Chag Samayach!

May it be a peaceful and joyous 5773!

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Published in: on September 16, 2012 at 5:47 am  Leave a Comment  

Elul Day 28

The first thing that God says to Avram (Abraham) is: Lech L’cha. – Go forth.

 

This injunction is one of the central essences of Judaism.

 

By heeding this command, Abraham merits becoming the first of our avot, our ancestors. He demonstrates a willing to go into an unknown future, leaving the comforts of the past behind.

 

Each of us must heed this command for ourselves. But we have an advantage over Abraham; we have a community of fellow journeyers to walk with.

 

Biblical Hebrew is interesting. The imperative Lech L’cha can certainly mean: Hey you, GO! This is how we typically interpret the verse; God tells Abraham to start a very long journey … a journey that will lead to a promised land of milk and honey at a place that is far, far away.

But, there is another possible meaning of the command. The two words can also imply: Go Towards Yourself!!

 

At the close of this Elul, let us all heed the command that started the peoplehood of Israel: Lech L’cha. Our journeys will continue taking us toward the best parts of ourselves.

 

This post represents the collaboration of Rabbi Bradley G. Levenberg of Temple Sinai in Atlanta, GA; Rabbi Eric Linder of Congregation Children of Israel in Athens, GA; Rabbi Jason Nevarez of Temple Shaaray Tefila in Bedford Corners, NY; and Rabbi David N. Young of Temple Sinai in Miami, FL.

Published in: on September 15, 2012 at 5:46 am  Comments (1)  

Elul Day 27

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Proverbs 18:21. So today, apply kind speech where you might be harsh. Begin the Shabbat gently, giving life with your words.

 

Refrain, for 24 hours, from offering any comments of a critical nature.  When tempted to do so, discover a word of praise and offer it to a neighbor.

 

This post represents the collaboration of Rabbi Bradley G. Levenberg of Temple Sinai in Atlanta, GA; Rabbi Eric Linder of Congregation Children of Israel in Athens, GA; Rabbi Jason Nevarez of Temple Shaaray Tefila in Bedford Corners, NY; and Rabbi David N. Young of Temple Sinai in Miami, FL.

Published in: on September 14, 2012 at 5:46 am  Leave a Comment  

Elul Day 26

“May Michael be at my right, Gabriel at my left, Uriel in front of me, Raphael behind me, and above my head the Shekhina, the Divine Presence.”

– Traditional Jewish Bedtime Prayer

 

Many of us might be surprised to learn about the vast amount of angelology and demonology in Jewish thought and practice.  Every night before going to bed, many Jews recite the prayer above, invoking the names of God’s four archangels: Michael (God’s messenger), Gabriel (God’s hero), Uriel (God’s light), and Raphael (God’s healer).

 

In the Talmud, it is suggested that these are the angels Jacob saw when he dreamt of the ladder that stretched from earth to heaven (B. Chullin 91b).

 

In Rabbi David A. Cooper’s God is a Verb, he writes, “When we call upon angels to be with us, we tap into an infinite resource of good will…The only impediments to connecting with this energy are doubt and cynicism….”

 

This week, try reciting this traditional Jewish bedtime prayer.  Create a ritual with your family that will bring comfort as you prepare for sleep, and tap into that infinite source of good will, the Divine Presence.  May we all feel surrounded by angels and protected by God at all times.

 

This post represents the collaboration of Rabbi Bradley G. Levenberg of Temple Sinai in Atlanta, GA; Rabbi Eric Linder of Congregation Children of Israel in Athens, GA; Rabbi Jason Nevarez of Temple Shaaray Tefila in Bedford Corners, NY; and Rabbi David N. Young of Temple Sinai in Miami, FL.

Published in: on September 13, 2012 at 5:45 am  Leave a Comment  

Elul Day 25

Although many believers are sure they have “the” answer, faith is not the knowledge of the mystery, but the conviction that there is a mystery, and that it is greater than us.

 

Often we try to define what we think about God.  Today, instead of trying to find an answer or definition, may we find a way to celebrate that we DON’T have the answer.

 

This post represents the collaboration of Rabbi Bradley G. Levenberg of Temple Sinai in Atlanta, GA; Rabbi Eric Linder of Congregation Children of Israel in Athens, GA; Rabbi Jason Nevarez of Temple Shaaray Tefila in Bedford Corners, NY; and Rabbi David N. Young of Temple Sinai in Miami, FL.

Published in: on September 12, 2012 at 5:45 am  Leave a Comment  

Elul Day 24

During Elul we consider ways to improve ourselves on many levels—personally, locally, and nationally.  Today many of us are thinking of the attack that shook our nation eleven years ago.  On September 11, 2001, New York became America’s city.  Eleven years ago we were living in Jerusalem when the planes hit the World Trade Center towers.  For a little while, as Americans living in Israel, we were considered kindred spirits.  We (finally) understood what it was like living in Israel, living in perpetual fear of the next attack, the next explosion, the next silence disrupted by a cacophony of cell phones going off as relatives check in.  Israel already gets it, and for a while they embraced us as we wondered what was happening in our home country. September 11, 2001 taught me that in the face of tragedy it is our responsibility as Jews and as human beings to embrace each other and lend strength to those who need it.

 

Elul is a time for introspection, and September 11 is a day to embrace our community.  Whether we live in New York, Jerusalem, or anywhere else, we know we are a part of something bigger, something greater than us.

 

This post represents the collaboration of Rabbi Bradley G. Levenberg of Temple Sinai in Atlanta, GA; Rabbi Eric Linder of Congregation Children of Israel in Athens, GA; Rabbi Jason Nevarez of Temple Shaaray Tefila in Bedford Corners, NY; and Rabbi David N. Young of Temple Sinai in Miami, FL.

