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Rabbi Schwartz's Sermon for Kol Nidre 5780

October 17, 2019 2:51 PM | Lance Strate (Administrator)

YOU WILL BE FOUND

Kol Nidre, 5780

Rabbi Barry L. Schwartz


Have you ever felt like nobody was there?
Have you ever felt forgotten in the middle of nowhere?
Have you ever felt like you could disappear?
Like you could fall, and no one would hear?

So sings a lonely young man named Evan in the Broadway hit, Dear Evan Hansen. His quivering voice is all too familiar; his pain all too palpable.

His is the voice of a teen, a new generation. He echoes a famous melody of my generation, when the Beatles sang:

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

How can this be? In our hyper-connected world, how can so many be so lonely?

Two billion people on this planet use Facebook monthly; 1.3 billion use it daily. 79% of Americans are on Facebook. The average number of friends now: 338.

Yet to the question: How many of your Facebook friends could you trust to help you in a crisis, the most recently study found: four. That is actually an increase from previous studies that indicated one or two.

Robert Putnam, author of the famous book on the decline of civic and social engagement, Bowling Alone, once said, “People watch Friends on TV; they don’t have them.”

Social scientists are today speaking of The Loneliness Epidemic in our country.  Just google those words and you will be overwhelmed by the number of articles on the subject.

The US Dept. of Health has an entire section of its website entitled with that term. On it we learn:

Over a quarter of the U.S. population now live by themselves.

28 percent of older adults live alone, including 1 in 6 boomers.

One in every 11 Americans age 50 or above have no spouse, partner, or child.

Two in five Americans report that they sometimes or always feel their social relationships are not meaningful.

One in five say they feel lonely or socially isolated.

Loneliness and social isolation can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Finally, in a Cigna study, it was the young who felt the loneliest; Generation Z members, ages 18 to 22, and Millennials, ages 23 to 37, sadly scored the highest of any age group.


Another term besides The Loneliness Epidemic has been recently coined, The Happiness Recession. As reported in the Atlantic in April, only 25% of those young people rated their lives “very happy”—the lowest recorded. This summer, as I was preparing these remarks, I was so saddened to learn that suicide among teens and young adults is at a record high. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that over the last 20 years the rate has increased 12.5% for young adults and 47% for teens.

Why are these young people with their whole lives ahead of them giving up hope?

Why aren’t more of them happy or very happy? Why are so many lonely or isolated?

The Atlantic study attempted to look at the why? It came up with four broad social factors, while also acknowledging some specific current causes like the opioid crisis and cyber-bullying.

First, marriage, and specifically: the sharply declining rates of it among young adults.

Married couples are 75% more likely to report that they are happy. In 1972, 59% of young adults 18-34 were married. Today its 28%.

Married couples are much more likely to engage in weekly sexual relations, factor number two, and to join a religious or social community organization, factor number three.

The study found that the last factor, time spent with friends, stayed even over the past three decades, but could not compensate for the marked decline in the other three.

It turns out that those two “old-fashioned” institutions, marriage and church/synagogue affiliation make a big if under-appreciated contribution to our lives.

Both are being delayed or spurned altogether by millennials in record numbers. It hurts us older folk to see our children and grandchildren pay the steep price of the ensuing loneliness.

But the song continues:

Well, let that lonely feeling wash away
Maybe there's a reason to believe you'll be okay
'Cause when you don't feel strong enough to stand
You can reach, reach out your hand
And oh, someone will coming running
And I know, they'll take you home
Even when the dark comes crashing through
When you need a friend to carry you
> And when you're broken on the ground
You will be found
So let the sun come streaming in
'Cause you'll reach up and you'll rise again
Lift your head and look around
You will be found
You will be found….

The co-writer of this song and the script-writer of the play are Jewish; perhaps that is why the song, though couched in general language, exudes a Jewish sensibility about never giving up hope.

Consider how our tradition acknowledges that loneliness is indeed a basic and omnipresent human condition… that can be overcome.

Of Adam, Genesis relates that “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone; I will make a fitting helper for him.’” (Gen.2:18)

When Jacob is in despair and running away from his family, God says, “Remember I am with you…” and Jacob responds “Surely, God is present in this place, and I did not know it.” (Gen.28, 15-16)

When Joseph is in despair, literally and figuratively all alone in a pit, abandoned by his brothers, and then all alone in a prison cell in Egypt, his faith sustains him and he later says to those brothers, “It was not you who sent me here, but God... to insure your survival and to save your lives.” (Gen.7-8)

When Hannah, subject of the haftarah for Rosh Hashanah, is in despair, unable to conceive a child and misunderstood by her husband and by the high priest, her faith sustained her and “in her wretchedness she prayed to the Lord, weeping all the while… she kept on praying before the Lord.” (I Sam.1:10,12)


The song continues:

Out of the shadows
The morning is breaking
And all is new, all is new
It's filling up the empty
And suddenly I see that
All is new, all is new
You are not alone
You are not alone

God’s message’ to our ancestors and to us, over and over again is: you are not alone!
The message of friendship and faith is: You will be found!
Who do we know who needs to hear that message again?
Who cries out but is not heard?
Does not our prayer book, the liturgy that we just recited this morning ask this same thing?

On Rosh Hashanah we reflect, on Yom Kippur we consider…
Who shall be plagued by fear of the world; who shall strangle for lack of friends?
Who shall be serene in every storm; who shall be troubled by the passing breeze?

On this holy day let us proclaim:

Who lies broken on the ground?
You will be found.
Who is too weak to stand?
Here, take my hand.
Who is overcome by the darkness crashing through?
I will carry you.

The story is told of young man, lonely to the point of despair, who has a dream. He is walking along a beach, with a person he does not know besides him. He looks back and sees two sets of footprints.

Then that person disappears and he is walking alone. He looks back and sees a single set of footprints.

The young man senses that his dream has a message. In prayer he realizes that the walk is his life and the presence besides him is God. He cries out to God, “Why did you disappear? Why did you abandon me when I needed you most?” “No, my son,” comes the reply. I never left you. I carried you. I picked you up and carried you.”

You are not alone. You shall be found.




You Will Be Found

Songwriters: Benj Pasek / Justin Paul

Have you ever felt like nobody was there?
Have you ever felt forgotten in the middle of nowhere?
Have you ever felt like you could disappear?
Like you could fall, and no one would hear?
Well, let that lonely feeling wash away
Maybe there's a reason to believe you'll be okay
'Cause when you don't feel strong enough to stand
You can reach, reach out your hand
And oh, someone will coming running
And I know, they'll take you home
Even when the dark comes crashing through
When you need a friend to carry you
And when you're broken on the ground
You will be found
So let the sun come streaming in
'Cause you'll reach up and you'll rise again
Lift your head and look around
You will be found
You will be found
You will be found
You will be found
You will be found
Even when the dark comes crashing through
When you need a friend to carry you
When you're broken on the ground
You will be found
So let the sun come streaming in
'Cause you'll reach up and you'll rise again
If you only look around
You will be found (You will be found)
You will be found (You will be found)
You will be found
Out of the shadows
The morning is breaking
And all is new, all is new
It's filling up the empty
And suddenly I see that
All is new, all is new
You are not alone
You are not alone
You are not alone
You are not alone
You are not alone (You are not alone)
You are not alone (You are not alone)
You are not
You are not alone (You are not alone)
Even when the dark comes crashin' through
When you need someone to carry you
When you're broken on the ground
You will be found!
So when the sun comes streaming in
'Cause you'll reach up and you'll rise again
If you only look around
You will be found
Even when the dark comes crashin' through
You will be found
When you need someone to carry you
You will be found
You will be found
You will be found

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Ronald Broden


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