5773/2013 Post-Confirmation Class Sermons
Temple B’nai Shalom Post-Confirmation Sermons May 17, 2013
Sermon #1 by Harris Fitzgerel
Post-Con has been quite the experience, to say the least. This may be the class from which I have benefited the most. Why, it may be asked? Unlike most other classes within religious school or Sunday school, Post-Con has demonstrated various ways in which I can apply my Judaism to contemporary situations. Yes, it is true that the knowledge of Judaism as a whole and its religious background is a vital component to forming one’s Jewish identity, but there is no point in learning about the past without an understanding of how it may be applied to the present and future. Post-Con has, without a doubt, given me the ability to do just that! I have a better understanding of my Judaism and subsequent beliefs, due not only to the class further delving into the religion, but discussing ways in which other religions view Judaism.
As a class, we have talked about why most Reform Jews support certain political ideologies and specific beliefs, but most importantly, we have witnessed how Post-Con can initiate and perpetuate intellectual discussion. One thing that I can surely take away from this class is the ability to discuss intellectual topics with others of differing beliefs. This is such an important skill to possess because it is what allows any one individual to assert and support his or her beliefs.
Post-Con has also made me more comfortable in my beliefs. This class is one in which ideas are not forced into a person’s mind, let alone handed to him. Instead, it is an environment that encourages the growth of one’s own values. This may be done through actively debating with peers during a class, or actively listening to an ensuing debate. On more than one occasion, even Rabbi Perlin’s viewpoints have been challenged by students who encompass differing ideas. What can better demonstrate a warm and encouraging environment than a scene in which the student asks the teacher why she believes what she does? For this reason, as well as a plethora of others, Post-Con has been an invaluable experience. It has furthered my knowledge of contemporary Judaism. It has furthered my knowledge in my own beliefs. It has furthered my knowledge in others’ beliefs. But most importantly, it has given me the ability to apply my Judaism in unforeseeable ways, as new situations await my arrival.
Sermon #2 by Noah Fitzgerel
A Compass for Post-Confirmands
The compass is a curious instrument. Some historians believe that when the Chinese invented the compass several millennia ago, they had not intended it to serve as an apparatus for navigation. Instead, in its earliest form, it had been used in fortune telling. Ancient Chinese soothsayers would interpret the behavior of lodestones (the magnetic material used at the time), and dispense advice and predictions to those who sought them accordingly. Only later would the Chinese develop them into what would become the prototype for today’s modern compass.
I thought that this brief lesson from Chinese history might be an apt metaphor to apply to what is occurring today. And, I should qualify, it is not as cliché as you might think.
There is a powerfully ironic juxtaposition between these two uses of the compass. The fact that the same instrument was used as a means to both delve into the uncertain and delineate certainty is a telling one. I think it would be accurate to argue, then, that there is a duality within this symbol (of course, assuming that a fortune teller never used a lodestone to dictate directions to an ancient Chinese ship’s captain.). Plainly, the irony lies in the lesson that both uses were concerned with truth.
This duality is a simple, yet puzzling one. How is it possible that one instrument could be used for two completely different purposes? It seems to me that one cannot find a more polarizing a disparity than that which should exist between ancient forms of magic and geography.
Well, the answer is as simple as the question. This duality exists solely because those who subscribed to each of these uses required the same means. The navigator and the fortune-teller both required the compass. Its use, unlike many inventions of both past and present, was two-fold.
Well, here tonight, we see the effects of another instrument that possesses two very different, yet markedly similar purposes. We see a Jewish education.
Temple B’nai Shalom’s take on the stalwart tradition of religious education seems to be a unique one. Having talked with friends of all different religious backgrounds, it is evident that none has had a similar experience. For them, religious education is meaningless. They are given a compass without an ability to apply it.
I have taken away from this program that a moral compass is only meaningful if it dynamic and, therein, multidimensional. What use would it be to us, if we were told the Jewish position on an issue without contextual background? If we were taught this way, we would be able to detail the Jewish position solely in Jewish environments and the popular social position elsewhere without a means to connect the two. Post-Confirmation taught this way would be just as meaningful to us as a fortune teller would be to a navigator. Without a medium, common bond, or, in the case of the Chinese metaphor, a common purpose or material, Post-Confirmation would be a course taught in vain.
So, we have the apparatus. It is readily apparent in front of me. However, what makes this instrument so potent? For the Chinese fortune tellers, it was magnetism. For us, it stands behind me. It is in the ark and manifest in the lessons that our parents, teachers, and other individuals impart to us. From our B’nai Mitzvah to here tonight, the themes of the Torah have made us better people.
The reason that our compasses are multidimensional is because the Torah is multidimensional. For literalists and agnostics alike, the Torah provides a kaleidoscopic variety of wisdom. The Torah is our magnetism.