Published in: on September 11, 2012 at 5:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Elul Day 23

What does it mean to be written into the Book of Life?

 

Throughout the High Holidays, we ask God to inscribe us into the Book of Life. I have this image of God on an iPad, typing millions of names into a file: “Book. Of. Life.”

 

We pray for inscription because we want to live another year, to experience again the sweetness of apples and honey as we celebrate another year of life.

 

There’s a great quote that says: Trust in God, but tie your camel.

 

Is it possible that it is incumbent upon us to inscribe ourselves into the Book of Life?

 

We are all too aware of tragedies that befall us; rain falls on wicked and righteous alike. But nonetheless, there is a spiritual Book of Life … and you are the author of that book; not God.

 

The question during this period of Elul is not whether or not you will be inscribed into the Book of Life. The question is rather, what will you do in the next month to merit inscription into the Book of Life? God is waiting for you to answer.

 

This post represents the collaboration of Rabbi Bradley G. Levenberg of Temple Sinai in Atlanta, GA; Rabbi Eric Linder of Congregation Children of Israel in Athens, GA; Rabbi Jason Nevarez of Temple Shaaray Tefila in Bedford Corners, NY; and Rabbi David N. Young of Temple Sinai in Miami, FL.

Published in: on September 10, 2012 at 5:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Elul Day 22

The highest form of wisdom is loving-kindness. (Berachot 17a)

 

A critical Jewish value is chesed, loving-kindness. The rabbis have noted that to raise a child is an act of love. But to bring a foster child into your home is loving-kindness. To visit a member of your family in the hospital is an act of kindness. But to visit someone who isn’t even remotely related to you is an act of loving-kindness. Through chesed, we extend ourselves beyond the realms of normative obligation by doing what is not required of us. We obligate ourselves to that which is greater than us.

 

Take a moment to think about an act of chesed you did this past year, and one that you could do in 5773.

 

This post represents the collaboration of Rabbi Bradley G. Levenberg of Temple Sinai in Atlanta, GA; Rabbi Eric Linder of Congregation Children of Israel in Athens, GA; Rabbi Jason Nevarez of Temple Shaaray Tefila in Bedford Corners, NY; and Rabbi David N. Young of Temple Sinai in Miami, FL.

Published in: on September 9, 2012 at 5:43 am  Leave a Comment  

Elul Day 21

At midnight I arise to praise you…

Psalm 119:62

 

On Saturday evening, September 8, we will gather in our congregations across the world for S’lichotS’lichot are penitential prayers that we recite before Rosh Hashanah.  Some people recite them every day during the month of Elul, while others begin the Saturday evening before Rosh Hashanah.

 

S’lichot is the kick off of the High Holy Day season.  It is a beautiful service with moving music.  It is the first service of the season where we hear Ki Anu Amecha, Ashamnu, Al Chet, and other High Holy Day blessings and melodies.  At Temple Sinai we have added an incredibly special and moving piece to the service.  After Havdalah and before S’lichot blessing begin, we allow the congregation to read through some meditations and prayers while we change the mantles the five Torah scrolls in our ark.  We remove the multi-colored mantles that protect our Torahs throughout the year, and replace them with white mantles designed for the High Holy Days. Five families are honored every year as mantle-changers, and as the Torah scrolls are being changed, the clergy change out of the black, blue, or brown suits that we wear throughout the year and don our High Holy Day white robes.  It is a visual representation of Isaiah’s injunction to allow our crimson sins to become snow white.  We physically whiten ourselves and our Torahs so that we can prepare to spiritually purify ourselves in the coming weeks.

 

This post represents the collaboration of Rabbi Bradley G. Levenberg of Temple Sinai in Atlanta, GA; Rabbi Eric Linder of Congregation Children of Israel in Athens, GA; Rabbi Jason Nevarez of Temple Shaaray Tefila in Bedford Corners, NY; and Rabbi David N. Young of Temple Sinai in Miami, FL.

Published in: on September 8, 2012 at 5:43 am  Leave a Comment  

Elul Day 20

A troubled woman went to see her rabbi. It was just before the High Holidays, and she was visibly distraught.

 

Upon sitting in the rabbi’s office, she started crying almost immediately. “Rabbi … I have done so many things wrong in my life. I’ve upset people, and have pulled away from many dear friends. I know I can do better, which makes me even more upset. I’m so very far apart from God.”

 

The rabbi calmly listened to her. When she was done speaking, he held out a rope.

“This length of rope represents the distance between ourselves and God. When you or I make a mistake, the connection gets severed.” The rabbi cut the rope, letting half of it fall to the ground. “But, if you perform teshuvah, if you are able to move forward in your life, learning and growing, the connection is fixed.” As he was saying this, he was tying the two pieces of the rope back together.

 

He held out both ropes again.  Because of the knot, the length was shorter. He said, “The life with the quickest connection to God is the life that is filled with moments of teshuvah. Our connection with God does not depend on the number of our mistakes. No … it depends on the amount of teshuvah.

 

This post represents the collaboration of Rabbi Bradley G. Levenberg of Temple Sinai in Atlanta, GA; Rabbi Eric Linder of Congregation Children of Israel in Athens, GA; Rabbi Jason Nevarez of Temple Shaaray Tefila in Bedford Corners, NY; and Rabbi David N. Young of Temple Sinai in Miami, FL.

Published in: on September 7, 2012 at 5:42 am  Leave a Comment