This sermon was delivered on Erev Rosh Hashanah, October 2, 2016, at Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood, CA. To get the full effect, including music and visuals during the sermon, please check out the video.

Shanah tovah.

You know those moments when someone comes into your life and gives you a message, right at the moment you needed it? I had one of those moments at a concert. 

The opening act was this group, “Switchfoot.” And during one of the songs, the lead singer jumped down off the stage, and started singing the refrain of the song while he high-fived everyone in the crowd. I was so mesmerized, so caught up by the showmanship, all I heard in the moment was the melody, almost like a niggun:

Lai lai lai lai…

When I went home, I found the song online. This time, without the distractions of the concert venue, I really listened to the lyrics.

Yesterday is a wrinkle on your forehead
Yesterday is a promise that you've broken
Don't close your eyes, don't close your eyes
This is your life and today is all you've got now
Yeah, and today is all you'll ever have
Don't close your eyes
Don't close your eyes

This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be?
When the world was younger and you had everything to lose

What a powerful message. I kept thinking about that question: This is my life - am I who I want to be? Then I realized the date. The concert had been on S’lichot, the service held on the Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah which marks the beginning of the period of reflection leading into the High Holidays. I felt like our ancestor Jacob, waking from his sleep and stating aloud God was in this place, and I did not know it. At any other time of year, this would have been a nice reminder to myself to reflect. But something pulled me to really hear this message, a message which would prepare me for the High Holidays.

If Rosh Hashanah has one theme, it is that we reflect — on our lives, on our actions, on our relationships — and we begin to engage in teshuvah: acts of repentance, atonement, and healing. Whether we are reading a prayer, singing together, or hearing the voice of the shofar, we are asked this question: This is your life — are you who you want to be?

This band intervened in my life at a moment that made me discover a new and deeper connection to my soul. I realized that the members of Switchfoot were angels to me. As we begin these High Holidays, I encourage you to reflect on the angels in your life, those who have made a substantial impact on who you are, even if they were only in your life a short time. And as we enter the year 5777, I ask you: be the angel you wish to see in the world.

We do not really talk about angels much in Judaism. My guess is that when I say the word, “angel” you think of white-skinned, blonde, white-robbed people with a little halo above their head, who sit on fluffy white clouds while they spread whipped cream cheese on their bagels. Or perhaps in this City of Angels you have seen the sculptures from the Community of Angels Sculpture project. Or perhaps, you think of Tony Kushner’s, Angels in America.

In Judaism, an angel is a type of being that is somewhere between human and divine. Angels are messengers of God who intervene in human activities, guiding them towards the best course of action. The word most commonly used to refer to angels in Biblical and rabbinic texts is “Mal’ach,” which means “messenger.” (EJ, 150) But angels are not just superhuman agents. Sometimes they are human agents called “b’nei Elohim, divine beings.” or “kedoshim, holy beings;” or “often the angel is called simply, ‘a person.’” (EJ, 150) Angels are not specific to gender. Some angels are male, as in the three men who came to Abraham to announce he and Sarah would have a child, and some are female, as in the book of Zechariah when the prophet looks up and sees two women “soaring with the wind in their wings.” (Gen. 18:2; Zech. 5:9)

While the Reform and Conservative Movements have taken out most references to angels in our liturgy, we still acknowledge them when we bow slightly to the left and right during the Kedushah and when we welcome the ministering angels of Shabbat with Shalom Aleichem.

Angels also play a substantial role in our High Holiday rituals. Our Torahs and our spiritual leaders are clad in white like the angels described in the Book of Daniel (12:7), “Then I heard the man, the angel, dressed in linen.” We act like angels, most notably when we say the second line of the Sh’ma — “Baruch shem k’vod malchuto l’olam va’ed - Blessed is God’s glorious majesty forever and ever” — three times in a full voice at the end of Yom Kippur. On the second morning of Rosh Hashanah, Cantor Nancy Cohen will chant the Akedah, and we will hear an angel intervene as Abraham is about to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. And on the High Holidays, we reflect on our humanity and ask ourselves: “What angels have I brought into the world?” (inspired by Rabbi Richard Levy) 

In Judaism, Angels are an expression of God’s presence in the world. And if we, as humans, are created in God’s image, b’tzelem Elohim, than surely we, too, are expressions of God’s presence in the world. And surely we, too, as a community, are embodying the image in Psalms, standing together as an “assembly of holy beings,” and dwelling in “the company of the divine beings.” (Ps. 29:7) And, surely, each one of us has the capability of becoming equal to angels, resembling them, doing holy work, and being the angels we wish to see in the world.

The angels in our lives may not have been immediately recognized at the time. At that concert, Switchfoot delivered a message to me, but I was not yet able to recognize them as angels. When you consider the angels in your life, did you know they were an angel at the time? Maybe your angel was someone encouraging you to reach your full potential. Maybe your angel was someone who did an unexpectedly kind thing. Maybe your angel was someone who reached out a comforting hand at a time when you weren’t ready to admit you needed some help.

Of course, sometimes we do not act so angelically. We gossip, we act cynically, we hold grudges — because, in short, we are human. Indeed, what makes us human is the recognition that we sometimes miss the mark. While we strive to be the best version of ourselves, to act with kindness and compassion, when we fail ourselves and our friends and family, we can acknowledge our humanity, reflect, and bring about new, better action.

Rosh Hashanah and the High Holiday season encourage us to consider angelic values, to reflect on the year that was, and imagine what the next year could be. On Rosh Hashanah, we have the chance to reevaluate ourselves and our relationships. From whom do I need to ask forgiveness? Have I been who I want to be? Have I been the angel I wish to see in the world? This is your life. This is your year. Maybe this year you will be an angel of compassion. Maybe this year you will be an angel of forgiveness. Maybe this year you will be an angel of peace.

In the four years I have had the honor of being a part of this Kol Ami community, I have come to know the many angels in this sacred space. All of us here, as individuals, come together to make a community of angels. I have heard your voice of strength. I have noticed so many of you rally to each other’s sides. I have seen each of you embody the values of angels, bringing goodness into the world through SOVA and trips to Guatamala, showing up for each other’s performances and showcases, making house calls when members are sick, dancing and laughing at our Purim shpiels and Chanukkah festivals, and celebrating when marriage equality became a reality.

And I have seen the angels of compassion in this community, the angels who recognize that we all have moments of hurt, of struggle, of grief. In those moments of grief, we often feel resigned, withdrawn, helpless, in unimaginable pain. Each of us has moments, even in the last year, where the last thing we want to do is to be an angel. Instead, we just wish an angel would come and take away the pain — whether it was Orlando, a paralyzing diagnosis, or just trying to find our way in a constantly changing world.

Rather than waiting for an angel to come take care of us, we can be the angels we wish to see in the world. You can be an angel of compassion. You can support your loved ones by being a healing presence, really hearing them, helping them navigate their journey. The relationships of this community enable each of you to be an angel of compassion. While it is also true that the world has changed for the better because of the efforts of this community, I am guessing that each one of you has also changed for the better because of the angels of compassion who sit around you.

Think of all of the angels of this engaged community, interwoven with each other. We are transforming the world using Jewish values. We have created and are creating Jews for life. These are the pillars of our congregation.

As we enter the year 5777, I encourage you to reflect on the angel you wish to see in the world. Do you wish to see an angel of compassion in the world? Do you wish to see an angel of community? Do you wish to see an angel of social justice? Or how might you be an angel of compassion, community, social justice? What teshuvah does each of us need to do to turn ourselves around? 

Each of us has the ability to make the world a little better. Maybe a lot better. And this is a community of angels that does not wait for someone else to make it better for us. And we will continue to build community one step, one moment, at a time, by being the angels we wish to see in the world.

This year, when you hear the words of Shalom Aleichem, our song about the ministering angels of Shabbat, I encourage you to hear those words and know that they apply to you, because when we sing them, we are not just addressing our spiritual angels, we are singing to each other: “Peace be to you, O ministering angels, messengers of the Most High; Enter in peace; Bless me with peace; Depart in peace.” (Mishkan T’filah translation) Enter the year in peace and gladness. Bless each other with kindness. And go forth, creating a more just world. May you have a year of peace, may you enter this year in peace, may you be blessed and bless others with peace. And in this year, and always, depart this holy space in peace, to be a force of goodness, an angel of compassion, an angel of community, an angel of peace, a messenger on high. 

