Rosh Hashanah 5777

October 20, 2016

I would like to start this sermon with a story.

This is a story of a person who is a multi-millionaire. To preserve his identity let’s call him Jack.

Jack is a multimillionaire who lives somewhere in the US and he hosted a party in his mansion.

Huge party. Great food and drinks, great music by the DJ. La crèmes Della crèmes  were present.

Around 1 AM some people were already happy and drank too much, including Jack. Here comes Jack, who stops the music and makes an announcement: The person who swims the length of this pool filled with alligators I will give three things: My cars, my planes and my mansion.

When Jack finished the sentence, there was one person already in the pool fighting with alligators. All his clothes were torn apart, scratches all over the body, alligators everywhere. He fights, swims, goes under water, gets hurt but he makes it to the other side of the pool.

As he gets out of the pool he starts looking around.

Jack approaches him and congratulates him. Mazal tov my friend!!! You did it. The guy keeps looking around.

Jack says: what are you looking for?  My cars? They are over there  – they are all yours!!!

The guy answers: I do not need cars, I have plenty!!!

Ah, so you are looking for my planes!! They are over there, they are all yours!!

No, I do not need a plane, I can buy a ticket if needed.

So, what are you looking for? My mansion? It’s over there and it’s all yours.

No, I have a great house I do not need another one?

So what are you trying to find?

I am trying to find the guy who pushed me into the pool.

I am glad we started the year laughing. It is a great way to start the year.


I believe this a very profound story. Even though this is a joke, I truly believe there are many lessons to be learned. But first let me tell you that I first heard this joke in Hebrew and when you hear the story in Hebrew things make even more sense.

So we started the year laughing. Let’s continue it by learning together.

How do we say to push in Hebrew. Lidchof, very nice. Every word in Hebrew has a root 99% of the times the root has 3 letter so what is the root of Lidchof?   דחפ


What other word in Hebrew can we form with these three letters? Pachad. Fear, being afraid of.

So now you start seeing how this story makes more sense.

Dear friends, we all need a push in our lives.

We all need to be pushed to accomplish.

We all need to be pushed to achieve.

Imagine for a second: would the person who was pushed into the pool have done that without being pushed? I don’t think so.

Imagine for a second if the person who crossed the pool was looking for the pusher in order to thank him. Without his push he would have never imagined being able to cross the pool.

Imagine for a second if the pusher was trying to help instead of trying to harm.

So now that you’ve used your imagination to see the story in a different way, I would like to invite you to do a short exercise.

Take 30 seconds. Think of those who pushed you in your life. Think of those who encouraged you.

Are they alive? Did you say thank you to them?

Now take another 30 seconds and think of those whom you have pushed.

How did you help them? Was that enough?

Could you have done better?

I am sure we all could have done better pushing others, encouraging others, inspiring others. The problem is, that sometimes, we are afraid to push; and to be pushed, we have to have pachad min hadechifa, a fear of being pushed or  pushing others.

The Torah Reading that we read in Rosh Hashanah, the classical text of the akeida is filled with Pachad, with fear.

I cannot imagine Abraham other than a person filled with fear when he had to “push” his son to sacrifice him. Three days of walking, of pushing himself to do something he didn’t want to do, pushing his son to be slaughtered.

I cannot imagine Isaac other than as a young boy being pushed by his father, without being told where they were going and why does his father have a knife in his hands.

In fact the Torah refers to Gd in the book of Genesis as Elohei Abraham U pachad Itzchak (Genesis 31:42) the Gd of Abraham and the fear of Isaac. This is the first time in the whole Bible the word Pachad, fear, appears.

Abraham and Isaac afraid to push and afraid to be pushed.

We learned about Pachad, fear in the Bible…

So now a little trivia for you: There is only one book in the whole Bible (in fact two, but Chronicles well…) that includes the root D-CH-F, to push?

Any guesses?

The winner gets lunch at my home on Yom Kippur…

The only book that includes the verb to push in the Bible is the Book of Esther.

The messengers were sent out, rushed, pushed out to reach everywhere and carry Haman’s message to kill the Jews.

Only in Esther.

I have my own theory. Esther is the only Book of the Bible where there is no mention of the name of Gd. In the Book of Esther Gd has been pushed away.

Gd is not mentioned because Gd has been pushed away.

And my theory goes even further… Not only in the Book of Esther, has Gd been pushed away…

Unfortunately every day we see places, statements, actions where Gd has been pushed away.

Just a couple of days ago I read an article that Abraham Joshua Heschel published in 1953.

Heschel points out how in his time, 70 years ago, already, Jewish groups pushed away Gd.

The famous group BILU, Palestine pioneers, the agricultural group got their name from an acronym. From the book of Isiah BILU stands for Beit Israel Lechu V’nelcha, which means  House of Israel let’s go, but the verse ends Beor Hashem, which means in the light of GD.  And that part, the light of GD was chopped out.

The Jewish National Fund has as its official motto: Vehaharetz lo timacher ltzmitut, The land must not be sold beyond permanently. But they chopped the end of the verse: Ki li kol haaretz, because the land belongs to Hashem.

Two simple example how already in 1953 the name of Gd has been pushed away!!!

Let’s take time to think, think, whom did you push? Who pushed you?

Sometimes we need the guy who pushes us into the pool with alligators.

Look around and see that there are people who already crossed the pool. You can do it too…. you just need that push.


There is a great story that I would like to share with you.

This is about a group of explorers who had a mission in Africa.

They needed to cross deserts and the journeys were going to be very long.

The first days of the trip were exhausting because of the heavy loads they had to carry and push in the roads. So they decided to spend some money and hire some local people to help them.

The native people were used to carry and push these big loads. They had an ancient local system that they learned from their forefathers.

So the first day with the natives pushing the load was fantastic.

In fact the native people with the big loads were faster than the explorers. The native people were ahead by miles.

At some point in the afternoon the explorers saw that the native people were sitting in a circle in the middle of the desert and left the big loads on the side.

When the explorers arrived at the circle, they started to complain. How is it possible??!!! We hired you to transport all the load and you are sitting in a circle? We cannot believe how lazy you are!!! We hired you to work, not to rest and relax!!

The head of the tribe stood up and said: No sir, we are not resting. Let me explain: What happens is that our bodies went very fast, and we are waiting for our souls to catch up.


Dear friends,

Our bodies go very fast during the year.

We have the High holidays ahead of us for our souls to catch up.

We have the High Holidays ahead of us to think what souls we are going to push, and what pools with alligators are we going to cross.

We should not be afraid of pushing or being pushed.

Dear friends I humbly stand here today to give my push:

It is doable.

You can add one more mitzvah in your life.

You can start with Shabbat, with tefillin, with Tzedakah, with a kosher home, with studying Torah, with building a sukkah, with making Jewish choices for you and your kids.

We all can add a new dimension to our lives.

It is doable. I’ve seen many people who crossed these pools with alligators. And the greatest thing is that they survived it. Yes, some scratches here and there, but they survived.

I hope these High Holidays give to your soul the time to reflect.

I hope these words give you the push you were looking for.

Who are you going to push this year?

Don’t have pachad.

Don’t be afraid to push and to be pushed.

Shana Tovah