in the end, a day of joy.  Joy at the prospect of change for the better, the prospect of our being who we always wanted to be.  For these reasons, we can find joy in all that we do today, as we look within, for what truly gives us meaning.

That's why I am urging that all of us more fully engage in volunteerism this year.  Getting more involved in things that interest us and that are happening around us.  And what better place to start this than here at Ahavat Olam.  WHy Ahavat Olam? Because you have to start somewhere, and the world is still a very big place, and it's hard to figure out where to start.  After all, this is your community, a place filled with people who know you, and want to share time working with you.  I, know for a fact that your participation would be welcomed with open arms.  There's lots to do.  From joining our Mitzvah Angels, to helping with our food drives, to assisting Kim in the office to helping with our Interfaith Dialogue Outreach Programs, to helping with our fund raising activities, to assisting with the Oneg Shabbat, to joining one of the Temple's standing committees or starting a new committee, if you see a need.  Then there's my favorite, assisting with the leading of Shabbat services, either when Rabbi Danny is away, or contributing to one of his regular Shabbat services by reading a favorite passage or appropriate poem, at any time.  If you like to sing, come to our Solcial Hall almost any Tuesday evening and give our Chorale Society a try.  You don't even have to read music or understand Hebrew; Just love singing.  Whatever you do and whereever your decide to volunteer, my point is get involved.

For many of us, Ahavat Olam is the center of our Jewish community life, and the source of much of our joyful and spiritual inspiration.  Whether on Yom Kippur or any other day, it's where we go to pray, to connect with HaShem, to connect with one another.  It's where we learn about Jewish subjects and discuss current events and anything else we care to talk about with our fellow congregants.  It's where our children and grandchildren learn about Judaism and where our families go to celebrate Jewish holidays and event.

As many of you know, I get a great deal of joy from music and singing.  I always enjoy the very unique Erev Rosh Hashanaha service the the Prima Bima Band, and the amazing music Rabbi Danny so skillfully blends with the holiday prayers. But the service today is especially exciting.  It's joyful and spiritually uplifting to me.  It's like being awash in music and prayer among a sea of floating whiteness.  It's not just the power of the day and the prayers, or even the power of the community, but it's seeing and hearing each person pouring out his or her heart, for the purpose of offering up this amazing morning directly to God.  Today we tap into that endless reservoir of joy and spiritual excitement that is Yom Kippur.  Wouldn't it be swell if we could bring that joy and spiritual excitement into or daily lives?