Magnetism engenders two forces–a push and a pull. I have spoken about the former force. Our compasses will propel us throughout our lives, because they are imbued with the assurance of confidence. The latter force, however, is more difficult to embody. Our Judaism will remind us when to step forward and when to step back. From college to our careers, we may find ourselves in ethical dilemmas. Our guide through these quandaries will be our compass: our Judaism. Unlike the fortune teller, we will not be able to foresee our own futures. We will only have our guide to get us there: our truth.
As we exit the sanctuary tonight, each one of us will leave with our own compass. The beauty of this is that it will not matter whether we depart as fortune-tellers or navigators. Our compass will be just as useful either way.
Sermon #3 by Joshua Berkowitz
This is about to get really nerdy, really fast, so I apologize in advance. But if I had to describe my time at TBS, it would sound a lot like the Star Wars movie saga. Some of you might be very lost by what I’m about to say, and I do apologize in advance.
I am the chosen one. “There is much potential in this young one,” I hear Rabbi Perlin and Rabbi Mellen say during my Consecration. Nobody knew what the future really held for me in terms of my Jewish upbringing. All we knew was that it would change the world forever. Just as young Anakin Skywalker was the next chosen leader of the Jedi, I have led the Jewish youth of TBS ever since I can remember. From FeaSTY to Jr. BeaSTY, to being a madrich, to being BeaSTY President, to NFTY, I’ve been in the thick of it all. But no matter where I was, I always had my C3PO and R2-D2 by my side. Some of my best friends in the whole world are from TBS. I am so thankful for everything my friends have done for me to make my TBS experience one that will stay with me forever.
As I grew older, I needed some training from the masters. Anakin Skywalker had the great Obi-Wan Kenobi as his mentor, just as I had Josh Fixler. Our shared passions for BeaSTY, Jewish culture, music, television, and comedy made us the perfect match. And I will continue the legacy by attending the University of Maryland, just as Josh Fixler did. There are no words to be said for how much I’ve learned from him and how much he has influenced my life so far.
Although Josh Fixler was mighty wise, he too had a master, one who was considered the greatest and wisest of all. She goes by Rabbi Perlin, or for our purposes, we can call her Yoda. Although small, Yoda is the most powerful Jedi alive, thanks to his strong connection to the force and his passion for being a Jedi and sculpting young minds. Rabbi Perlin is the same way. Through Bar Mitzvah classes, Confirmation, and Post-Confirmation, the knowledge she has vested in me is invaluable. Not only did she teach me how to be a good Jew, but how to be a good son, brother, friend, boyfriend (thanks to a few particular Confirmation classes), and human being in general. I remember when I was really little, and she would say to me, “One day, you’ll be the one looking down on me.” While that may have happened a while ago, I still look up to her in so many ways.
I’ve had my training, I’ve fought my battles, and now it’s time for me to go out into the world and use my powers for good. This is where Anakin Skywalker and I are different; I don’t join the Dark Side and later confess to my son that I am his unknown father who he thought was dead. I will use what I have learned not only to benefit me as I go onto the next chapter of my life, but also to benefit my family and my friends, whether old or new. I’ll even benefit those whom I have never met, halfway across the globe, who need the help they deserve. Because that is what being a Jew is. It’s not just saying the Avot or reading the Torah. It’s finding what you can do to make the world a better place for not just yourself, but for your community, your country, and your world.
So to get back to the original prompt, what am I packing in my suitcase from TBS as I go off to college? I’m bringing The Force with me. The Force is a sense of being; it’s something you feel surrounding you always. It’s the thing that guides you in times of trouble. I know that college and life beyond will always throw me curveballs that I’m going to have to deal with myself. But the Jewish values I have had instilled in me by this place and everyone in it are there to guide me, to help me differentiate between right and wrong, good and bad, fair and unfair. Thanks to all of the fabulous teaching, as well as the opportunities I have been able to take advantage of, here at TBS, I know that The Force will always be with me. And to all the younger ones, may The Force be with you.
Sermon #4 by Molly Sall
Rabbi Perlin did not teach me
How to change a tire.
I don’t know how to write a check
Or how to work with wires.
I’m still fuzzy on some details
What’s an IRA?
What do the Irish have to do
With retirement, anyways?
I’m not sure how to read a map,
Or file a tax return.
I don’t know how to use a wrench,
Or how to treat a burn.
Rabbi Nyer never showed me
How to remove a red stain
And Rabbi Cameron won’t tell me
How to unclog a drain.
So it comes to no surprise
That I may appear
So very unprepared
For my life’s next frontier
But my time at synagogue
And my Rabbis too,
Have taught me something
It’s called ‘Being a Jew’.
They’ve taught me to be loving
They’ve taught me to be kind
They’ve taught me to always share
Even with things that are mine.
I’ve learned to protect the earth
And to always do my part
To give to those with less than me
Tzedakah from my heart
I’ve learned to treat people kindly
Wherever I may go
And to always remember my family
No matter how the winds may blow
I still struggle with left and right
I don’t know how to apply for a loan
But I know the basics from my time here
At my Jewish home.
Kindness, love and empathy
At B’nai Shalom I’ve seen
In my Jewish suitcase
I will take these things with me.