Rabbi's Message - October 2021
Shalom Chevrei Friends,
Shanah Tovah, the new year 5782 has finally begun! Yashar Koach to all of the people who made these the highest of holidays. I want to especially thank our Hazan David Wasser for carrying us through the multitude of prayers and songs with incredible strength, stamina, and inspiration. Thank you, Angela Libman, for your angelic vocals and Jonathan Finkle for your spiritual keyboard stylings. Thank
you to our Torah and Haftarah readers and thank you to our ushers and Elaine for the delicious break the fast meal. Thank you to our building and grounds caretaker Josh Ritz who wears so many hats including chef, sukkah builder, sound tech, and cameraman.
It truly feels like we are back now. Seeing everyone and hearing your voices at High Holiday services, schmoozing and noshing at the barbeque and first day of school, eating pizza in the hut, shaking the lulav, and dancing with the Torah. The reason we have so many intensely spiritual and physical holidays in the first month of the new year is to help set us up for a Shana Tova, a good year, in the same way that a wedding helps set a couple up for a good life together.
Shavuot (in Spring) when we receive the Torah is like the engagement between heaven and earth, between G-d and the Jewish people. Tisha B’Av the destruction of the Temple (in Summer) is when we realize how fragile this engagement is. Rosh Hashanah is when we begin to make amends after straying from our beloved. Yom Kippur is the day of the wedding (people fast, wear white, and say confession on their wedding day). On Yom Kippur, our higher self (the soul) becomes married to our earthly selves. Sukkot is the chuppah (marriage canopy) a time of further unification between us and all of the creatures of the earth in every direction. Just as the bride circles around the groom seven times, the sun and moon circle around the roof of the sukkah 7 times. Shemini Atzeret is when the couple leaves the chuppah and goes inside (yichud) to physically and spiritually become one. And Simchat Torah is when the couple emerges and everyone goes wild with circle dancing around the bride and groom. We dance with and kiss the Torah because she is our connection to the Holy One. We hold onto the earthly side representing Mother Earth. The Holy One is holding onto the heavenly side. On Simchat Torah, the communal circle dancing weaves together body and soul in a way that will last for the rest of the year. On Simchat Torah, we finish reading the Torah and then roll it back to the beginning to start all over again. The last letter in the Torah is Lamed and the first letter is Bet. Together they spell Lev which means heart. This entire high holiday cycle is here to increase and strengthen the heart and the love of our people for G-d in a way that will carry us through the rest of the year.
Now that the new year is officially here, it is time for us to look back at our wedding vows. During those Days of Awe, what did you commit to doing to improve your relationships with others and with G-d? How can you begin to fulfill that commitment in a real way? How are you already doing that work today? On Rosh Hashanah, I spoke about how this year is the Shmita year when the land is given Shabbat and all debts are to be released. I also spoke about the urgency for us to respond to the Climate Crisis. On Yom Kippur, I spoke about the Pixar movie Soul, and how we are tasked with many missions from G-d each day. Even the most mundane parts of our lives are a part of fulfilling those missions. Each day of life is a miracle and the greatest gift. Now that the Days of Awe are over, it is time to begin the real work of the High Holidays. As the saying goes, “What you do between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is important, but it’s even more important how you act and live from Yom Kippur to Rosh Hashanah!”
Shanah Tovah – let’s make 5782 a really good year!