Shalom aleichem malachei hashareit, malachei Elyon. 
Mimelech mal'chei ham'lachim, hakadosh baruch hu. 

There must have been a moment
When you met somebody new
And you've never been the same since you met
And in the shadow of that meeting
A new awareness grew
That you've been given something holy
That you never thought you'd get
Our parents, our teachers, our lovers and our kids
The friends upon whose shoulders we cry
Every soul we chance upon
And every floor we dance upon
All can be a messenger on high. 

Shalom aleichem malachei hashareit, malachei Elyon. 
Mimelech mal'chei ham'lachim, hakadosh baruch hu. 
Shalom aleichem malachei hashareit, malachei Elyon. 
Mimelech mal'chei ham'lachim, hakadosh baruch hu. 

Music out.

Shanah tovah.


10/17/2016 7:10am

"Be the Angel you wish to see in the world" is a really good title. I believe that as humans, we should respect and be kind to one another. Upon reading your article, I can say that I loved the piece. It was written in a careful and beautiful manner. I think that the one who constructed this is a person who carries a genuine heart.

11/26/2016 12:02am

Blackcore Edge Max Calf increases will assist slender them down and get you feeling awesome confident once more. The one Blackcore Edge Max legged calf increase is an smooth firming circulate.

01/30/2017 8:03pm

Testomenix the body and any nutrients that the frame makes use of. even as this may be useful for imparting elevated strength and nutrition to muscle mass it also will amplify the Testomenix affect of whatever lying round. in other phrases if there may be excess water inside.

01/31/2017 6:19am

Because of this in case you carry weights on consecutive days, there isn't enough time for the physique to get better. Try to have in the future rest between each and every weight lifting day.

01/31/2017 8:00pm

Stack Xtreme the muscle groups will swell up and leave your body feeling larger tighter stronger and more effective. even as a pump does feel wonderful it has very little if Stack Xtreme something to do with properly stimulating your muscular tissues to grow. a pump is absolutely.


If you want to see the change you should be this change. You are right!

04/20/2017 8:58pm

Chantel ST Claire in addition to the above-noted 5 herbal recipes for pores and skin care you must also try to discover awesome high-quality skin care structures Chantel ST Claire to be had on the market. these structures are intended for the prevention of many pores and skin problems.

04/21/2017 8:45pm

Alpha Male EX this debate has been occurring for a while now. there are testosterone dietary supplements which are secure but they're commonly fabricated from Alpha Male EX all natural components and do not incorporate anabolism steroids.

04/24/2017 9:45pm

Zytek XL a lack of zinc is thought to be associated with a lack of sperm within the semen. preserving your zinc degrees up allows to increase semen extent Zytek XL maintain ok testosterone tiers which allows hold sperm healthful.

04/25/2017 8:51pm

Primalx performance tension is a commonplace trouble for lots humans. it includes the individual laid low with the trouble having overwhelming concerns over Primalx their $exual performance which can have an effect on.

04/26/2017 8:56pm

Primal X fats can also lead to coronary heart disorder and frequently are associated with being obese. being overweight also contributes to angina chest pain due to Primal X decreased oxygen to the heart and surprising loss of life.

04/27/2017 9:01pm

Advanced Lash that occur in nature and those materials have been produced with as little adulteration as viable so that what I'm ending up with is a soap that is as Advanced Lash herbal as natural can becomes a chief ordeal at instances.

04/28/2017 8:53pm

Chantel St Claire keep away from the use of competitive microaggression remedies and maintain mobile turnover normal with superficial light peels. Chantel St Claire domestic care topical with epidermal increase factors and peptides.

05/01/2017 8:56pm

Phallyx than and after taking area a path of these dietary supplements. that manner you can diploma the development and regulate the dosages consistent Phallyx with your body a issue be aware.

05/02/2017 8:49pm

Testo Black XT that is often wished with the aid of bodybuilders and athletes. those dietary supplements help in making weight schooling classes greater useful to muscle building.Testo Black XT Australoid is certainly a aggregate of different clearly happening alkaloids.

