Baggage and Luggage, The Week's End September 22
Sep 21st 2023

Dear Friends, 

The following is a condensed version of my first day Rosh Hashanah sermon that was delivered in the Mezzanine Service. 

When I studied at the Shalom Hartman Institute in the summer, Yehuda Kurtzer, described the difference between baggage and luggage.  He said that our baggage is the items that go under the plane and drag us down. They hold us back from evolving and becoming what we are supposed to be as 21st-century-Jews.   Our luggage is our cherished possessions which gives our Jewishness meaning, and it adorns our lives.  The luggage of Judaism is our ancient tradition which needs to be constantly reinterpreted and reinvented in every era so that it can be relevant to us today, and it can continue to instruct us. 

The baggage is checked below while luggage comes with us. We take the luggage of Judaism with us everywhere we go. They are our essential ideas and concepts. 

·  What do you take? What is essential to you as a Jew? 

·  What is always with you in your metaphoric carry-on bag? 

In the Mishnah, Shimon HaTzadik believed that Torah, the Temple Service and acts of loving kindness were the most essential. Shimon ben Gamliel believed justice, truth and peace were essential.  My list is somewhat similar to those of the rabbis.  Whenever and wherever I travel, I take the High Holy Day musaf themes of Malhuyot, Zihronot & Shofarot with me. 

Whether I am on a plane, train or automobile, they are always in my carry-on luggage. My understanding of all three has evolved over the past nearly 50 years, yet they remain essential.

As all translations are interpretations: 

I am translating  Malhuyot as God’s centrality

Zihronot as memory 

and Shofarot as the imperative to not remain silent. 

Malhuyot or God is my passport and Zihronot, memory is my phone, and Shofarot is my keychain, jingling in my bag when I search for my keys. 

Just like my passport, phone and keys are always with me, so too are malhuyot, zihronot and shofarot. My connection to them and understanding of them have certainly changed over the years, but the strength of Judaism has always been its ability to at once preserve and renew our most ancient prayers and concepts. 

I shared with you what I always pack with me in my Jewish carry-on luggage. 

All three instruct me and structure my sense of who I am and what I am and how I act. 

I don’t know who I would be without God, without memory and without my deep commitment to making noise in the face of adversity or inequity.

What is so essential to you, that you always carry it in your carry-on bag? 

To listen to the entire sermon, click here>>

Shabbat shalom and G’mar Hatima Tova,

Rabbi Robyn Fryer Bodzin