Rabbi Sara Mason-Barkin
Yom Kippur Morning, Tree of Life Service 5777
October 12, 2016
Edna the Elephant: Dancing Towards our Dreams
When I was young my dream was to someday become a comedic actress. I actually had a comedy routine that I performed at school talent shows, at family gatherings, or basically anywhere else I could get anyone to listen. I wore a feather boa and told jokes I’d learned from my dad, like “Is your refrigerator running? Yes? Well, you’d better go catch it!” (ba dum chi!) I took dance classes, acting classes, and auditioned for every school and community play. I never got a leading role, but I loved doing it.
It’s funny to reflect back on those dreams now, when this is as close as I get to telling jokes on stage.
Adults: Remember back to when you were a kid. Can you recall what you wanted to be when you grew up?
Kids: How many of you have an answer to that question?
What are the biggest, most important dreams that you’ve ever had for yourself?
(Raise your hand if you have an answer to that question.)
I want to share with you today a story and song about the dreams that we have, and what it means to achieve them.
(Band begins to play the song ‘Edna the Elephant’ by Seth Decker and the Missing Piece.) Click the play button.
Edna the Elephant she loved to dance
practiced and practiced when she had the chance
Her friends would all laugh when she’d blatantly say
I’m gonna dance in the New York ballet (2x)
The image is probably funny for all of us, isn’t it? I saw elephants, just last week at the Oakland Zoo. They were doing a lot of things: using their trunks to throw dirt, stomping their big, heavy feet, slurping up water . . . I can assure you, they were not dancing ballet.
Well her brothers would laugh and snicker and sneer
when Edna would jump up and twirl without fear
Her feet would come down with a crash and a boom.
Mama would say, ‘honey, stay in your room.’ (2x)
She went la di da da di da da. La di di da la di di da (2x)
When we dream about the future, we might wonder: Am I smart enough? Am I strong enough? Did you know that Moses, the great leader of the Jewish people, struggled with talking? He never imagined he could be a great leader—his plan was to be a shepherd. When God told him he would lead the Jews out of Egypt, he was reluctant to take the job. The rabbis teach that it is because Moses stuttered when he spoke. How could he lead the Jewish people when he was afraid to speak in front of others?
I’m sure many of us can relate. It is awful to feel like others are laughing at us. But that didn’t stop Moses from answering God’s call.
Edna, her dancing got better with age
took every chance to go dancing on stage.
Her teacher once thought that she might take the cake
gave her a part in a play called Swan Lake. (2x)
On Yom Kippur we come to temple. Together we look back on the year and think about the times where we’ve missed the mark. We reach out to people we’ve hurt, and offer apologies. But the most important part about today is not looking back: it’s looking forward.
The mistakes that we’ve made in the past year can help us think about how we’ll be better in the year ahead. Have we judged someone based on their appearance? Have we laughed at someone else’s dreams? Have we doubted our own abilities?
Yom Kippur gives us a chance to try again, to get better and better at being our best selves.
Kids can be mean and kids can be cruel
Somebody nicknamed her the dancing fool
But Edna stayed calm and Edna stayed true
she said “I’m gonna do what I most what to do”
. . . What is it that you most want to do? (2, 3, 4!)
Ooh, la di di da . . .
She went la di di da . . .
God knew that Moses would make a great leader for the Jewish people, even if Moses himself wasn’t always so sure. God helped Moses see that he had people around him that could help him share his message, like his brother Aaron and his sister Miriam. Instead of taunting or teasing him, they helped him with the things that were hard for him, like talking in front of a big group. Sometimes, when Moses was feeling shy, Aaron would do the talking. We can help each other be better in the year ahead when we offer our encouragement instead of our judgment. When we see someone struggling, we can be the ones to help each other succeed.
Edna she practiced til her moves were all right
Greeted her fans on opening night
Edna was brilliant but she didn’t know
A Broadway producer was in the front row. (2x)
Those of us who are already grown might remember those dreams that we had when we were kids. I didn’t become a comedic actress, but I still love to share stories and laugh as often as possible. Perhaps your dad didn’t become a doctor, but he still is the only one you’ll let bandage your skinned knee. Maybe your mom didn’t become a rock star, but you’ve heard her singing in the shower. On Yom Kippur we look back first, and then look forward so we can adjust our path for the year ahead.
Kids, the excitement in this, is that you have such surprises ahead of you.
Edna was cheered by the all-loving crowd
Her friends and her family never once felt so proud
They all came to Edna and begged her to stay
She said I’m gonna dance in the New York ballet! (2x)
She went la di di da . . .
We don’t know where Edna is today, and if somewhere, maybe on the east coast, there is an elephant dancing ballet. But we can learn from Edna, and learn from Moses, and learn from our parents and grandparents, and one another that our dreams are within reach—they just might not always look the way that they do today. The year ahead is filled with opportunity and potential. This year, let’s be like Edna’s teacher. Let’s be like Miriam and Aaron.
Let’s help each other grow into the people we most want to be.
She went la di di da . . .