This year, the folks at Craig N Co again put together an exciting list of writers and thinkers for their Jewels of Elul series. Each day during the month of Elul will feature a different take on the “Art of Aging.”
Here’s yesterday’s piece from Rabba Sara Hurwitz, the Dean of Yeshivat Maharat, the first Orthodox institution to ordain women as spiritual leaders:
As we age, our brains are hardwired to reject change. We are conditioned to resist new challenges and remain within our comfort zones. However, growing older should not mean that we must exist within self-imposed boundaries.
In the 1960s, President Eisenhower received the gift of a rare, white tiger named Mohini. For years, Mohini lived in the Washington Zoo and spent her days pacing back and forth in a 12-by-12 foot cage. Finally the zoo decided to build her a larger cage so Mohini could run, climb and explore. But when Mohini arrived at her new home, she didn’t rush out, eagerly adapting to her new habitat. Rather, she marked off a 12-by-12 foot square for herself, and paced there until her death, never enjoying the new opportunities in front of her. Mohini exemplifies the classic conditioning most of us live within. Although she was a magnificent, powerful creature, Mohini was convinced her “place” was just a 12-by-12 foot square. We all have the propensity to behave exactly like Mohini. Based on our conditioning, we create invisible cages for ourselves, limiting our lives within their boundaries.
But we don’t have to succumb to our internal imprisonment. Throughout the High Holidays, we will hear the shofar blast. Historically, the shofar signaled the release of all slaves at the end of the Jubilee year. That sound should make us ask, “What enslaves us? What weighs us down? What baggage do we hold onto?” And then, let it go. The High Holidays present us with a tunnel, an opportunity to break free from our self-imposed cages, to find our route to freedom and live life with renewed passion. The shofar inspires us to free the Mohini inside and move beyond our boundaries.
We’re excited to announce that this year, to help you get ready for the High Holiday season, here at MJL we’re offering three live, interactive, online courses.
50 Ways to Use a Shofar: The Symbolism and Stories Behind the Ram’s Horn
Taught by Rabbi Avi Weinstein
In this class we’ll explore the multiple symbolic meanings of the shofar, from Maimonides’ understanding of the shofar as a “wake up call,” to the Hasidic masters who saw it as a pure sound that connects with Divine consciousness, to the midrashic stories that see the sound as replicating Sarah’s pain upon finding out that Isaac was to be sacrificed. Join us to study these interpretations and to share your own.
Sunday August 26th 8:30-9:30PM Eastern Time, $5
Preparing for the High Holidays
Forgiving and Being Forgiven
Taught by Rabbi Shai Held
As we attempt to wipe the slate clean for the coming new year, Jewish tradition asks us to apologize to those whom we have hurt; to forgive those who have hurt us; and, more surprisingly, to tell those whom have hurt us that they have hurt us, thereby enabling them to apologize. In this class we’ll examine how we can use the time leading up to the High Holidays to forgive, to ask for forgiveness, and to let go of the hurt we’ve been hanging onto.
Sunday September 9th 8:30-9:30PM Eastern Time, $5
“Everything Depends on Me”: A Tragic Tale of Repentance and Change (SOLD OUT)
Taught by Rabbi Shai Held
In this session, we’ll explore one of the most moving (and disturbing) narratives in Rabbinic literature, the story of Elazar Ben Durdea, a man imprisoned by sin and compulsion. Elazar knows he has to change but he just can’t find the courage to do it. The tragic tale of Elazar will teach us about sin, compulsion, personal responsibility, and the limits of repentance and personal change.
Sunday September 23rd 8:30-9:30PM Eastern Time, Free!
After registering, you will receive an email with a link to the class page.
We look forward to learning with you!
Who else felt like shedding a tear last night when Aly Raisman took home gold in the individual floor exercises? There has been no shortage of Jewish champions at the Olympics in the past (Sasha Cohen or Sarah Hughes, for instance), but something about this Jewish American champion just strikes me as so spectacularly Jewish, I can’t help feeling an extra sense of pride.
For starters, you can’t ignore Aly’s floor exercise music-it’s an upbeat, Hava Negila–and she has been quoted as saying she wanted to use the song because “there aren’t too many Jewish elites out there.” Aly’s pride in her Jewish roots blasts out into the stadium, for the whole arena (and the millions of the viewers watching around the globe) to behold.
Then, of course, Aly’s parents became famous, for their kvelling Jewish spirit that took over while watching their daughter perform. If you haven’t seen the viral video of the Raismans that some NBC genius decided to film, it’s worth going over to the NBC website to watch. The Raisman’s hilariously pained expressions, the stress they feel vicariously for their daughter’s success–well if that didn’t remind you of some Jewish parents, I don’t know what will.
The fact that Aly won gold for a performance to a song so associated with Jewish life and tradition just hits me somewhere deep.
Yes, the International Olympic Committee refused to publicly take a moment to honor the Israeli athletes who were killed in Munich 40 years ago. But Aly’s beautiful tribute to her Jewish roots is reminding viewers that being Jewish at the Olympics can trigger a different sort of tears–tears of joy.