05/03/2017 8:54pm

Zoroc Male Enhancement that is too luxurious! reasonably-priced viagra does not mean that it frequent or inferior. it definitely way which you are shopping for from Zoroc Male Enhancement a supply that is in a position to shop for in bulk.

05/04/2017 8:57pm

Enchanted Garcinia people who are obese and no longer overweight can keep in mind doing exercises themselves to reduce the fat and to lessen a few weight.Enchanted Garcinia a weight-reduction plan should be a part of everyday life-style choice.

05/05/2017 8:55pm

Phallyx lavender and cedar wood.blow drying and the usage of chemical shampoos daily are to be avoided. your hair and scalp stand to get damaged in case Phallyx you use harsh chemical processes like coloring as well as straightening.

05/08/2017 9:00pm

Apex Rush Testo structure health and health vitamins and fitness behavior. graduates can find jobs in private training and exercising as physiotherapy Apex Rush Testo assistants and in cardiac and exercising rehabilitation. if you are interested in anesthesiology find a nearby practitioner or faculty near you.

05/09/2017 9:03pm

NUAVIVE DERMA the average character seeking out anti-getting old pores and skin care products has probably in no way heard the time period processed pores and NUAVIVE DERMA skin cell proteins. though not a mystery.

05/10/2017 8:56pm

Embova RX makes the penile muscle tissues settlement and produce such Embova RX electrifying sensations.the effect of extent drugs depend upon plenty of factors. Embova RX for one their consequences depend on the Embova RX body situations of the character taking them. Embova RX semen extent and nice.

05/12/2017 12:04am

Zoroc Male Enhancement they enhance the blood drift and that they improve the male reproductive organ.Zoroc Male Enhancement you should keep in thoughts always that Zoroc Male Enhancement on the way to efficaciously conquer the awful Zoroc Male Enhancement effects of over masturbation with confirmed herbal remedies you want to stop this habit right away. Zoroc Male Enhancement otherwise you will continue harming your frame.

05/12/2017 8:54pm

Clemix Male Enhancement paperwork maximum a part of the semen. it prevents the sperm from Clemix Male Enhancement acidity as well as preserves its motile nature. Clemix Male Enhancement enlarged tumor gland ought to be removed through protectorate to extend Clemix Male Enhancement their lifestyles or keep from loss of life. Clemix Male Enhancement the affected person will experience infertility as soon as the prostate gland.

05/14/2017 9:48pm

Advanced Lash this funding will closing a long time as you will be capable of sharpen Advanced Lash your tweezers. browse thru tweezers logo tweezers Advanced Lash they arrive in an expansion of colors pick a vivid color as Advanced Lash a way to be smooth to look. a slant tip tweeter may be higher Advanced Lash for a amateur pointy tweezers.

05/15/2017 8:51pm

Nuvega Lash your pores and skin receives even the anti growing older help Nuvega Lash together with lighter pores and skin tone.additionally it is a truth Nuvega Lash that each two weeks or so one ought to supply the pores and Nuvega Lash skin some greater cleaning which will eliminate the bad and Nuvega Lash harmful pollutants.

05/16/2017 8:56pm

Endurance Test X which ensures the muscular tissues to your entire body develop.Endurance Test X any other factor you need to hold in mind about these exercises Endurance Test X to gain muscles and physical activities in popular is the truth Endurance Test X that everybody is different. what labored in Endurance Test X your pal doesn't.

05/17/2017 9:21pm

Bio Rocket Blast way of introducing new information to humans. maximum Bio Rocket Blast schooling workshops goal to be collaborative and interactive and Bio Rocket Blast power com can help workshop leaders obtain this aim. Bio Rocket Blast however study room performance Bio Rocket Blast machine also can be utilized to make alternatives test.

05/18/2017 9:03pm

NO2 Core your body with sufficient protein or during the time which you are sound asleep. NO2 Core this method is absolutely evidently and is to be expected. but in case you NO2 Core are education and eating well then your body NO2 Core is likewise synthesizing new muscles at some NO2 Core stage in the day.

