5 Elul, 5774

Daze of Ah

Dr. Deborah Lipstadt, the Emory University Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies, writes that one year, “while lecturing on the theology of [the High Holy Day] period, I noticed that a student had written at the top of his notes: the Daze of Ah. I was unsure whether to chastise him for not having done the readings or give him extra credit for offering this insight. For this is exactly how we should approach this time: in a Daze of Ah, a daze of wonderment at the opportunity that has been given to us.”

Indeed, the High Holy Day period is a gift, if we recognize it and prepare properly for it. It is a vital chance to reflect on the year that has passed, and plan for the year to come. It is reminder that the value of family and community far outweigh the stuff that clutters our lives. The High Holy Days challenge us to be better human beings – better custodians of our fragile planet and all that exists on it. The Yamim Noraim reignite the flame that represents our relationship with God – a flame that warms us and shows us the way.

Dr. Lipstadt continues by observing that “most of us never achieve this stage. We are like people who have been told that the last scene of Hamlet is the most riveting and only show up for that scene. We fail to understand what the fuss is about. We parachute into the Yamim Noraim. This period is the April fifteenth of the Jewish year, yet I spend more time preparing my taxes than preparing my soul.”

In the same way as we would not stand before a king without adequate preparation, so should we give thought to the preparation for and the meaning of this time period.

Published in: on August 31, 2014 at 11:16 am  Leave a Comment  

4 Elul, 5774

We learn from Torah that the people of Israel were given a code by which to live. Called the Revelation at Sinai, these laws bound humanity forever in a covenantal relationship with God. But what was revealed at Mount Sinai was not just the guidebook to live a life of connection with God- it was also a collection of commandments of how to behave toward our fellow human beings. We are told not to murder, steal, or lie. We are told to honor our parents, to observe a day of sanctity, to uphold our relationship with the Divine. Our behavior code is meant to allow us to be the members of a community that we know we could be, that we know we should be.

As we strive to uphold our end, God, may your promise to us remain true:

May we be blessed.

May we take comfort in your nearness.

And may we live together, with our neighbors and our nature, in peace.


Published in: on August 30, 2014 at 11:15 am  Leave a Comment  

3 Elul, 5774

Shikoba Nabajyotisaikia!

Nabajyotisaikia is a compliment used in South Africa and means: “I respect you, I cherish you.

You matter to me.” In response, people say Shikoba which is: “So, I exist for you.”

This seems to be the essence of the High Holy Day experience. Yet, so often, we may sit next to someone in synagogue and either not hear their “cry for help” or we do not recognize the power that we have as part of the greater community to lift that person up. Can we listen a little more intently over the coming weeks to those around us?

Published in: on August 29, 2014 at 11:14 am  Comments (1)  

2 Elul, 5774

Seeing the Universe in a Grape


One of my favorite practices is to lead people in eating a silent lunch. I will ensure the meal is a simple platter of fruit and invite everyone to pick up a grape and look at it. “If you look closely,” I say, “you can see that this grape came from a vine in a field, and that the vine would not have come into existence without the sun and the soil and the wind and the rain.” I spend a few minutes expanding upon this, talking about the importance of the farmer tending the field and picking the grapes; of the truck driver who brought the grape to the store; of the people who built and work in the store. I allow the holders of the grapes to see that the whole universe exists in the grape. Then I invite them to spend the next thirty minutes eating in silence and looking closely at what they are eating.

Can you take a moment during the day and engage in thoughtful deliberation about something had previously been trivial?

Published in: on August 28, 2014 at 11:13 am  Leave a Comment  

1 Elul, 5774

Granting forgiveness is an internal process. Forgiveness is the decision or choice to give up the right for vengeance, retribution, and negative thoughts toward an offender in order to be free from anger and resentment. This process promotes healing and restoration of inner peace and it can allow reconciliation to take place in the relationship.

Forgiveness is not forgetting, condoning, or perpetuating injustice. Since it is sometimes unsafe or impossible, forgiveness does not always involve reconciliation. Forgiveness is not always quick; it is a process that can take time to unfold. Taking the time to seek and grant forgiveness can play a powerful role in healing and restoring ourselves and our relationships.

Published in: on August 27, 2014 at 11:12 am  Leave a Comment  

1 Elul, 5774

As we once again embark upon Elul, I have been privileged to participate in the Elul Project, spearheaded by Rabbi David Young (whose blog is among those I follow).  Other participants include Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, Rabbi Alan Litwak, Rabbi Eric Linder, and Rabbi Daniel Treiser.  Each of us submitted several reflections to the project, whose aim is to make this month of reflection prior to the High Holy Days more meaningful.

Over the next month, you will see one thought per day appear on this site.  Read, reflect… introspect!


Published in: on August 26, 2014 at 11:12 am  Leave a Comment