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September 21, 1990 - Image 31

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-09-21

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

they say, 'I can use that se-
ries of thoughts to change
my direction.' "
Major issues on Rabbi
Nelson's mind include
interfaith relations, black-
Jewish ties, Soviet Jewry
and anti-Semitism.
Once he decides his topic,
Rabbi Nelson writes his
thoughts down, often going
back and finding "I've
made so many changes I
can't read my own
writing." Then he goes
over the sermon with his
wife, "my live-in critic," he
"My sermon has to be
both timely and timeless,
spiritual and inspiring," he
says. "And I owe it to my
constituency not to be bor-
ing. They've given me the
privilege of addressing
them, and I have to be
responsible to that."
His least favorite ser-
mons are those designed to
shock, and those in which
rabbis get on a bandwagon
about their favorite polit-
ical candidates.
"Our purpose is to re-
spond to life," Rabbi
Nelson says. "That's why
people turn to us."

Rabbi Jacobovitz


Abbi Avraham Jacob-
ovitz, director of Ma-
chon L'Torah, the Jewish
Learning Network of Mich-
igan, begins work on his
Rosh Hashanah sermon
only days before the holiday.
"To really appreciate the
holiday, you have to feel it
coming," he says. -
So several days before
Rosh Hashanah, Rabbi
Jacobovitz jots his
thoughts down and leaves
them in note form; he
refuses to speak from a
written text.
"I don't like to feel I'm
acting on stage. I like to
say things from the heart,
straight forward."
Rabbi Jacobovitz says he
strives to present a talk
that will leave listeners
with "something solid. I
want them to get some-

thing practical, an answer
to, 'What does this mean
for my life?' "
He pointed to the influx
of Soviet Jewish immi-
grants to the United
States. "I won't say, 'You
have to do such and such'
(to help them)," he says. "I
talk about the need to be
concerned about Soviet
Jews, the need to welcome
them, to worry about their
physical and spiritual
needs, because this is the
essence of Judaism: love
your friend as you love
"Rosh Hashanah is a
time of evaluation. It is a
time for people to think,
`What have I done to help
Soviet Jews? Have I really
gone out of my way? Did I
lose sleep because my
neighbor didn't have
clothes, or a place at the
seder?' "
Rabbi Jacobovitz says he
prefers to give short talks,
and opts for group study on
Shabbat in place of the
usual sermon. "Maybe
that's why we're so pop-
When preparing his Rosh
Hashanah remarks, Rabbi
Jacobovitz turns to the
Torah portion for the week
and to Talmudic sources.
Among the subjects on
his mind this year are
Soviet Jews, the war with
Iraq and the welfare of the
State of Israel. Rabbi
Jacobovitz, who just
returned from a visit to
Israel, said he saw tremen-
dous needs in the country.
"And if we can't move
there, at least we can be
involved and care."
Rabbi Jacobovitz is con-
fident, as Rosh Hashanah
nears, that the exact
outline of his speech will
come to mind.
"My wife always asks,
`How can you not know ex-
actly what you're going to
"But for the past 10 years
I've been doing my
speeches this way, and I've
never had a problem. Even

when I'm totally un-
prepared, it works out most
of the time."

Rabbi Silberberg


he 48 hours that com-
prise Rosh Hashanah
are much more than a
celebration of the new year,
says Rabbi Meilech Silber-
berg of Bais Chabad of West
"Rosh Hashanah does
not mean 'the new year'; it
means the head of the
year," he says. "And just
as the head directs the rest
of the body, so Rosh
Hashanah will direct the
coming year."
Rabbi Silberberg, who
turns to Chasidic texts and
the Kabbalah (Jewish
mystical writings), to
prepare his sermons for
Rosh Hashanah, believes
that "not only what you
say but how you say it
must be considered. The
most important element is
the state of spirituality in
which you find yourself."
To bring himself to an
appropriate state of spiri-
tuality at Rosh Hashanah,
Rabbi Silberberg engages
in serious meditation,
distancing himself from
the regular world as much
as possible.

Among the topics he is
considering for the upcom-
ing new year is the war
with Iraq.
"Jews must now ask
themselves, 'What am I do-
ing to protect the world?' "
he says. "We need to see
ourselves as soldiers in
God's army. We need to
help others, observe mitz-
vot, study."
The Lubavitcher Rebbe,
Rabbi Menachem Mendel
Schneerson, recently
issued a statement quoting
Jewish texts which say the
Messiah will come follow-
ing a war started by a
nation Lubavitchers
believe is Iraq.
Judaism is replete with
the concept of a Messiah,
"but many don't think
seriously about this," Rabbi
Silberberg says. This is not
some strange, zany idea.
Judaism says we must have
a concrete belief in the
"We have all the signs
coming. All we need now is
for people to genuinely
Similarly, the coming of
the Messiah is "brought up
again and again and
again" in the Rosh
Hashanah prayer book, he
Rabbi Silberberg says he

Rabbi Efry Spectre:
"A successful
sermon is one that
will motivate."

Rabbi David Nelson:
"I try to speak about
key concerns and
issues in the lives of
my congregants and
in my own life."

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