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The Age of Empowerment (Rosh Hashanah 5784 Day 1)

The Age of Empowerment

If Charles Dickens was alive, he might say: It’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times.

Nah, no one would say it’s the best of times.

Worst of times, maybe!

Thanks to global warming, it was the hottest summer in recorded history. It’s also not a great political time: War in Ukraine, controversial judicial reform in Israel, indictments on our past president, claims on our current president, and partisanship in our government that spills over onto the streets.

But one wise Jew, Baron Nathan Rothschild, said, “The time to buy is when there’s blood in the street.”

Well, there’s certainly pain in the streets, and I believe now is the time to buy, and by this, I mean now is the time when we can effect great change.

The 21st century is a unique time.

It’s all about the empowerment of the individual.

We could say this empowerment started with the Renaissance six centuries ago, but we all know we’ve seen an extreme acceleration of technology in the last thirty years.

It’s safe to say that the Renaissance started when Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 1430s. The press enabled learning and knowledge to be spread affordably. With knowledge comes power.


No longer was the Catholic Church or Aristotle the ultimate authority over the earth’s truths. Because of the printed word, information could be easily disseminated, and challenging ideas began to flourish.

In the fifteenth century, the pace of innovation must have felt rapid. Just fifty years after the arrival of the printing press, there were 35,000 titles in print. Within a century, that number expanded tenfold.

Let’s compare this increase to what we’ve seen with the rise of the internet.

It sounds almost unfathomable, but when Bill Clinton became president in January of 1993, there were less than 100 sites on the World Wide Web. When he left office eight years later, there were close to 30 million.

By the time the web had been accessible for a quarter century, the number of websites exceeded 1.5 billion, and daily users surpassed 3 billion, approaching half of the world’s population.

Never before has technology been more far-reaching, and never has it progressed with such astonishing speed.

Likewise, if you look back over human history, only a few technologies fundamentally changed everything for most everyone- fire, the printing press, electricity, and now computing.

Fire and electricity were hugely important sources of energy.

They could warm your home, power your tools, and transport you from one place to another. But in and of themselves, they couldn’t help you think or think for you. While the printing press increased access to knowledge, its area of influence was still limited. With the printed word alone, we could not access all the world’s knowledge or reach all the world’s people.

I remember when I was a youngster in camp. A Ham radio was the most affordable way to talk to someone across the planet. I learned Morse code that summer. That’s a means of communication from the 1800s! Now, every child can talk with someone across the globe with WhatsApp.

We are living in an age where any individual has global reach and access to all the knowledge and learning humanity has achieved since recorded times. That’s empowerment!

Now, just as we are evolving scientifically, we are also evolving spiritually.

Traditional Judaism has God making all the calls.

The Talmud says הכל בידי שמים חוץ מיראת שמים everything is in God’s hands except our own decisions. We make the efforts, but God determines the outcomes.

Likewise, the Talmud says that our income is determined on Rosh Hashanah except for what we spend for Shabbat and the Holidays, where if we spend more, we get more.

In the most famous prayer of the High Holidays, Unetaneh Tokef, we learn that whether we’ll live or die is determined for us in these ten days:

“On Rosh Hashana, their decree is inscribed, and on Yom Kippur, it is sealed, how many will pass away and how many will be born, who will live and who will die;…who will be tranquil and who will be tormented; who will become poor and who will become wealthy; who will be brought low and who will be uplifted.

And our only agencies are repentance, prayer, and charity. But that’s to remove negative decrees; the good ones are ultimately up to God’s judgment.

However, our understanding of God and our relationship with this mysterious Being has transformed in the past 120 years. Believe it or not, some of this change has been spawned by scientific progress.

The advent of hypnosis has developed the therapeutic process known as hypnotic regression. Now, go back to when your problems begin. Under hypnosis, thousands of people have surprisingly told us about previous lives. The concept of reincarnation has been a spiritual belief for thousands of years for millions of people, but now, it’s actually being verified. Moreover, many patients have told us what happens in between lives. And that’s where we have gained an insight into the afterlife and what God is and wants from us.

Because of the advancement of medicine, people who were clinically dead have been revived through CPR and the defibrillator. People who were in a coma sustained only through life support have come to life once more. In the tens of thousands, these people have also shared their other-worldly stories of what they witnessed when they were dead and/or unconscious. These testimonies are not by flakes. The same Dr. Elizabeth Kubler Ross who pioneered hospice care and formulated the five stages of grief is also one of the first to take notice of Near Death experiences. So many of her hospice patients were sharing these stories with her that she decided to research the phenomenon.

Additionally, modern-day prophets and visionaries have shared their ideas and given us new insights.

Now, I know you’re skeptical; you’ll say it’s all made up. You can’t prove it, and you can’t replicate it.

Well, let me ask you: if all Divine inspiration is made up, then why are we here? We’re missing some good college football!

