Rosh HaShanah

May it be a year filled with blessing, hope, joy- and more good things that we can count!

LShanah Tovah!

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Published in: on September 29, 2011 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  

29th of Elul

29th of Elul: Wednesday, September 28th  – Erev Rosh Hashanah

“To pray is to know how to stand still and dwell upon a word” (Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel).

Tonight, as we enter the Yamim Nora’im, these Days of Awe, we continue our journey of cultivating balance. As we enter our prayer spaces on Wednesday night, we seek the critically important balance between keva (fixed worship), and kavannah (prayer with inward intent). Keva is our worship, a formal and institutional approach, often happening within the context of community. Kavannah is prayer that emanates from the heart, typically in the form of a response or a request.

In Rosh Hashanah Readings by Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins, Rabbi Mark Greenspan reminds us: “The sages of the Talmud speak about keva and kavannah, spontaneity and form, in the act of prayer. True worship, true prayer must have a measure of both. There is an element of discipline, formula, and history that shapes how and what we say. But there must also be another element of fire that comes from deep within our heats, a quality that is unique to us, that connects us to God personally. It’s not enough to go through the words of the machzor, to worship mindlessly. We must find a way to transform the words we recite into our personal prayer.”

L’shana Tova U’Metukah – May this be a sweet, reflective, and joyous New Year!

What are those prayers that emanate from your heart? How can they balance your communal prayer experience over these High Holy Days?

 

These daily Elul messages are the product of a cooperative venture by Rabbis Asher Knight (Temple Emanu-El, Dallas, Texas), Bradley Levenberg (Temple Sinai, Atlanta, Georgia), Jason Nevarez (Temple Shaaray Tefila, Bedford Corners, New York), and David N. Young (Temple Sinai, Miami, Florida).

 

Published in: on September 28, 2011 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  

28th of Elul

28th of Elul: Tuesday, September 27th

On praying together….A congregant once said to me: “I’m a private person. One aspect of worship that’s always been a challenge for me is communal prayer, as it doesn’t come easily for me. HELP!”  Communal prayer can be very powerful for the individual and community. In fact, some of the more sacred prayers can be recited only where a quorum of ten, a minyan, is present. A folk etymology understands “community” has resonance with the words tzaddikim (“righteous”); beinonim (“average”); resha’im (“wicked”). It takes all sorts to make a Jewish community as it takes all sorts to make a world.

I believe we pray because we are stronger collectively when we share our hopes and our longings, and recognize that there is something beyond us that we call “God”, who makes possible our journeys.

What do you hope or long for in your community?

 

These daily Elul messages are the product of a cooperative venture by Rabbis Asher Knight (Temple Emanu-El, Dallas, Texas), Bradley Levenberg (Temple Sinai, Atlanta, Georgia), Jason Nevarez (Temple Shaaray Tefila, Bedford Corners, New York), and David N. Young (Temple Sinai, Miami, Florida).

 

Published in: on September 27, 2011 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  

27th of Elul

27th of Elul: Monday, September 26th

The Tzanzer Rebbe was asked by one of his disciples: “What does the Rebbe do before praying?” The Rebbe replied: “I pray that I may have the ability to pray!”

Every day, we have conversations. We use our verbal skills to communicate our needs, our thoughts, or to respond to others – a piece of information we wish to hear, or a request we would like to convey. Yet, “conversations” can also be employed with God. We call it “prayer”.

The great sage Rabbi Yochanan once said: “If only a person could pray all day long!” You have God’s attention; speak as long as you wish!

 

These daily Elul messages are the product of a cooperative venture by Rabbis Asher Knight (Temple Emanu-El, Dallas, Texas), Bradley Levenberg (Temple Sinai, Atlanta, Georgia), Jason Nevarez (Temple Shaaray Tefila, Bedford Corners, New York), and David N. Young (Temple Sinai, Miami, Florida).

 

Published in: on September 26, 2011 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  

26th of Elul

26th of Elul: Sunday, September 25th

“Finding a middle path that allows us to savor life fully while also cultivating spiritual, emotional, and physical health is central to Jewish tradition” (Rabbi Edythe Mencher, colleague and friend).

