Sunday, October 9, 2011

If Wishes Were Horses

Sermon Delivered To
Congregation Etz Chaim Ramona
October 8th, 2011

When You Wish Upon A Star

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you.

Like a bolt out of the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true.

If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do.

Like a bolt out of the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true.

            And so, having made my wish upon a star all I apparently have to do – if my heart is in the right place  – is sit back and wait because anything my heart desires will come to me simply because I placed a wish.  How long I sit back and wait depends on the urgency of the wish and the length of my memory.  Some of those upon a star wishes I forget about shortly after making them.  Others I may spend years or a lifetime sitting back wondering why, since my heart was in the right place, my wish has yet to come true.
            We are taught early on to make wishes.  Even if we couldn’t actually blow out the candles on our first  birthday cake without help we started getting the message that making wishes were expected life activities.  To not make a wish before blowing out the birthday candles is beyond both imagination and expectation.  However, just in case we suspect that the candles may not be sufficient talisman, society has given us a plethora of other sanctioned vehicles for making our dreams come true.  In fact, when I did an Internet search of ‘things people wish on’ I got three billion eight hundred sixty million Google hits.  Here are a few -- in alphabetical order -- of the more popular things upon which we place our hopes, our dreams, and all too often our futures:
  • Acorns – If you are standing under an oak tree and an acorn falls, pick it up, turn around three times and then make your wish.  To increase the probability of your wish coming true, put that same acorn on your windowsill for three days.  Then it will really come true even though it was supposed to come true when it fell off the tree and you picked it up and did the other stuff.
  • Birthday Candles – We are all familiar with this ritual.  Don’t forget that all the candles have to be blown out in one breath for the wish to come true.  This is probably the best-known wishing method, and also the strongest, as it only comes once a year. This is not a wish you should waste on something like "I wish the guy at Starbucks remembers my extra foam tomorrow."
  • Books -- If you drop a book, step on it with one foot and make your wish. However you must remember to pick it up with the hand opposite the foot you used, or your wish will not be granted.
  • Coins (and Wells) -- Throw your coin into the well and make your wish. It is said that the larger the value of the coin thrown in the stronger the wish may be.
  • Dandelions – Find a dandelion that has gone to see.  Make your wish, then try to blow all the down off it in one breath. If you get it all off in one puff, your wish will come true.
  • Eyelashes -- When you find an eye-lash that has fallen out, place it on your fingertip and blow it away while making your wish.
  • Falling Stars – Walt Disney taught us all about this.  This is a nice wish, because multiple people can wish on the same star. The only rule is that you must see the star yourself.
  • Hay – If we see a truck hauling bales of hay we are expect to make a wish on the load of livestock feed.
  • Jockeys -- If you happen to see a jockey wearing his racing silks while away from the racing track you are entitled to make one wish.
  • The Moon --  Wishing on the moon is a sub-category of the birthday wish.  On the evening of your birthday look towards the full-moon and make a wish.
  • Necklace Clasps – When the clasp on your necklace is turned all the way around to the front, someone else can turn it back for you and tell you to make a wish.
    This doesn't work if you do it for yourself.
  • Pennies -- If you find a penny on the ground, pick it up and throw it as far as you can. If you finish making your wish before the penny hits the ground, your wish will come true!
  • Rainbows – Apparently there’s not much wish ritual around rainbows.  Just make your wish and, apparently, sit back.
  • The First Star – Since this happens every day, we can get a lot of practice at it.  Here’s the only rule:  When you see the first star that appears in the night sky, you must recite this rhyme:
    Star light, star bright
    First star I see tonight
    I wish I may, I wish I might
    Have the wish I wish tonight.
  • White Horses – When you see a white horse you are entitled to make a wish, but for your wish to come true you must make it before you see the horses tail.
  •   Generally, the larger the bird, the stronger the wish.  This wish takes some preparation, as you have to let the wishbone dry out before using it. Overnight is usually good enough, although if you're in a hurry you could put it in a low oven for a few hours. Once the wishbone is dry, get someone else to hold one end while you hold the other. Close your eyes and make a wish, then pull apart the wishbone on the count of three. Whoever gets the larger piece has their wish come true. In the extremely unlikely event that the pieces are equal, both wishes come true.
  • Yawning – When you see a person yawn you get to make a wish if you manage to not yawn.  There doesn’t seem to be a time limit on how long you have to keep from yawning before making the wish.
  • Zoos -- When visiting a zoo you may make a wish if you walk through the entrance backwards.  For the wish to come true you also have to walk backwards when you leave the zoo.
And the list goes on to include wishing on dew, earrings, sneezes, toes, underwear, words spoken together, snowflakes, pizza, yawns and even Josef Stalin.  Every time two people accidentally say the phrase, “Josef Stalin, Father of the Russian people,” at exactly the same time, the person who shouts “Gulag!” the fastest gets to wish for anything he or she desires.  Seriously?  Yes!  Just as seriously as the wish we make before we blow out our birthday candles all in one breath.  Wishing is, after all, very serious business.
            When we’re not making wishes on our own behalf we are extending wishes to others.  As recently as a few hours ago we wished each other ‘Shannah Tovah’ or ‘Hag Sameach’ or G’mar Hatimah Tovah’ – ‘A good new year’ or ‘A happy holiday’ or ‘May the final inscription be for good’.
            We are, it seems, constantly wishing for something either for ourselves or for someone else.
·      I wish you luck on your exam.
·      I wish you were here.
·      I wish I could lose weight.
Sometimes we formalize the wish into a hope.
·      I hope you get that new job.
·      I hope I get that raise.
And sometimes we formalize the hope into a prayer.
·      We pray for an end to war.
·      We pray for an end to hate.
And sometimes we expend way too much time and energy praying and hoping and wishing and not nearly enough time or energy focusing and creating and accomplishing.
There is no intention here to impugn stars or acorns or birthday candles or pennies or zoos, yawns, wishbones or white horses.  There is certainly to intention to impugn hopes or prayers.  The two former activities can give focus to mundane or celestial or life cycle events.  And the latter (prayer) gives focus and structure to the very essence of our being.  However, simply wishing or hoping and even in some cases praying are not sufficient in and of themselves.
Every weekday morning I drive east to work.  The trip takes about forty-five minutes.  Every weekday evening I drive west to my home.  That trip takes about forty-five minutes.  Each week I drive almost eight hours to and from work.  I pass many trucks hauling hay.  Upon each truck I pass I make a wish.  It’s always the same wish.  After several years of this word for word repeated wishing it began to occur to me that perhaps wishing wasn’t enough.  I couldn’t place my life expectations on a truck of hay.  Something had to be expected of me, also.
Just as I have no intention to impugn wishing and hoping and praying, I certainly have no intention to propose that we stop participating in any of those activities.  However, I do propose that we start using them differently.  A wish or a hope or a prayer can become powerful vehicles for change if we allow them to become calls to action.
When I toss the coin into the fountain and wish to become more physically fit, I have stated more than a wish.  I have stated an intention -- a goal.  I can then use that statement of intention – that goal -- to make create an action plan and make a commitment to that plan.  I can become an agent of change in my life instead of remaining a passive ‘wisher’.
I can move from wishes to commitments to goals to accomplishments to life changes by:
·      Really looking at my original wishes.
·      Turning the wishes into goals.
·      Committing myself to the action items needed to achieve those goals.
·      Contracting with myself to actively and fully pursue those goals.
·      Letting others know about my goals just as freely as I announce my wishes.
It’s not time to stop wishing and it’s not time to stop hoping.  It certainly isn’t time to stop praying.  It is time, however, to back up those activities up with actions.  If I wish for weight loss let me also carefully and courageously examine my exercise and eating habits and make changes which will help my wish come true.  If I hope to publish a book let me first write the story.  If I pray for peace, let me also become an agent of peace at least within myself and my own community.
At this sacred time we pray that our final writings in the Book of Life will be for the good.  Let us also become active agents in the writing of that Book.
A recent survey indicated that many at the end of their lives wish they had made of their lives a greater legacy of good deeds, that they had taken more time to think and reflect on life, and that they had taken more risks and dared to do some of the things they had dreamed of doing.
Dreaming and hoping and praying are actions best accomplished with our feet.  They are calls to action.  Later on today we will hear for the last time this year the plaintive cry of the lone Shofar.  Let it once again call us to the action of being active participants, complete agents of change, in our own lives and not just the spectators who dream of better times.
At the end of my life let it be said that I lived it.  Let the same be said for you at the end of yours.
G’mar H’tima Tovah.  May we help write our final inscriptions and may those inscriptions be for good.

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