We’re here because Judaism has accepted that at least 24 men and seven women were prophets and that numerous leaders and visionaries (you may call them rabbis) have received inspiration to guide Judaism over the centuries.

We’re gathered in this building today, the first of Tishrei, because someone came to understand that from now until Yom Kippur is a time of judgment. And there’s no question about it: whoever wrote Une’taneh Tokef was a visionary. Theodore Herzel and Martin Luther King Jr. were visionaries as well.

What, the words of the prophets are only written on the subway walls and tenement halls?

So, what does this modern spirituality have to say? It’s the same message; it’s all about personal empowerment.


The Science of Getting Rich, written in 1910 by Wallace B. Wattles, says:

THOUGHT is the only power which can produce tangible

riches from the Formless Substance. The stuff from which all

things are made is a substance that thinks, and a thought of

form in this substance produces the form.

Wattles formulated what Quantum physicists are saying now, that matter is not just energy but information. There’s a consciousness to this matter, and it interacts with our thoughts.

Edgar Cayce lived in the first half of the 20th century. If there ever was a prophet, he was one. He is quoted as follows:

Cayce reminded us that “thoughts are things” and that everything we think has either a positive or a negative influence upon the outer world—impacting others as well as the overall environment. Science has also given several demonstrations that there is an environment of thoughts, sometimes called the “field of consciousness.”[1]

Sanaya Roman, a renowned spiritual teacher, wrote in 1980: “You create your reality through your thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and intent, which determine your vibration and thus the people, objects, events, and circumstances you attract to your life. Your emotions and your intent determine how fast you get what you are thinking about. Everything in your life comes from a thought or feeling you have, for your inner world of thoughts and feelings creates your outer world of events, objects, and relationships.[2]

Through understanding that the way we think affects the world, we will create many positive changes in our society.[3]

So now, in 2023, the common denominator between science and spirituality is personal empowerment.

Never before have we had as much power in our hands as with a smartphone.

Never before has religion or spirituality led us to believe that we create our outcomes.

I find these ideas thrilling, for I can’t remember living in a more dispiriting time. The year started with unparalleled gun violence, only forgotten by the massive heat waves across the globe and the ashes from Canada. The future of our planet certainly seems to be in jeopardy. Furthermore, we live in a divided country. We’re like the Doctor Seuss book, The Sneetches, with each of us wearing either Red or Blue stars on thars.

But what’s coming through the scientific and spiritual pipelines nowadays is uplifting; we can all effect change.

Certainly, if we can utilize social media like Greta Thunberg, we should.

But even if we’re not that tech-savvy, we have a role.

Our thoughts, hopes, and wishes plant seeds in the universe. If I told you to pray, to beseech God for help, you’d all listen to me. Letting God deal with it is an easy out.

What I’m saying is that our future is in our hands. We are all spiritual farmers, and we need to plant some seeds.

Let’s take a moment to envision our community, our country, as a place where people are united, where politics and race don’t divide us.

Let’s envision a Congress that works together. Plant that seed in the Capitol

Let’s take a moment to imagine normal, healthy temperatures for our planet. It rains bountifully in the West, Southwest, and all across the globe. Don’t pray, plant! Plant some rain!

Let’s imagine a world where our children are safe in school and mass shootings are a thing of the past.

Now, take it even closer to home. Do you need a better job, a better love life, children or grandchildren, better health? God has revealed to us that the keys are in our hands; we live in the age of empowerment. Let’s take a moment to envision the life we’d like to have this year.

It’s also a spiritual teaching that actions that follow our thoughts magnify our power. So whatever we can do for the planet: drive a more efficient car, buy organic produce, use reusable bottles, compost our foods, bring solar panels to our homes: all these efforts will have amplified effects.

We watch the news. We see the rise in racism, violence, nationalism, and the adverse effects of climate change.

We are not spectators; we are active players.

And we don’t have to be Greta Thunburg or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. either. Believe you are farmers, seeding the future. With our thoughts, visions, and actions, we’re all great and powerful instruments of change.

All the Rosh Hashanah prayers imagine a utopian future. I’m asking you to switch from begging and praying to conceiving and seeding. Let’s envision a utopian future, globally and personally, and follow up on them in whatever ways we can; we will see improvement.

We live in the age of empowerment, and it’s now up to you to believe and live as empowered individuals and as an empowered community.

Shanah Tovah

[1] Todeschi, Kevin J.; Reed, Henry. Contemporary Cayce: A Complete Exploration Using Today’s Science and Philosophy . A.R.E. Press. Kindle Edition.

[2] Roman, Sanaya. Spiritual Growth: Being Your Higher Self (Earth Life Series Book 3) (p. 138). LuminEssence Productions. Kindle Edition.

[3] Roman, Sanaya. Spiritual Growth: Being Your Higher Self (Earth Life Series Book 3) (p. 139). LuminEssence Productions. Kindle Edition.

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