05/19/2017 8:50pm

Alasche in the sunlight hours or earlier than mattress at night time. a number of Alasche the antioxidants will continue to be at the skin even after washing. Alasche this presents a extra lasting effect for controlling wrinkles. Alasche a number of the antioxidants utilized in skin care products.

05/21/2017 8:53pm

Epic Male Enhancement Elsie is a skilled ballroom dancer whose moves are Epic Male Enhancement just like remaining season lacey swimmer. given that she Epic Male Enhancement might supply a consistent performance every week Elsie would Epic Male Enhancement positive pass a ways similar to lacey who Epic Male Enhancement made it to very last four.

05/22/2017 8:49pm

Bio Rocket Blast if men suffer erectile dysfunction for has the capacity Bio Rocket Blast to assist guys sustain an erection via harden the $exual organ and make Bio Rocket Blast their $exual intercourse more fun for both partners and the high-quality Bio Rocket Blast thing that made this tablet aphrodisiac.

05/23/2017 9:06pm

Bio Rocket Blast that facilitates guys construct muscle quicker and larger.Bio Rocket Blast so even when you have now not step right into a gymnasium all Bio Rocket Blast your lifestyles your frame still produces testosterone in small quantities Bio Rocket Blast due to your sedentary lifestyle. Bio Rocket Blast while you finally made the choice.

05/24/2017 9:10pm

Bio Rocket Blast variable is a circumstance that may be dealt with thru surgery. Bio Rocket Blast with this surgical procedure about a third of the couples who complained Bio Rocket Blast of not being capable of conceive generally conceive inside Bio Rocket Blast the first 12 months of this surgical treatment.Bio Rocket Blast mumps is a early life ailment.

05/25/2017 9:10pm

Right Pick Muscle in which ladies s our bodies are ruled by means of estrogen Right Pick Muscle men s are ruled through testosterone. andropause happens Right Pick Muscle while the tiers of testosterone produced via a man s frame start to lower. Right Pick Muscle in its manner this wreaks just Right Pick Muscle as an awful lot havoc.

05/26/2017 9:22pm

Power Boost XI with meal replacement shakes muscle building supplement Power Boost XI shakes you may eat three actual food in keeping with day like the Power Boost XI majority do and eat the muscle constructing complement shakes Power Boost XI three times an afternoon.that is very convenient Power Boost XI specifically for people.

05/28/2017 6:49pm

Bio Rocket Blast baldness or mainly the conversion of testosterone to dht is Bio Rocket Blast considerably reduced when these are combined. Bio Rocket Blast the aggregate of saw palmetto and beta-ergosterol is also Bio Rocket Blast used to deal with guys with benign pro static hyperglycemia. Bio Rocket Blast research have also proven.

05/29/2017 7:15pm

Enduro Force don t take someone else s idea and try to spin it round your very own. Enduro Force as a substitute take a seat down with a gaggle of innovative thinkers Enduro Force and try and give you brilliant thoughts for your video.Enduro Force if you are the usage of the perfect Enduro Force video advertising system.

05/30/2017 7:12pm

Bio Rocket Blast you may need an all-natural herbal supplement like magix Bio Rocket Blast herbal enhancer for you increase your libido preference.upon Bio Rocket Blast attention of the possible motives create a decision plan if you Bio Rocket Blast want to growth or max libido degree. Bio Rocket Blast you could want to listing down your alternatives.

05/31/2017 7:59pm

Elevate IGF you need to also live consistent with this exercising because Elevate IGF muscle groups will degrade relatively hastily in case you do not preserve Elevate IGF pushing them.approximately ten years ago the complement industry Elevate IGF delivered a brand new spin on antique.

06/01/2017 7:25pm

Elevate IGF additionally a professional trainer can give you options as they do Elevate IGF that for a dwelling.any other option is you may speak with Elevate IGF bodybuilders and they might come up with hints. although this can Elevate IGF now not be the satisfactory manner due to the fact.

06/02/2017 7:10pm

Elevate IGF have a medium absorption price and can be taken at any time and Elevate IGF while the soy based totally proteins are not as powerful in Elevate IGF bodybuilding they may be taken into consideration to have extra health Elevate IGF benefits for women. a few businesses Elevate IGF that manufacture.


Leave a Reply