Rosh Hashanah: Get Woke

tallit shofar rosh hashanah yom kippur high holidays

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.

Posted on October 5, 2016

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When we open our eyes in the morning, when we are confronted with challenges, when we seek to create beauty, when we seek understanding and insight, encouragement and wholeness and some reasonable assurance that we need to accomplish our goals – we also seek inspiration.

Posted on September 30, 2016

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Make a Window in the Word

My favorite Hasidic teaching is a teaching about prayer couched in a homily on Noah’s Ark. God tells Noah to make a window in his ark. Teyva, the word for ark, means container. Teyva is also Hebrew for letter, or word, containers of meaning.  Thus, the teaching on prayer is: make a window in the word.  This means that our prayers should not be confined by the “box” of conventional liturgy. Rather, our words should be openings through which what is in us can flow out the window of the word, reverberating through our bodies and our imaginations as it expands into the universe, free in expression, free to rise up to the God on High, or sink deep into the God within us.

Posted on September 8, 2016

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Fear and Trembling About High Holy Days Services

This past weekend, fear and trembling made a triumphant return to the Jewish calendar. The new month of Elul, which began this weekend, initiates the holiday countdown that will lead to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in just a few short weeks. But it is more than just a calendric alarm clock. As my colleague Rabbi David Markus recently wrote, Elul itself carries spiritual significance as a time to begin soul-searching and stock-taking of our individual behaviors over the past year.

Posted on September 6, 2016

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The Perfect High Holy Day Sermon You Will Never Hear

This weekend is Rosh Chodesh Elul. For rabbis serving communities across the world, this means one important thing – it is time to buckle down and decide what we want to say in our High Holy Day sermons. Somehow, the High Holy Day sermon has become the World Series for rabbis. It doesn’t seem to matter what you say during the rest of the year – all is forgiven and forgotten except the High Holy Day sermon.

Posted on August 30, 2016

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