Across the world yesterday or today, Jews celebrate Simchat Torah, the conclusion of the Festival of Sukkot. Simchat Torah is our day when we roll the Torah from the very end of Deuteronomy to the very beginning of the Book of Genesis. For many, it symbolizes new beginnings, new opportunities and new ideas for living life to its fullest. Perhaps Simchat Torah can serve as the symbol of a new cycle, a new year of learning, of stretching and of ‘living new’ and ‘acting different’.
RabbiCareers.com launched this month making it easier for a congregation, organization, or individual to find a rabbi for their needs. An easy to use job clearing house platform, RabbiCareers.com allows any community or individual to post a rabbinic position and reach a wide variety of rabbis.
Earlier this week in the Pacific Northwest we waited for a storm that wasn’t.
Death is a problem. It is death that seems to suck the meaning out of life. If it is all temporary, if after 60 or 80 or even 120 years it is all gone, then what’s the point? If all of life is leading inexorably towards a time at which it disappears like a puff of smoke, then my existence is just an exercise in futility, and I might as well never have lived to begin with.
We sat in synagogue most, if not all, of the day. We didn’t eat. We thought about the ways we missed the mark. We were steeped in the messages and ideas of Yom Kippur all day.
Who in this day and age is free of worry? Anxiety is at it all time high in this country.
“The whole earth trembles and dances when the God of freedom appears.” (Psalm 114)
Last January 26 in the evening, I went to Manhattan to participate in a shiva minyan after the death of a friend’s father. I was on the subway headed home, reading a rather esoteric book about finding a spiritual path through some of the most obscure Jewish laws, called The Boy on the Door on the Ox. At one stop two men got on the train. One was white, one black. They were dressed exactly the same, in padded khaki jackets, khaki pants, and work boots. Each carried a medium-sized bag, one of mesh, one of plastic. The white guy, who was a big guy with a Russian accent, said loudly as they entered the crowded car: “Aren’t these seats reserved for the handicapped?” I was sitting in one of the two seats that are indeed reserved for those with disabilities. The women next to me jumped up and was out of there. The white guy plopped down next to me, pretty much right up against me because, as I said, he was a pretty big guy. He smelled very strongly, mostly of alcohol.
As I write this post, a conversion certificate is making its way around the world.
During the High Holiday period, we expect a great deal from ourselves. Putting aside the business of material holiday preparation (meals! more meals! house cleaning for guests!) we also understand this period to be one in which we are expected to review our year, figure out what we have done wrong and try to right it. Although we all understand that the Jewish tradition allows to to do teshuvah, to repent and repair our relationships with one another and God at any time, from Elul through Hoshanah Rabbah with its seesawing from joy to awe to fear and back again is intended to prompt us to take stock, now and particularly at the apex of the season, during the aseret yamei hateshuvah – the ten days of repentance from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur.