20th of Elul

20th of Elul: Monday, September 19th

Eat honey, My child, for it is good, and let its sweet drops rest on your palate.

(Proverbs 24:13)

Perhaps one of the best ways to express joy is through food.  We often share a meal with friends and loved ones, and every simchah has its accompanying meal.  Foodies in America have become a powerful sub-culture that has taken over much of our free time.  We hunt for good food with Urban Spoon, we watch the Food Network, and we take tasting tours while on vacation.  There are stores dedicated to a single type of food such as candy, beef jerky, or hot sauce.  Chefs are celebrities, and their kitchens are the settings for top-rated television programs.

Food is an expression of joy.  Sharing a meal with others is one of the most important aspects of culture.  Food nourishes the body.  Good food nourishes the soul.

The foods we enjoy on Rosh Hashanah are apples and honey.  The apple represents the cyclical nature of the year and the blossoming of new things.  The honey represents our desire for a sweet year.  The tangy, crispy crunch of the apple combined with the gooey, sweet stickiness of the honey brings a smile to the face of children and adults alike.  The ability to express our hopes and dreams for the year ahead with a bite of food is wonderfully unique.

This year may we be nourished body and soul, and may our hopes and dreams come to fruition for a sweet 5772!  Shanah tovah umetukah!

 

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).

 

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Published in: on September 19, 2011 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  

19th of Elul

19th of Elul: Sunday, September 18th

When I was seventeen years old, my grandmother died.  During Shiva I vividly recall sitting on her couch next to my aunt, feeling sad and angry.  I wasn’t really listening to what my family was saying, but I got offended by their laughter.  I asked what they had to laugh about with Grandma gone, and my aunt put her arm around me and said, “David, sometimes when we miss someone we cry, and sometimes we laugh.  Grandma would be glad to know that in her memory we are all laughing.”

Anatomically, laughing and crying feel similar.  The body shakes, the diaphragm vibrates, the mouth gets wide, and the tear ducts open. Both laughing and crying can alleviate stress and prevent depression.  We don’t often have a choice when we react to things.  Some things make us sad and others make us happy.  But if we do have a choice, why not laugh and express our joy, especially in the wake of a distressing event.

When we lose a loved one it is natural to cry.  It is also natural to remember the best times we shared with our loved one.  When we sit at Shiva we will, God willing, laugh and express with great joy how the people we love touched our lives.  May we all find the strength to turn our sadness into joy through laughter and love.  In this way our loved ones’ memories will be a benediction.

 

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 18, 2011 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  

18th of Elul

18th of Elul: Saturday, September 17th

On Shabbat most synagogues host an oneg after services.  It is typically simple.  You might find wine, juice, coffee, cookies, perhaps some bagels and accoutrements on a Saturday morning.  You will definitely find a lot of schmoozing.  Oneg Shabbat has always been an opportune moment to catch up with the community, sharing news of simchas and sorrows, or simply enjoying the presence of friends.  I once asked a group of people what they thought the word oneg means.  They answered with the things we find at an oneg, suggesting different food items or even, “conversation.”  Actually, oneg means “joy.”  The whole point of sharing time with our community is to further increase the joy of Shabbat.

The same thing is true about the High Holy Days.  We might not gather for a formal oneg with its sweet treats, but we still enjoy the presence of family and friends.  We still revel in the joy of the coming year, and we still share news with people we may not have seen in a while. We enter the New Year with the same feelings of joy with which we begin our Shabbat every week.

May the coming year bring us a weekly feeling of joy that amplifies the joy already present in a sweet New Year.

 

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 17, 2011 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  

17th of Elul

17th of Elul: Friday, September 16th

Shout joyfully to God, all the earth!

Serve the Eternal One with gladness!

Come into God’s presence with singing!

(Psalm 100:1-2)

These are some of the opening words to Rosh Hashanah Morning services.  We also read Psalm 100 at the beginning of wedding ceremonies.  But it is not just used for celebrations.  It is a part of Pesukei D’zimrah, our daily songs of praise.  Along with the words of Mah Tovu, we enter our worship service with words that commend shouts of joy and songs of praise.

What an inspirational message, to begin our prayers with shouts of joy.  What does it say about our people that we start each day with rejoicing?

As we look back on the past year throughout the month of Elul, we hope that we have had many reasons for expressing great joy.

 

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 16, 2011 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  

16th of Elul

16th of Elul: Thursday, September 15th

“May it be Your will, Eternal our God, God of all generations, that the year five thousand seven hundred seventy two bring to us and the whole House of Israel life and peace, joy and exaltation, redemption and comfort; and let us say: Amen.”

(Gates of Repentance)

Rosh Hashanah is the birthday of the world.  It is a time for new beginnings, for preservation of our heritage, and for joyous celebration.  We celebrate with apples dipped in honey.  We wish each other a sweet New Year.  We sing and pray together as grand communities.  During this month of Elul we prepare for the New Year, with anticipation of great joy and happiness.

In the words of our machzor, “…May the new year be a good year for us.”

 

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 15, 2011 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  

15th of Elul

15th of Elul: Wednesday, September 14th

“God of Creation, whom we try again and again to make into our own image, enable us to desire rightly and to be of use in the service of others.  Be with this assembly in its work.  Grant us the wisdom to create what is essential for the common good.  Keep within each of our hearts a love for the cause of human welfare and a dedication to enrich the lives of all people.  Guide us in our labor to maintain and strengthen our public lives.  And remind us to be good stewards of the gift of life.  Amen” (Burton Carley, opening session of the Tennessee Recreation and Parks Association).

What is one thing you can do in your community to serve as a “good steward of the gift of life”?

 

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 14, 2011 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  

14th of Elul

14th of Elul: Tuesday, September 13th

“Kindle in our hearts, Oh Eternal and loving God, gratitude for the memory of those who have gone before.  Kindle in our hearts the courage to face the tragedies of life.  Kindle wisdom to learn from the pains and tribulations of the past, praying now so that we may learn from our errors.  Kindle strength in our hearts so that we may be used to relieve oppression that too many endure.  Kindle in our hearts charity so that we may see the good that we can do” (Susan Suchocki Brown).

 

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 13, 2011 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  

13th of Elul

13th of Elul: Monday, September 12th

“Each one of us must play a part.  Each one of us must heed the call.

Each one us must seek the truth.  Each one of us is a part of it all.

Each one of us must remember the pain.  Each one of us must find the joy.

Each one of us.

Each one of us must start to hear.  Each one of us must sing the song.

Each one of us must do the work.  Each one of us must right the wrong.

Each one of us must build the home.  Each one of us must hold the hope.

Each one of us.

It’s how we help.  It’s how we give.  It’s how we pray.  It’s how we heal.  It’s how we live” (Dan Nichols).

Can you think of one way in the current year where you realized each of these statements?  Can you assume projects in the year ahead to do so as well?

 

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 12, 2011 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

12th of Elul

12th of Elul: Sunday, September 11th

Only once you’re really scared you’re going to die does life take on real meaning.  A physician’s prognosis identifying the actual cause of your probable death makes each day precious.  Everything is supercharged with meaning.  You no longer take anything for granted.  The most trivial sensations are gifts:  The smell of a child’s hair, the sound of a barking dog, the kiss of a lover, the morning coffee.  Each becomes precious.  If only there was a way to achieve this heightened gratitude for life without the terror.

We treasure life most when we keep the certainty and imminent possibility of our death before us.  Not only will we die, but we could die at any moment.  This is not a pitch for life insurance; it is just the truth.  All we know is that we are alive right now.  Beyond that there simply is no guarantee.  No promise about anything six years from now, or six months, or six hours, or even six minutes.

This is one of the reasons we have the Day of Atonement.  On this day, we are commanded not to eat or drink.  We cannot have sex.  We don’t perfume, anoint, or deodorize ourselves.  We wear white.  And by the end of the day, looking around the crowded prayer hall, we realize what has been happening.  We appear more like corpses than living men and women.  This day has been a rehearsal for our own death. (From The Book of Words by Lawrence Kushner, pages 111-112)

How does being part a community make it easier to confront the terrors of life?

How can the legacy of terror associated with September 11, 2001 help us treasure our lives in 2011 as we prepare for the 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 11, 2011 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

11th of Elul

11th of Elul: Saturday, September 10th

“May the door of this synagogue be wide enough to receive all who hunger for love, all who are lonely for friendship.

May it welcome all who have cares to unburden, thanks to express, hopes to nurture.

May the door of this synagogue be narrow enough to shut out pettiness and pride, envy and enmity.

May its threshold be no stumbling block to young or straying feet.

May it be too high to admit complacency, selfishness and harshness.

May this synagogue be, for all who enter, the doorway to a richer and more meaningful life” (Mishkan T’filah).

How has your community adhered to these hopes?  How has it fallen short?  What has been your role in making this vision a reality and how, in the year ahead, can you work to ensure that these words become reflections of the community to which you belong?

 

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 10, 2011 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment