Author Archives: Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf

Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf

About Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf

Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf is the award-winning author of eleven books, including the Rosh Hashanah Yom Kippur Survival Kit and Judaism In A Nutshell: ISRAEL.

Making Synagogue Meaningful

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The following article offers some tips on making High Holiday services meaningful even if the prayers don’t at first seem to move you. Reprinted with permission from
Rosh Hashanah Yom Kippur Survival Kit
(Leviathan Press).

“… but Rabbi, even if I can read some of the prayers I still don’t understand what I’m saving… To tell you the truth I’d rather take a quiet reflective walk in the park this year than spend all that time in synagogue saying a bunch of words that don‘t really mean so much to me anyway…”

Prayer is meant to be a powerful, relevant and meaningful experience. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind this year that should help to make the services as personally uplifting as possible.

1) Five minutes of prayer said with understanding, feeling, and a personal connection to the words and their significance means far more than five hours of lip service.

2) “Unfulfilled expectations lead to self-imposed frustrations.” Therefore, don’t expect to be “moved” by every prayer or to follow along with the entire service.

3) Read through the prayers and slowly think about what you’re saying and don’t be overly concerned about being behind. Look, the worst that could happen is that you will fall behind, but don’t worry, they’ll probably announce the pages so you can always catch up.

4) If a particular sentence or paragraph touches you–linger a while. Say the words over and over to yourself. Softly but audible to your ear. Allow those words to touch you. Feel them. And, if you’re really brave, then close your eyes and say those words over and over for a couple of moments.

5) You’re not that proficient in Hebrew? Don’t worry, G-d understands whatever language you speak. And, like a loving parent, He can discern what’s in your heart even if you can’t quite express it the way you would like.

6) As you sit in your synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur you are joined by millions of Jews in synagogues all over the world. You are a Jew and you are making a powerful statement about your commitment to Judaism and the Jewish people.

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The Meaning of Jewish Holidays

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Adapted with permission from Holidays: Judaism in a Nutshell,  Jewish Literacy Foundation.

In Japan, February 3 marks the Setsubun bean-throwing festival. September 28 is Confucius’ birthday in Taiwan, and October 19 is Ascension of Mohammed Day in Indonesia. Independence Day is May 14 in Paraguay, March 25 in Greece, April 31 in Trinidad and Tobago, and July 4 in the United States.

And what self-respecting list of holidays would be complete without Bastille Day, Soweto Day, Kwanzaa, Passover, and Easter?

jewish holidaysThe very concept of a holiday seems to touch a basic, universal chord. After all, everybody is into them. If you were to show ten people the above list and ask the question, “What’s a holiday?” most would probably tell you that they are cultural or religious days that are designated to commemorate something significant in that particular religion or society. And by-and-large they would be correct, with one exception: Passover [and any other Jewish festival].

A Mo’ed Is Not Exactly a Holiday

In the Jewish concept, while holidays may appear to be commemorations of historical events, in fact they are something altogether different. The Hebrew word the Torah uses for holiday is mo’ed, and mo’ed means “rendezvous” [an appointed time]. Every mo’ed, every Jewish holiday, is a meeting of sorts. In fact, Jewish holidays are multidimensional meetings…..

Jewish holidays are rendezvous that incorporate not only the dimensions of time and place, but spiritual dimensions that go to the heart of the Jewish understanding of history, the soul, God, and what it means to be a Jew. To appreciate the depth and import of these holiday-rendezvous events, it is necessary to first take a look at the primary components that converge to form the experiential framework of what we are used to calling holidays, but as we will see, are actually mo’ed, points of rendezvous that bring us to the threshold of the deepest aspects of our existence. Let’s take a look:

Rendezvous with Who?

Perhaps the most seminal Jewish perspective on God, and one that shapes the entirety of how Jews relate to God in general and the holidays in particular, is this: Since God is wholly complete and lacks nothing, it can’t be that His act of creation was motivated by a need, because a need implies a lack, and He has no lackings. Creation, then, is not for the Creator, rather, it is for us, His creations. If creation is for us, what this implies is that existence is for our benefit; in other words, existence is good for us….

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