Moses Maimonides, a great medieval Jewish thinker, taught that through study, cultivation of new actions, and establishing ways of thinking, each of us can be elevated to “walk in God’s ways.” Utilizing his approach, we might recognize that total change is unlikely. Rather, we can focus our energies on attainable, incremental adjustments, having gratitude for each advance as we slowly work toward a greater goal.

Think of one way that you have found that “middle path”. Why was it successful? Is there something challenging in your life, where you can apply this model of finding a middle path?

 

These daily Elul messages are the product of a cooperative venture by Rabbis Asher Knight (Temple Emanu-El, Dallas, Texas), Bradley Levenberg (Temple Sinai, Atlanta, Georgia), Jason Nevarez (Temple Shaaray Tefila, Bedford Corners, New York), and David N. Young (Temple Sinai, Miami, Florida).

 

Published in: on September 25, 2011 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  

25th of Elul

25th of Elul: Saturday, September 24th

Tonight, Jews will gather to begin the Days of Awe with S’lichot, which means “apologies.” On this night, we ask: “Have we made our apologies? Have we stood face to face with those we’ve wronged and told them we are sorry? Have we forgiven those who have approached us? Each year on S’lichot we prepare our souls for the High Holy Days, to help us “turn” and reach toward holiness.

A meditation to prepare us for S’lichot:

“We do not choose to be born. We do not choose our parents. We do not choose our historical epoch, the country of our birth or the immediate circumstances of our upbringing. We do not, most of us, choose to die, nor do we choose the time or conditions of our death. But within all this choice of choicelessness, we do choose how we will live; courageously or in cowardice, honorably or dishonorably, with purpose or in drift. We decide what is important and what is trivial in life. We decide that what makes us significant is either what we do or what we refuse to do. But no matter how indifferent the universe might be to our choices or decision, these choices are ours to make. We decide. We choose. And as we decide and choose, so are our lives formed” (Joseph Epstein).

On this night, how will you choose to prepare your soul?

 

These daily Elul messages are the product of a cooperative venture by Rabbis Asher Knight (Temple Emanu-El, Dallas, Texas), Bradley Levenberg (Temple Sinai, Atlanta, Georgia), Jason Nevarez (Temple Shaaray Tefila, Bedford Corners, New York), and David N. Young (Temple Sinai, Miami, Florida).

 

Published in: on September 24, 2011 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  

24th of Elul

24th of Elul: Friday, September 23rd

“And Adonai has affirmed this day that you are…a holy people” (Deuteronomy 26:18-19).

Cultivating balance and spiritual renewal in our lives, together or separately, can be a transformative experience. Neither turns us into different people. Yet, they each turn us back to and remind us of our potential, our capacity to once again become the individuals we always had the potential to be. We become holy.

What have you done today to balance or renew yourself?

 

These daily Elul messages are the product of a cooperative venture by Rabbis Asher Knight (Temple Emanu-El, Dallas, Texas), Bradley Levenberg (Temple Sinai, Atlanta, Georgia), Jason Nevarez (Temple Shaaray Tefila, Bedford Corners, New York), and David N. Young (Temple Sinai, Miami, Florida).

 

Published in: on September 23, 2011 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  

23rd of Elul

23rd of Elul: Thursday, September 22nd

You shall sanctify Me in the midst of the Israelite people…

(Lev. 22:32)

The Jewish community is central to Jewish worship and practice.  We require ten or more Jews to gather in prayer (B Talmud Megillah 23b; J Talmud Megillah 4:4).  We are commanded to not separate from the community (Pirkei Avot 2:5).

Perhaps the most memorable moments as a community are those we spend in celebration.  We remember dancing with friends and spouses, singing around campfires, and cheering for the accomplishments of those we love.  When people we care about are celebrating, it increases our joy to see their happiness.

That is the essence of community.  Solitary celebrations can be wonderful, but when the community gathers to celebrate with us, our joy is increased a hundredfold.

May all of our celebrations in the coming year be magnified by the reflection of our own joy in the eyes of those we love, and may we all have many things to celebrate as a joyous Jewish community.

 

These daily Elul messages are the product of a cooperative venture by Rabbis Asher Knight (Temple Emanu-El, Dallas, Texas), Bradley Levenberg (Temple Sinai, Atlanta, Georgia), Jason Nevarez (Temple Shaaray Tefila, Bedford Corners, New York), and David N. Young (Temple Sinai, Miami, Florida).

 

Published in: on September 22, 2011 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  

22nd of Elul

22nd of Elul: Wednesday, September 21st

A Jewish telegram: Start worrying.  Message to follow.

A Jewish man calls his mother and asks how she is.  “Not so well,” she answers, “I haven’t eaten in three weeks.”

“My goodness, Ma, what happened?”

“Nothing, I just didn’t want to have food in my mouth if you called.”

Perhaps the paradigmatic emblem of the Jewish people in American culture is our sense of humor.  From Lenny Bruce and Jackie Mason to Jerry Seinfeld and Myq Kaplan, Jews and comedy have been synonymous for decades. Some comedians even get credited with being Jewish when they are not! (Sorry folks, Robin Williams is Episcopalian.)

There is humor in the Bible (2 Kings 19:35: “…and when they woke up in the morning they were all dead”), in the Talmud (Megillah 7b: One rabbi invites another to a Purim feast and kills him in a drunken stupor.  He prays for a miracle that his friend will be revived, and he is.  Next year he invites his friend back for another Purim feast, and he responds, “No thank you, a miracle may not happen every time!”), and all over other forms of Jewish discourse.

It is a wonder that a people who have encountered so much adversity throughout history have developed such a recognizable sense of humor.  On the other hand, it is perhaps because of this that we have survived.  In the words of William Novak and Moshe Waldoks, “Like the Jewish people, Jewish humor is optimistic in the long run….” It keeps us going throughout the centuries and helps us be sure that the coming year will be filled with laughter.

 

These daily Elul messages are the product of a cooperative venture by Rabbis Asher Knight (Temple Emanu-El, Dallas, Texas), Bradley Levenberg (Temple Sinai, Atlanta, Georgia), Jason Nevarez (Temple Shaaray Tefila, Bedford Corners, New York), and David N. Young (Temple Sinai, Miami, Florida).

 

Published in: on September 21, 2011 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  

21st of Elul

21st of Elul: Tuesday, September 20th

Yesterday’s post reminds me of a relatively new Dan Nichols and E18teen song:

Sweet as honey (Let us soak it up),

Sweet as honey (Let it all sink in),

Sweet as honey on the tongue (Sweet words of Torah).

It combines three wonderful symbols of joy: honey, Torah, and music.  Just thinking about the song has me bopping around in my chair, hearing my youth groupers sing the responses in parentheses as the song leaders sing the lead part.

Words are wonderful tools for expressing ourselves.  Poetry is even better.  But add music to our words, and the feelings behind them come to life.  In my high school choir room there was a poster that read, “The mouth can learn the words, but only the soul can sing.”  Even without words the melodies behind the music can give powerful expression to our deepest thoughts and feelings.

This is why we sing most of our blessings.  Singing songs of praise expresses our love for God, our wonder at God’s miracles, and our thanks for God’s presence in our lives.  It is also why we have so many different melodies for some of the same blessings.  Singing a mellow Mi Chamocha helps us contemplate the miracles God creates.  Singing an upbeat, hip setting to the same blessing allows us to express our joy and gratitude for the same miracles.

The song “Sweet As Honey” is an amazing expression of joy.  It reminds us, like writing an aleph in honey on a tablet, that Torah learning is sweet and joyous.  It should keep us bopping in our chairs, bouncing with anticipation of the next sweet words we are bound to hear.

May the coming year bring all of us much joy from words we learn and words we sing.

These daily Elul messages are the product of a cooperative venture by Rabbis Asher Knight (Temple Emanu-El, Dallas, Texas), Bradley Levenberg (Temple Sinai, Atlanta, Georgia), Jason Nevarez (Temple Shaaray Tefila, Bedford Corners, New York), and David N. Young (Temple Sinai, Miami, Florida).

 

Published in: on September 20, 2011 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment