It is interested to note that while Judaism places great value upon the role of rabbis, most of the rituals we conduct can be performed without a rabbi.
I've provided the materials for many congregants to lead their own family unveilings, or other rituals. It is my way of stressing that Judaism need not be that complicated or exclusive.
Like most rabbis, I love my work. In fact, I treasure it.
To be a teacher of Judaism's ancient texts, and to act as a counselor and facilitator is one of the most rewarding vocations any human begin can enjoy.
It gives my own life meaning as I awake and eagerly begin work each day.
But in truth, the role of rabbi in your life is not paramount to the practice of Judaism.
Within Judaism, rabbis are held in great esteem. It is our sacred responsibility to embrace people - all people. For each human being carries a spark of God.
Therefore, rabbis need to live in the moment - to listen with our hearts, to embrace that spark within every person, and to help facilitate the future of this storied and sacred religion.
But we do not do it alone.
In a recent PBS documentary on Jews in America, it was noted, that "when our parents and grandparents came to America, they joined a synagogue, because they were Jewish. Now when they join, they do so to be Jewish."
What a significant observation.
It tells us that somehow, within our obsession to build a strong financial and material future for our families, the responsibility of passing on Jewish traditions has shifted from parents and the home, to clergy and the synagogue.
It is interesting to note that this week's Torah reading, Nitzavim-Vayelech, offers some words about personal responsibility in "bringing Judaism home."
The Torah notes that Judaism is not based on some distant and remote theological concept. And you need not be a great swimmer or a mountain climber to reach it.
This week, with the end of his life approaching, Moses teaches that Judaism is a simple religion.
Moses explains to the Jewish people that, "the instruction which I enjoin you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. It is not in the heavens that you should say, "Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us.....
"Neither is it beyond the sea that you should say, who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and impart it to us.....No, the thing is very close to you in your mouth and in your heart to observe it." (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)
Perhaps there are no truer words in the entire Torah.
We work so hard. Raising children and grandchildren, especially in this competitive world is so challenging. Indeed, it is good to have a rabbi, a cantor, teacher or mentor to help guide and ground our lives, bringing forward texts, commentaries and wisdom from those who have pondered these matters for generations. It is also good to have a warm and caring ear to discuss life's problems and dilemmas.
But in the end, the Torah tells us that Judaism is not that mysterious. It is "very close to you."
We know we need to spend more time with our families. We know we work too hard. We acknowledge that we are often impatient, or carry grudges. We procrastinate.
But in the end, each of us knows what is right.
The Torah tells us this week Lo Ba'Shamayim He. The Torah is not found in the heavens. It is found in our homes, within our personal interactions, and in the way we treat others.
So once a year, for ten days, we pause and ponder our existence. What are we doing?
Indeed, the rabbi plays an important part in this process. We try to focus individuals to acknowledge and embrace the spiritual components of our lives.
But rabbis and the synagogue are not where Judaism begins and ends.
This week completes the Jewish month of Elul, a time reflect on areas of our lives which need to be improved. It is the beginning of a process which shifts into high gear next Wednesday night with the beginning of Rosh Hashanah.
It will be the Cantor's and my privilege to help facilitate this process - to awaken some feelings and realities which we are sometimes so good at ignoring. But in the end, the courage to live a better, more satisfying life rests with each of us.
Are we ready, as the cycle of Jewish life returns to Rosh Hashanah, to review our existence?
Synagogues and rabbis can set the process in motion, but our tradition tells us that this is not can not be accomplished through a few hours in synagogue, or at a dinner table dipping apples into honey.
The Talmud reminds us this that in spite of its complexities and all of the rules, rituals, practices, and difficult language Judaism at is core is about kindness, compassion and the quality of our relationships.
In truth, you do not need a rabbinical degree to embrace the good within us. Even though Judaism is a communal religion, its central message is that every person and their personal journey counts.
Our tradition teaches that our life journey is based on an upward climb. So let us ask ourselves at the dawn of Rosh Hashanah, are we climbing or are we remaining stagnant?
Although the rabbis and our tradition can help provide important insights, the Torah reaches this week that "the thing is very close to you...."
And in spite of our attempts to make religion a complicated process, the truth is, "it's really not that baffling at all."
Shabbat shalom, v'kol tuv (with all goodness)
Rabbi Irwin Huberman