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The Tishrei Holiday Cycle: All Our Limbs
You've heard of the whole body workout... How about the whole spiritual body workout! There is a place in our prayer book each Shabbat when we pray that God help us maintain and thrive in the past and in the present, sustaining us in body from all manner of plague and threat, and therefore, Kol Atzmatai, all of my limbs and every fiber shall give blessing to God and say 'who is like unto you.' The Tishrei cycle of holidays seems to be focused on this whole spiritual body workout!
Rosh Hashanah is not so much the birth of the world. Our rabbis teach that it's the anniversary of the birth of creation. It celebrates, not the birth of the world per se, but the birth of humanity and of human consciousness. On the one hand it requires physical actions–cleaning and cooking for the holiday; eating a festive meal and tasting the sweetness of the apple and honey; gathering our families, sometimes from far away, to celebrate with us; and the mitzvah of actually listening to the shofar with a focus on its historical Biblical associations– but also, listening with a feeling of our own regrets, resolve and sense of potential for the coming year. This is the quintessential celebration of mind and heart.
If Rosh Hashanah focuses on spiritual mindfulness, Yom Kippur carries this forward in a physical way, but by suppression of the physical. We are not intimate in marriage, we do not eat or drink, wash or apply lotions (unless these things a medically called for) for the entire day. Temporarily, we are all mind/all spirit. Our sages liken it to, in a sense, mimicking an angelic existence... until Yom Kippur ends at the moment we eat and drink, and of course, first begin to build the sukkah.
So far, we have engaged primarily the mind, the heart and the hand. But soon the sukkah and the lulav and etrog will engage other limbs. We must inspect and eye the best etrog to buy, we bask in the colors of autumn by eating and being outdoors more. The lulav represents the eyes, lips, backbone nad heart. We make a blessing specifically for the act of sitting in the sukkah, highlighting, therein, the use of yet another important limb. Besides eating in the sukkah, the hearty practice yet another mitzvah–of sleeping in the sukkah. This is the only mitzvah, I think, that we do in a completely unconscious state of mind. Finally, at Simchat Torah, we celebrate the completion and beginning of Torah by dancing with our star–singing and dancing with our beloved Torah. So I ask you, what limb is not engaged as we bring in the first month of the New Year?
There are those who only practice the mindfulness of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I encourage you not to forget the emphasis on other limbs. God and Torah, in their age-old wisdom, know what's good for us and require the full body/mind workout for yearly spiritual reactivation. Please consider yourselves warmly invited for the complete do-over, as we welcome in our new Jewish Year, 5777!
Beth and I wish all our members and their families a Shana Tova! May all be written and sealed for life, health, blessing and vitality this coming year! Read More
This article originally appeared on ENJC.org in August, 2015
B'EZRAT HASHEM–WITH G-D'S HELP
As the High Holiday season quickly approaches, the ENJC is extremely active, preparing for this holy and meaningful time in the year, as we welcome Rosh Hashanah and our Jewish New Year.
Many Jewish people, especially those who are somewhat more traditional, will often use the two Hebrew words above in the course of a conversation. For example, if one is making dinner arrangements with a friend, arranging the time and place, they will say, "I will meet you, B'ezrat Hashem at..." Thus, these arrangements will be fine "with G-d's help." The obvious intent of mentioning these words is the fact that our lives do actually revolve and evolve based upon G-d's wishes. This is most certainly reiterated in our High Holiday lithurgy and prayers as well. We, as G-d's chosen people, beg and ask G-d for a New Year filled with only s'machot–celebration, good health and prosperity for all.
Rabbi David Goldwasser, a very traditional and modern halachik commentator, offers an understanding of these words. In good and unfortunately challenging times in our lives, we always have to remember that it is imperative to keep in mind that we must remain steadfast in our Jewish beliefs, customs, the Torah and Jewish traditions, and that by so doing, our lives will be enriched and we will have the capacity to meet all challenges along the way, and certainly enjoy all of our celebrations as well.
With this idea in mind, let me extend to the entire congregation the following High Holiday greeting this year–
B'EZRAT HASHEM, LET'S ALL HOPE AND PRAY FOR A NEW YEAR FILLED WITH SWEETNESS, HEALTH, HAPPINESS AND PROSPERITY!
SHANA TOVA OOK'TOOKA TO ALL! Read More
Shalom, Chaverim! As I write this, I am celebrating my birthday, and as you read it, you are anticipating or in the midst of the High Holiday season. Both are occasions for joy and festivity, as well as solemnity and introspection. This year, we are face with an added level of uncertainty, tinged with sadness, as we contemplate saying farewell to our Cantor of nearly a quarter century, Ralph Nussbaum.
It is, however, also an opportunity. It is an opportunity for us as a community to carefully review our policies and procedures. There may very well be changes that could be made to better reflect our current environment and the needs of our ever-changing (and hopefully growing) congregation. Currently identified issues include Religious School scheduling, weak service attendance, and inclusive social programming. These are real challenges that get to the heart of what it means to be a community.
Luckily, we have a Board of Directors and various committees which serve as contact points between membership and leadership. I encourage you to attend committee meetings (most times are published in the Weekly Update) and engage with board members (a list of whom can be found in this publication) to make your needs and opinions known. It is my sincere hope that all members will be open-minded and respectful of differing points of view. If we are patient with each other and the process, I am confident that we will come to solutions that are best for the East Northport Jewish Center as a whole.
As we navigate this challenging time, please be assured that the shul leadership is working very hard to make it as smooth as possible. Now, in closing, allow me to be among the first to wish all of you a sweet New Year, an easy fast, and a joyful Sukkot, Sh'mini Atzeret and Simchat Torah!