A Country United

People often say that we are a divided country, but two types of events changed that for the time being. First was the solar eclipse where people travelled across the country, interacting with people they had never met before to watch the eclipse. It did not matter whether one was Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or Independent: all political differences were put aside as people reveled in this scientific wonder. It’s not surprising that rabbis in the Talmud viewed eclipses as curses; after all the sun went out. However, we are more likely to view them as momentous events to watch and celebrate together.

The other type of event unfortunately corresponds too well to today: Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, Maria, Nate, etc., as well as earthquakes in Mexico and the wildfires in northern California. After my sermon we will begin to acknowledge G-ds great power: משיב הרוח ומוריד הגשם, that G-d causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall. At the end of the Geshem prayer, we will pray that G-d, who honored our ancestors through water, will do the same for us. So many acts from our history, including Isaac’s birth, the patriarchs meeting their wives, Moses’ saving, the exodus from Egypt and Aaron’s enacting atonement for the Jewish people are connected to water. For their sake, G-d, do not withhold water from us. The emphasis of Geshem is on avoiding drought, which was thought to be the result of some wrongdoing on our part. It led to a series of fasts, six additional prayers being added to the Amidah, and an additional Neilah prayer service in which we begged G-d for rain. Drought is not uncommon today, with fires occurring this summer in Arizona, California, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and Georgia. We pray at the end of the Geshem prayer for rain to be given לשבע ולא לרזון, for abundance, and not for famine-and I would add to that for sustenance, not for flooding.

We say two additional aspects of prayer for Geshem. We pray that the rain falls לברכה ולא לקללה, for blessing and not for curse, and לחיים ולא למוות, for life and not for death. Rain in our tradition is considered a good thing that one should pray for and one cannot pray for it to go away.[1] What one can pray for is that rain that falls be for nourishing and life-producing, rather than for death and destruction.

Looking at all the natural disasters that befell our country we can have at least two reactions: anger and a call to action against climate change/global warming and/or aw at how people from different backgrounds and walks of life came together after these atrocities. For example, let us examine the following story: “As floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey rose across Houston and parts of Texas, people formed human chains, carried pets above their heads and hopped into boats to save people they’d never met. “[2] One story which in particular touched me was of a Houston woman who went into labor as floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey surrounded her apartment. She was helped to a rescue truck by a human chain of neighbors and firefighters.

Thirty-two year old Dr. Annie Smith said she was mentally preparing herself to have to undergo a home birth on Sunday as she and her husband, Greg watched the rising floodwaters make the two mile drive to a hospital no longer an option. “When I saw all the flooding, I turned to Greg (also a doctor) and was like, ‘I’m really starting to get scared now,’” Annie Smith told ABC News. “It kind of dawned on me that this is it — I’m in actual labor.”

Greg Smith went into “super doctor mode,” according to his wife, and began collecting supplies around the house, like scissors and sewing needles, that could be used for the birth. He asked his mom, who was visiting, to boil water to sterilize the supplies.

A neighbor who went to check on the Smiths on Sunday morning sent an email to their apartment complex’s message page asking for help. Within 30 minutes, at least 15 people were in their apartment and ready to help with the delivery.

“There are a lot of medical trainees in the [apartment] complex, so a general surgery resident next door came over, and some emergency residents and finally an OB-GYN intern showed up too,” Greg Smith said. “People dug through their supplies and brought sutures and scalpels and anything that could be needed.”

The couple had been continuously dialing 911 and the Texas National Guard’s emergency number since 8 a.m. but never got an answer…A phone call made by Annie Smith to the director of her fellowship program, was what finally got a rescue crew to the Smiths’ front door. Less than an hour later, around noon, Greg Smith looked up and saw a truck arriving outside.  “I was with Annie, and I looked out the window, and I saw this big truck come pulling up, and I said, ‘Holy cow, I think someone is here for us.’” The water by that point was so high that the Smiths’ neighbors and firefighters formed a human chain to help Annie Smith to the back of the flatbed truck.

“I just kind of held on to them one person at a time and crawled along their arms until the firemen helped me up the ladder onto the truck,” she said. “I was sitting on a fire hose in the back of the truck with a shower curtain over my head and looking at all the floodwater around us thinking, ‘This is so bizarre.’”

The Smiths arrived at Texas Children’s Hospital about 15 minutes later…Adrielle, the couple’s first child, was born nearly 12 hours later, at 1:59 a.m. Monday, weighing in at 7 pounds, 6 ounces.

Adrielle, whose name is Hebrew in origin and means “belongs to God,” has already been given nicknames like “Little Harvey” and “the Hurricane” by family members.

“We’ve always wanted a little baby,” Greg told People magazine. When Annie didn’t get pregnant soon after her second miscarriage, the couple applied to ultimate authority.

“We felt like we had to surrender this to God,” Greg said. “Everything about this pregnancy is God’s will. That’s why her name is Adrielle. It means she belongs to God.”[3]

In this situation, no one asked “are you a Democrat or a Republican” before rescuing the Smiths. Similarly no one asked “are you Jewish or Christian?” All that mattered was that they were humans in need and that is what brought people to rescue them.

We need to think back to our own New York story, the first responders from 9/11 and from Superstorm Sandy. On Patriot Day, the new national name for September 11, people gathered at the memorial this year on the sixteenth anniversary. The sentiment, from Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Officer David Prudencio Lemagne, was “Our country came together that day. And it did not matter what color you were, or where you were from…I hope as we commemorate the 16th anniversary of 9/11, everyone will stop for a moment and remember all the people who gave their lives that day. Maybe then we can put away our disagreements and become one country again.”[4]

It should not take a national disaster like the atrocity that was the Las Vegas shooting, or a natural disaster like a hurricane, earthquake, wildfire or tornado, to bring people together. Rather, what should bring us together is our shared humanity and our desire to help one another make a difference in each other’s lives. Rather than being a country divided we must work towards being a country united.

What our country needs is for people to come together even when there’s not a national crisis. Think about the people from who we’ve become estranged during the past year. Are there ways for us to come back together, to reunite with them, recognizing that our shared humanity and relationships transcend any disagreement or argument we may have had? Let us also think about this as we remember loved ones who have physically left this world. If we have festering wounds, are there ways for us to find closure from them? If we have disputes with members of our family who are still living, what would our loved ones who have passed on say or do in order to bring us together?

Yizkor is not only about remembering but also about acting to create a better future. We remember in order to prevent future rifts, to bind the gaps that currently exist. As we pray for rain, let us also pray for no more natural disasters and concurrently that we do not need one to bring us together when we drift apart. May we strive to set a positive example for future generations and make our parents and grandparents proud of our actions as we set course on a path to be a people united with shared goals and a shared mission to benefit humanity. Ken Yhi Ratzon, may it be our will to do so.

We continue with Yizkor on Page 506.

[1] See Taanit 23a, the story of Honi HaM’agel

[2] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/08/30/human-chains-among-viral-stories-inspiring-us-out-hurricane-harvey/615479001/

[3] http://abcnews.go.com/US/neighbors-form-human-chain-pregnant-woman-labor-wade/story?id=49489376

[4] https://www.yahoo.com/news/us-commemorates-9-11-thousands-expected-ground-zero-042138855.html?soc_trk=gcm&soc_src=ecd5e8af-dc90-3332-9efb-d522bf6b8dfa&.tsrc=notification-brknews

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Spouses, Parents and In-Laws: Halakhic Perspectives on Addressing Conflict[1]

How does one handle family conflict? It’s natural for people to come into conflict with those to whom they are closest, as we are bound to have different ideas, desires and goals/aspirations. We give children life, raise them and yet ultimately they become independent human beings, with their own thoughts and opinions. We grow up in the same house as siblings, raised by the same parent(s) and yet we ultimately go different ways in life.

Much of Genesis is about life and all the messiness it contains: the story of the first families to inhabit the earth, the first examples of sibling rivalry and parental estrangement. It is very difficult to read many of these stories, yet strangely it gives us comfort in knowing that it could always be worse than our situation. I only know of one family in which the siblings agree on everything without conflict.

One of the sources of conflict begins after the creation of Eve. There our portion takes a rare moment to provide us with a homiletical teaching: על כן יעזב איש את אביו ואת אמו ודבק באשתו והיו לבשר אחד, “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they shall be of one flesh.”[2] There’s an inherent cruelty to this verse: a man needs to leave his parents, the ones who gave him life? One needs to abandon their family of origin? That doesn’t sound like a positive message from a tradition that values family.

Rashi teaches us that’s not what the verse is saying. Rather it says that a man goes from being the product of his parents to producing his own children with his wife. He writes, “ושם נעשה בשרם אחד” in that child their flesh becomes one.[3]  That child will in turn grow up and do the exact same thing, leaving his/her parents to find a partner and create future children with them. Ramban or Nahmanides derives a different lesson. He says that the goal is not procreation per se for then humans would be no different from animals. Rather it is men “cleaving to their wives, seeing them as if they were with them as one flesh”[4] like Eve coming from Adam’s rib.

The rabbis, however, recognize that one never truly leaves his/her parents and that spouses must honor this. The Shulchan Aruch teaches that it is an obligation to honor one’s in-laws and that is a derivation of honoring one’s spouse.[5] Rambam, or Maimonides, teaches that “a man should tear his clothing upon the death of his father-in-law and mother-in-law out of respect for his wife; similarly, a woman should tear her clothing upon the death of her father-in-law and mother-in-law out of respect for her husband.”[6] At the same time, the rabbis teach that there are boundaries that need to be honored by both husband and wife. The Maimonides teaches “If a man says to his wife, ‘It is my wish that your parents and siblings not come into my domain,’ we accede to his demand, and his wife must obey him. She may go to her parents’ house if the occasion calls for it. She may also go to her parents’ house once a month, and for each holiday. And they shall not enter her home except in the instance of a significant event such as her falling ill or giving birth. We do not force a man to allow others into his domain. Similarly, if she says ‘It is my wish that your parents not enter my domain,’ or ‘I will not dwell with them in the same courtyard because they upset me and cause me distress,’ we accede to her wishes. For we do not force someone to live together with others in his/her domain.”[7] Raavad qualifies this as saying it only applies when the parents enter the children’s realm, not when the children enter the parents’ realm.[8]

While the rabbis establish the importance of domains and boundaries, they also indicate the danger of separation. The Talmud teaches that when Joseph said העוד אבי חי, “is my father still living?” that he had been separated from him for 22 years just as Jacob was separated from Isaac for 22 years (when he fled from Esau).[9] There’s something extremely sad about this type of separation, as well as the rabbinic tradition that the Maharam of Rotenberg did not visit or receive his father because he was unsure whether he should stand before his father to fulfill his obligation of כבוד אב (honoring his father) or whether his father should stand before him because he was a great scholar.[10]

למאי נפקא מינה-what’s the lesson that we derive from this? It seems clear that our tradition puts the spousal relationship on a silver platter, making that unit the one where both members need to take into account and honor the feelings and perspective of the other. Our tradition teaches that a man must מכבד אשתו יותר מגופו, show honor to his wife more than he does to himself,[11] and in our egalitarian society, the inverse is true as well. At the same time, our tradition recognizes the importance of a spouse giving honor to their partner’s parents and siblings. Though couples share an eternal bond, they do not do so in a vacuum but rather with each having grown up in a family of origin that needs to be respected. Our tradition teaches us that we avoid conflict both by honoring and respecting siblings and parents and by setting boundaries with our life partner (if we have one). In so doing, we can avoid some of the mistakes made by our ancestors in Sefer Bereshit.

[1] These sources are from a course entitled “Spouses, Parents and In-Laws: Halakhic Perspectives on Addressing Conflict” taught by Dr. Eliezer B. Diamond at the Rabbinical Assembly Convention 2016.

[2] Genesis 2:24

[3] Rashi on Genesis 2:24 ד”ה לבשר אחד

[4] Ramban on Genesis 2:24 ד”ה על כן יעזב איש את אביו ואת אמו

[5] Shulchan Aruch Even HaEzer Siman 240

[6] Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Mourning, 8:5

[7] Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Marriage 13:14

[8] Raavad gloss on Rambam 13:14

[9] Babylonian Talmud Megillah 17a

[10] In Shlomo Luria, Yam Shel Shlomo, Kiddushin 1:72

[11] Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Marriage, 15:19

Joy In Simplicity

“Vanity of vanities,” says Kohelet; “vanity of vanities, all is vanity” (הבל הבלים הכל הבל[1)] The word “vanity” is often used in translations for הבל yet I prefer the translation “wasted potential,” representing the life of הבל, or Abel, Cain’s brother, which was cut way to short by Cain’s fratricide.

We read these words every Sukkot yet we have to ask why? Yesterday we discussed the double joy that Sukkot brings, so why would we now say, on Shabbat Hol HaMoed Sukkot, that it is all in vain? This is particularly surprising when we consider that the ascribed author of Kohelet, better known to us as Ecclesiastes, is King Solomon.[2] Solomon, or Shlomo, means one who is at peace, and we know that King Solomon lived during a most prosperous time, when Israel was not at war with any of it neighbors, he was considered Israel’s wisest king, and he merited building the Temple as the House for G-d. Why would he be the one to say that all is vain and to have such a difficult book to read?

What’s further troubling is that Kohelet is a book of myriad internal contradictions. As is pointed out by numerous rabbis, Ibn Ezra especially, Kohelet contains over a dozen contradictions. One example is when he says ולשמחה מה זאת עושה לשחוק אמרתי מהולל (“of laughter I said ‘It’s maddening!’ of joy ‘what good is that?’”)[3] whereas six chapters later he proclaims ושבחתי אני את השמחה אשר אין טוב לאדם תחת השמש כי אם לאכול ולשתות ולשמוח (“I praised joy. For the only good a person can have under the sun is to eat, drink and enjoy himself.”)[4] He has a similar contradiction within that very chapter, stating יהיה טוב ליראי אלקים אשר ייראו מלפניו (“It will be good for G-d fearers for they revere G-d”)[5] yet two verses later he proclaims יש צדיקים אשר מגיע אלהם כמעשה רשעים (“There are righteous ones who suffer the fate of the wicked.”)[6] It definitely does not appear to be appropriate for the festival of joy, a day on which we read the Haftarah for the coming of the Messiah following the battle with Gog of Magog.

The rabbis don’t like Kohelet, proclaiming “O Solomon, where is your wisdom? Where is your understanding? Not only do your words contradict those of your father David, but they also contradict themselves. Your father David said לא המתים יהללו יה (“it is not the dead who praise G-d”)[7] but you said ושבח אני את המתים שכבר מתו-מן החיים אשר המה חיים עדנה “I thought the dad more fortunate who have died already, than the living who yet live.”[8] Then you (contradicted yourself by saying) כי לכלב חי הוא טוב מן האריה המת “Better a living dog than a dead lion.”[9] Therefore, the rabbis sought to ban Kohelet from the biblical corpus.[10]

Looking at Solomon’s life, we can see why this is the case. Though he appeared to have it all, the Book of Kings tells us that this was not the case. Deuteronomy is clear that the king shall not “acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt to add to his horses…And he shall not have too many wives, lest his heart go astray, nor shall he accumulate too much silver and gold.”[11] Solomon broke these commands from Deuteronomy having “700 wives, princesses and 300 concubines, and his wives turned his heart away,”[12] specifying that they did so “when he was old.”[13] He had 40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots, 12,000 horsemen.[14] It specifies that “Solomon’s import of horses was from Egypt and Kue,[15] and the king’s merchants procured them from Kue for a price.”[16] Furthermore, Solomon had a huge corvee labor force: the remaining Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Do not worry-the text specifies that “of the people Israel, Solomon made no slaves.”[17] To build the Temple, Solomon had “70,000 that bore burdens, and 80,000 that were hewers in the mountains.”[18]

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks argues that, in addition to Solomon violating Torah law, he “transformed Israel into a second Egypt,”[19] including allying himself with Pharaoh by marrying his daughter for a political alliance. King Solomon did not realize until it was too late that he “did that which was evil in the sight of G-d, and did not fully go after G-d, as did David his father.” His punishment was the splitting of the Kingdom of Israel under his son Rehoboam.

When Solomon reached the end of his kingship, he reflected on his pursuit of riches, recognizing that all he acquired was in vain. He sighed, saying, “I made great works; I built houses; I planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks, planting trees in them with all kinds of fruit. I made pools of water…I acquired servants…I had great possessions of herds and flocks…I gathered much silver and gold, and treasure such as kings and the provinces have as their own…then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labor that I had labored to do, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was no profit under the sun.”[20] Solomon recognized that all the riches in the world could not save his legacy.

On Sukkot we prove King Solomon’s lesson. We are no longer confined to the palaces that are our homes; rather we live in a simple booth. We do not seek after the security of our possessions; rather we prove that we can live in the simplicity “a hut, with only leaves for a roof, exposed to the wind, the cold and the rain, and still rejoice.”[21]

We find joy in simplicity, rather than in keeping up with the Joneses; in community, rather than our individual palaces, in believing that there is a much deeper and more significant meaning to life than our possessions. That is the joy that we are celebrating today, a joy which is mentioned throughout the book of Kohelet. That is what we gather to celebrate today; the deeper meanings and purposes of life: our congregational family, our community. Let us learn from Solomon/Kohelet’s example and strive after the right things, those which make a difference to us, to our families and to our personal legacies.

[1] Kohelet 1:2

[2] He is given the name Kohelet (קהלת) to indicate that he spoke before the congregation (קהל) of Israel. His name is in the feminine because he is speaking wisdom literature (ספרות חכמה) which is feminine.

[3] Kohelet 2:2

[4] Kohelet 8:15

[5] Kohelet 8:12

[6] Kohelet 8:14

[7] Psalms 115:17

[8] Kohelet 4:2

[9] Kohelet 9:4

[10] Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 30b

[11] Deuteronomy 17:16-17

[12] 1 Kings 11:3

[13] 1 Kings 11:4

[14] 1 Kings 4:26; in 1 Kings 10:26 it lowers the number to 1,400 horsemen and 12,000 horsemen

[15] 1 Kings 11:4

[16] 1 Kings 10:28

[17] 1 Kings 9:22. Rabbi Sacks points out that it the fact that this needs to be mentioned is by itself alarming!

[18] 1 Kings 5:29

[19] Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Ceremony and Celebration: Introduction to the Holidays (Jerusalem, Maggid Press, 2017), p. 135-6.

[20] Kohelet 2:4-11

[21] Sacks, p. 138.

Simhat Beit HaShoevah: The “All Nighter” Water Drawing Festival

What was the most joyous holiday of the Jewish people during Temple times? It was Sukkot, referred to as HeHag, or “The Festival.” Sukkot was joyous because of the water drawing festival, or “Simhat Beit HaShoeva.” Rabbi Moshe Benovitz, my teacher in Jerusalem, wrote “Originally, this ritual had nothing to do with rain. It was designed to establish the newly renovated altar and Temple in Jerusalem as the navel or center of the earth, connected to the subterranean foundation stone[1] and the abyss beneath it, upon which the earth was created.”[2] However, over time Sukkot became connected to rainfall, as we know through the recitation of the prayer for rain on Shemini Atzeret, the eighth day of the Sukkot assembly.

To learn about this festival we need to go no further than Mishnah Sukkah, which states “pious and distinguished men danced before the people with lit torches in their hands and sang hymns before them; the Levites accompanied them with harps, lyres, cymbals, and innumerable musical instruments. On the fifteen steps leading to Ezrat HaNashim, the women’s chamber, stood the Levites, who sang and played musical instruments. At the upper gate, leading down from Ezrat Yisrael, the court of the Israelites, to the court of the women, stood two priests with trumpets in their hands. At dawn they blew a blast, a long note and a blast. They repeated this when they reached the tenth step and again when they reached the court of the Israelites. They blew their trumpets as they marched.”[3]

The Gemara elaborates on this festive celebration: “Our Rabbis taught: He who has not witnessed the rejoicing at Simhat Beit HaShoeva has never seen rejoicing in his life. He who has not seen Jerusalem in her splendor, has never seen a desirable city in his life. He who has not seen the Temple in its full construction has never seen a glorious building in his life.”[4]

The celebration continued throughout Sukkot-and boy was it a party! The Talmud continues: “It was taught: They said of Rabbi Shimon ben Gamaliel that when he rejoiced at the Rejoicing at the place of the Water-Drawing, he used to take eight lighted torches (and throw them in the air) and catch one and throw one and they did not touch one another; and when he prostrated himself, he used to dig his two thumbs in the ground, bend down, kiss the ground, and draw himself up again, a feat which no other man could do.”[5] It continues, “Levi used to juggle in the presence of Rabbi Judah the Prince with eight knives, Samuel before King Shapur with eight glasses of wine, and Abaye before Rabbah with eight eggs or, as some say, with four eggs.”[6]

In what was structured as a firsthand account, we are told that this ceremony was like no other. The first hour [was occupied with] the daily morning sacrifice; from there [we proceeded] to prayers; from there [we proceeded] to the additional (מוסף) sacrifice, then the prayers to the additional sacrifice, then to the House of Study, then the eating and drinking, then the afternoon prayer, then the daily evening sacrifice, and after that the Rejoicing at the place of the Water-Drawing [all night]. But then we have a contradiction-It cannot be so! For did not Rabbi Yohanan rule, He who says, ‘I take an oath not to sleep for three days’ is to be flogged so he will sleep? — The resolution-what was meant was this: ‘We did not enjoy a proper sleep’, because they dozed on one another’s shoulders.[7] In other words, no one went to bed, just napped from time to time, because of all the fireworks and energy emanating from this festival.

There was so much celebration that the rabbis were afraid of debauchery. They therefore enacted what was the first mehitza: The Talmud teaches “Our Rabbis have taught: Originally the women used to sit within [the Court of the Women] while the men were outside, but as this caused levity, it was instituted that the women should sit outside and the men inside. As this, however, still led to levity, it was instituted that the women should sit above and the men below.[8]

What relevance does this festival have in our lives today? How do we return to a time when Sukkot is החג, THE FESTIVAL? The Gerer Rebbe, in his book Sefat Emet, wrote that Simhat Beit HaShoeva is when we draw G-d’s spirit, the רוח הקודש, into our lives. It can only be holy joy, joy for the purpose of connecting to something greater than ourselves, rather than any form of base joy. Therefore the purpose was not debauchery but rather elevation of G-d’s holiness.[9] Unfortunately, some people misunderstood the intent and let loose too much, requiring safeguards to have to be instituted. Our tradition teaches that Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai stopped this ceremony because the number of adulterers increased.[10]

Sukkot must be a celebration for getting past the Days of Awe, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We should have festive meals with l’chayims and celebrate with family and friends-by the way, please join us for our Sukkot Open House this coming Sunday. At the same time, we can do so without the level of levity (קלות ראש) of our ancestors at Simhat Beit HaShoeva. In Jerusalem today on Hol HaMoed, they have a party which they refer to as Simhat Beit HaShoeva but it is tempered down from that of Temple times.  This Sukkot let us take opportunities to celebrate together, to truly engage in making this  a special Festival.

 

[1] Called אבן השתיה, which we refer to in Hoshanot on this, the 2nd Day of Sukkot

[2] Rabbi Moshe Benovitz, commentary on Bavli Sukkah chapters IV and V: Talmud Ha-Igud: Lulav VeAravah veHahalil, Jerusalem 2013, pp. 401-410.

[3] Mishnah Sukkah 5:4

[4] Talmud Bavli Tractate Sukkah 51b

[5] Talmud Bavli Tractate Sukkah 53a

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid

[8] Babylonian Talmud Tractate Sukkah 51b

[9] Sefat Emet, 536

[10] Mishnah Sotah Chapter 9 Mishnah 9

Sukkot: The Festival of Double Joy

Sukkot is unique among the festivals for being referred to as זמן שמחתנו, the time of our joy. Why is this the case? Sir Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes about how Sukkot is defined not by one overriding symbol but two, both of which were referenced in this morning’s Torah reading. The first is to “take for yourselves a fruit of the citron tree, palm fronds, myrtle branches and willows of the brook, and be joyous in the presence of the LORD your G-d for seven days.”[1] Two verses later, the command is “You shall dwell in booths for seven days…so that your descendants will know that I settled the children of Israel in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your G-d.”[2] Rabbi Sacks writes that Sukkot is the only Jewish holiday which is part of both festival cycles: the festivals of the seventh month which serve as “a memorial of creation” and the pilgrimage festivals which “tell the singular story of Jewish creation.”[3] The four species, as Maimonides states, remind us of the fertility of the land of Israel,[4] as does the water-dwelling festival of Simhat Beit HaShoevah which I will discuss tomorrow. In contrast, the command to dwell for seven days in Sukkot presupposes the absence of rain, for if it rains we are exempted from the command to eat in the Sukkah.[5]

In encompassing both the universality of creation and nature and the historical story of our ancestors, Rabbi Sacks writes that Sukkot represents “the dual character of the Jewish faith. We believe in the universality of G-d, together with the particularity of Jewish history and identity. All nations need rain. We are all part of nature. We are dependent on the complex ecology of the created world. We are all threatened by climate change, global warming, the destruction of rain forests, the overexploitation of non-renewable energy sources and the mass extinction of species. But each nation is different. As Jews we are heirs to a history unlike that of any other people: small, vulnerable, suffering repeated exile and defeat, yet surviving and celebrating.”[6] That is why we have Sukkot, which will be observed as a universal holiday when the Messiah comes, and Shemini Atzeret, a day which is only for G-d and Israel. As Jews, we recognize our part in the larger world while concurrently our unique mission to follow the Torah and be role models for the other nations.

One can also see the dichotomy between universality and particularity by contrasting yesterday’s Haftarah with todays. Yesterday we read from the Prophet Zechariah who gives the universalistic message proclaimed thrice daily in Aleinu, “The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day the LORD will be One, and His name will be one.”[7] In contrast, today we read from 1 Kings about the creation of the Temple in Jerusalem. This just refers to our people, “all the men of Israel gathered before King Solomon at the Feast.”[8] On Sukkot we thus experience joy both from it being a holiday where we celebrate being human, the beauty of nature and the One who created it all as well as a holiday when we commemorate our ancestors’ journey through the Sinai Desert and their creation of a House of worship for G-d.

This Sukkot we should celebrate both forms of joy, the gift of life we feel from being human as well as the beauty of being born a Jew and getting to celebrate the achievements of our people. We need time to put our challenges aside and revel in the wonders of life. May we feel the double joy of the beauty of creation and the gift of Judaism each day of this festival, and may it lead us to feel only gratitude, appreciation and amazement for the gifts and opportunities life has to offer.

[1] Leviticus 23:40

[2] Leviticus 23:42-43

[3] Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Ceremony & Celebration: Introduction to the Holidays (Jerusalem, Maggid Books, 2017), p. 108.

[4] Maimonides, The Guide for the Perplexed, III:43

[5] Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Covenant and Conversation: Leviticus (Jerusalem, Maggid Books, 2015), p. 348-9.

[6] Ibid, 109-10.

[7] Zechariah 14:9

[8] 2 Kings 8:2

Second Chances

It’s so wonderful to see families together today, on the holiest day of the year. Part of what makes the holidays so special and so meaningful is your presence here. Please know you always have a place here at the Jericho Jewish Center.

Lucille Frenkel “A Note to My Ancestors”

That you were.

And that you were what you were and as you were.

And that my being mirrors what you were.

And that you are now mirrored in my soul.

And that you were-and in me, you still are-

Just that you were is but ample reason

That I am and shall progress to be.[1]

 

Do you believe in second chances? That is what Yom Kippur is all about. Yom Kippur is the anniversary of the second set of tablets. Moses ascended to Sinai on the first of Elul and came down with the tablets forty days later on the tenth of Tishrei. It was a day of second chances. The tablets which had been destroyed were replaced. As Rabbi Avi Weiss writes, “No wonder that we feel joy on Yom Kippur. We celebrate being given a second chance. In too many of life’s pursuits, we are only given ‘one shot.’ If we miss, it’s all over. G-d says: ‘No matter that you have failed before; you can still return.’”[2]

The tablets serve as the blueprint for the entire world. When the first tablets were destroyed by Moses, only shards were left. G-d reminded Moses that he made a mistake by making him write the second set of tablets by himself and stating וכתבתי על הלוחות את הדברים אשר היו על הלוחות הראשונים אשר שברת, “I will write on these tablets the exact same words that were on the first set of tablets which you broke.”[3] Today is the anniversary of that second set of tablets coming into the world, a sign of forgiveness for the mistake Moses made by smashing the first set.  At the same time, after Moses came down from Mount Sinai, his face was radiant. He exuded confidence and light, no longer dwelling on the past.

The light of Moses is the same radiance we seek for ourselves. We constantly strive to be  stronger and better, in a more elevated place in life. We yearn to be inspired, to burst out of this service with a sense of radiance and light. What can we think about as we sit here hour after hour to give our lives a sense of meaning, to appreciate what we have and to try to structure our lives so that we provide this for ourselves?

Where did Moses’ radiance come from and how can we experience it in our lives? In the Midrashic collection Yalkut Shimoni, the rabbis state that Moses received radiance when he saw G-d. G-d said, ‘You cannot see my face, but you can see my back,” and then proceeded to put Moses in a cleft of rock and passed in front of him.[4] The nature of the intensity of Moses’ closeness to G-d is the source that provided the radiance. Imagine being in such an intense relationship that you lose track of the outside world. Any thoughts you have about the rest of your day or your commitments fall by the wayside and you just engage in the moment. You don’t even check your phone for emails or text messages (which you shouldn’t be checking anyway today). That’s the level of mindfulness and engagement we’re talking about.

Unfortunately this is becoming a very difficult skill for many of us, including me. Our lives are so full, we spend so much time being busy and even when we not busy we look to fill our time. When in line in the post office or the grocery store, we put hands in our pockets, take out our cell phone and we rifle through our e-mails. I know I’m guilty of this. We don’t give ourselves a chance to just be ourselves. We spend too much time doing and not enough being. Where’s the white space in our lives? The words of the Torah only encompass half of the scroll. For every black letter there’s a white letter, for everything written, a blank space. This encounter between Moses  מן המערה, at the cave, is his experience being comfortable with himself, focused on his relationship with G-d which provides him with radiance.

There is a power to solitude. The first source of our radiance is being comfortable with who we are, not always rushing off to do something. In his book Solitude: A Return to the Self, Anthony Starr writes about “the desire of solitude as a means to escape from the pressures of ordinary life and as a way of renewal.”[5]  He writes about Admiral Byrd, an explorer of Antarctica, that he would be certain to take time every day “to be by himself for awhile and to taste peace and quiet and solitude long enough to find out how good they really are.”[6] Obviously solitude is not meant as an end in and of itself, as too much solitude is a bad thing. It’s why they place prisoners with severe crimes in solitary confinement. A person’s mental health depends upon relationships with others. One needs to ask him/herself ‘what nurtures and sustains me?’ as well as ‘what gives me the ability to replenish and sustain others?’

A congregant e-mailed me after Rosh Hashanah asking if I’d do a meditation during Musaf. I decided instead to do it during my sermon. In January I will begin an eighteen month program called the Hevraya at the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, which focuses on developing skills in yoga, meditation, silence and song as well as weekly study of Hasidic texts. I chose to do this program not because mindfulness is “in vogue” or for a “kumbaya” moment but rather so that I can serve you better as your rabbi, being fully engaged in every encounter with congregants rather than distracted by my “to-do list.” I want to be fully present and the new year with its bringing second chances is a new opportunity to try to do that. You might have a different skill you’re working on now. If you’ll join me on this brief journey, let’s close our eyes, breathing in all the potential, the skills and the good things that will come our way this year and breathing out all the pain, suffering and difficulties we experienced in the past year. We breathe in…and we breathe out…

Is everyone still awake?…A second source of radiance, as demonstrated by Rabbi Berachiah in the Yalkut, is that of the tablets themselves.[7] He writes that the length of the tablets was six handbreadths. G-d held onto the top two, Moses grabbed the bottom two and radiance emanated from the middle two.  Like many Kabbalistic ideas, there is a limited part of the world with which we can connect. The top two handbreadths are too holy; we cannot live in that world. The bottom two handbreadths are too mundane and don’t inspire us at all. The radiance emanates from the middle two handbreadths that are between heaven and earth. As we do on Shabbat, we take the earth and bring it a little closer to heaven. We do something spiritual, relinquishing control of our daily routine, and it elevates us closer to G-d.

Moses was a great leader in elevating earthliness closer to heaven. When G-d threatened to destroy the Jewish people after the sin of the spies, Moses would not permit him to do so. He demanded that G-d pardon Israel. What great hutzpah to first demand this from HaKadosh Baruch Hu, G-d Almighty, and then to ask for pardon of a people who were ready to return to the slavery of Egypt. What did G-d do? ויאמר ה סלחתי כדברך, G-d said “I will pardon in accordance with your word.”[8]

The Talmud goes even further, referencing another time when G-d threatened to destroy the Jewish people: the sin of the golden calf. Rabbi Abahu asserts that Moses took hold of G-d, like a man who seizes his fellow by his coat, and said to Him: “Master of the Universe, I will not let You go until You forgive and pardon them.”[9] Moses’ enduring passion for a people who didn’t believe in him, who brazenly said “We do not know what has happened to him”[10] is what caused G-d to save our ancestors.

What can we do to live an exalted life, to raise up ourselves and our families to a higher, more spiritual standard of living?  That effort is karnei hod קרני הוד, a source of inner fulfillment. On Yom Kippur, we celebrate the first human being who exuded that form of radiance. Moses thus came down holding not merely a set of rules but rather the blueprint for human existence.

The third and most important idea on Moses’ radiance is espoused by Rabbi Yehudah bar Nahman. He asserts that when Moses finished writing the Torah, he had a little ink left in his quill which spilled onto his fingers. He took from that ink and wiped his forehead, and that was the source of his radiance.[11] Moses wrote a blueprint for humanity and yet even when he finished, there was something left, a little ink. We sometimes feel, “What can we do? What difference can we make?” The answer is “You can make a huge difference.” No matter what you do, there’s a little bit of ink left over for us to write a difference in our lives. We are the authors of our own book of life. We just finished writing the chapter on 5777 and now we are ten days into writing the chapter for New Year, 5778. We always need to be confident and optimistic that there is a little ink left over for us to write a new, glorious chapter in our lives. If we did something wrong in 5777, we have the chance to right it in 5778. After all, our greatest ancestor, Moshe Rabbenu, enabled Israel to get a second chance through G-d giving Israel a second set on Ten Commandments, the anniversary of which we celebrate today on Yom Kippur.

There is a lesson to be learned from each of these three interpretations. The unnamed rabbis in the first interpretation from Yalkut Shimoni teach us to be comfortable with ourselves, to nurture and sustain ourselves. If we do this, we will be in a position from the radiance we gain to return and help others. Rabbi Berachiah teaches us to find that sacred space in the middle, to bridge the gap between the peaks of heaven and the realities of earth. It is Rabbi Yehudah bar Nahman’s interpretation that I want us to hold onto after Yom Kippur: that our work is never done, for there is always more to write, contribute and to share. May G-d grant us the ability to appreciate our lives, overcome our challenges, and enhance ourselves as we sit here in the synagogue on this most holy of days.

What do we remember about loved ones? Their work was never done. There was always ink left in their quill-they modeled it for us. We are the ink left in their quill. Their neshama (soul) continues and we help it on its journey. Their story has not finished being written, and we continue to write chapters in their book of life. They tried to bring heaven and earth closer together. They lived with radiance and brought life into the world. Religion’s job is to reflect between the earthly and heavenly, the infinite yearnings and the finite reality.

On this Yom Kippur I reflect back on those loved ones who have gone to their eternal reward. What can I do to make them proud of the person I am? How can I live each day with meaning and purpose, continuing to follow in their footsteps? There are many ways in which we can show honor to loved ones. One is to attend services, not only for Yizkor as today but for each Yahrzeit (anniversary of their passing) and to commit oneself to attend our minyan at least one morning or evening of the week. We are also going to be starting a weekly class on the service (proposed names are “Shul Shy” or “Baby Steps” but I want to find something a little less infantilizing) to complement our Beginning Hebrew class and help people feel more comfortable at services and in the synagogue. No one should be embarrassed by what they don’t know as אין הבישן לומד “the person who feels shame does not learn.”[12] I hope that you are open to learning new things. Please let me know if you are able to commit to either one day of minyan a week or to attending the weekly class-or if you have an idea for another class topic.

In addition to growing intellectually and communally, we have the opportunity to grow spiritually in the New Year. Last Sunday evening I left for a short trip to Arizona as one of my friends in Tucson flew me out to see a football game. I had finished the drafts of my sermons right before Rosh Hashanah so I had a five hour flight to do something I don’t get the chance to do often anymore: read a book. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that the book I chose is the most powerful book I’ve ever read-I couldn’t stop tearing up as I was ensconced in its pages-and that it has the potential to serve as an impetus to change me for the better. The book is Einstein and the Rabbi: Searching for the Soul by Rabbi Naomi Levy. I’m only going to share with you one piece of wisdom from her book this morning: her memorial prayer for before lighting the Yahrzeit candle in her chapter “Living on Soul Time.”

A Memorial Prayer

I haven’t forgotten you, even though it’s been some time now since I’ve seen your face, touched your hand, heard your voice. You are with me all the time.

          I used to think you left me. I know better now. You come to me. Sometimes in fleeting moments I feel your presence close by. But I still miss you. And nothing, no person, no joy, no accomplishment, no distraction, not even God can fill the gaping hole your absence has left in my life.

          But mixed together with all my sadness, there is a great joy for having known you. I want to thank you for the time we shared, for the love you gave, for the wisdom you spread.

          Thank you for the magnificent moments and for the ordinary ones too. There was beauty in our simplicity. Holiness in our unspectacular days. And I will carry the lessons you taught me always.

          Your life has ended, but your light can never be extinguished. It continues to shine upon me even on the darkest nights and illuminates my way.

          I light this candle in your honor and in your memory. May God bless you as you have blessed me with love, with grace, and with peace. Amen.[13]

I remember all my grandparents this Yizkor and want to share one story from my maternal grandmother whose poetry I’ve been sharing during my holiday sermons. Lucille Frenkel z”l epitomized for me the importance of the spiritual. She attended synagogue services Shabbat after Shabbat not knowing one word of Hebrew, with her eyes closed whenever the Cantor and choir sang, just absorbing the music. She was “always behind” and often did not get past the English in the Silverman Preliminary Service. I asked her once why she came to synagogue when she couldn’t understand what was read. Wasn’t this frustrating for her? Her response surprised me: she said “I need this. I need this to survive.”

I didn’t understand it then. Why would anyone “need” a service in a foreign language reciting the same prayers week after week? I think I do now: there is something beyond the words, even beyond the melodies used, that can emanate deep into the soul if we let it in. It’s not even about what’s said but rather about letting go of oneself, being present and connecting deeply with something greater than oneself. Her closing her eyes was like we do for the Shabbat candles or the Shema: blotting out all external distractions, letting go of all thoughts, and striving to connect to The One, to G-d. She understood the deeper, spiritual connection whereas I get distracted by the physical needs of my “to-do list.”

As we remember our loved ones with Yizkor, let us all find our refuge: our place where we can be mindful, meditative, thoughtful. I hope that our synagogue will be one such place for you throughout the year. If you have doubts, think ‘I’m too far removed,’ just remember that Yom Kippur is a day beckoning us towards new opportunities. Who would have thought in their wildest dreams that our ancestors would have merited receiving a new set of tablets? Let us take advantage of each new opportunity that presents itself to us over the course of 5778.

 

Lucille Frenkel, “Synagogue Thought”

Within the Sabbath service,

I can hear the echoes,

The presence of soft echoes

Of every Jew that ever

Prayed a Sabbath prayer.

 

And I wonder if

Someone in the future,

In centuries beyond me,

Will share the distant echo

Of my earnest Sabbath prayer.[14]

 

We rise and continue with Yizkor on Page 321.

[1] Lucille Frenkel A Jewish Adventure (Milwaukee, WI: The Eternity Press, 1983), p. 129.

[2] Rabbi Avi Weiss, “Four Reasons to Rejoice on Yom Kippur,” in The World of the High Holy Days, edited by Rabbi Jack Reimer (Miami, FL: Bernie Books, 1992), p. 231.

[3] Exodus 34:1

[4] Yalkut Shimoni Ki Tisa 34. See also Exodus 33:12-23.

[5] Anthony Starr, Solitude: A Return to the Self (New York: The Free Press, 1988), page 34.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Yalkut Shimoni 34.

[8] Numbers 14:20

[9] Babylonian Talmud Berachot 32a

[10] Exodus 32:1

[11] Yalkut Shimoni 34

[12] Mishnah Avot 2:5

[13] Rabbi Naomi Levy, Einstein and the Rabbi: Searching for the Soul (New York: Flatiron Books, 2017), p. 283.

[14] Lucille Frenkel, A Jewish Adventure (Milwaukee, WI: The Eternity Press, 1983), p. 52.

Permission to Move

Lucille Frenkel “The Days of Awe: Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur”

Mankind, judge of all things, does now await

Life’s Judge to weigh its actions and its fate,

Most cognizant that one who would a judge be

Will understand of failing and of mercy.[1]

 

The High Holy Days is all about having the permission to move.[2] We began with the month of Elul, hearing the Shofar as a clarion call to wake us up. The sounds of the Selichot liturgy made it all the more urgent, asking us ‘what are you waiting for’? Rosh Hashanah beckons us to heed the sound of the shofar and for it to lead us into action. Now we are at Kol Nidre, one more attempt to move ourselves into the people we are meant to be.

The transition from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur is one of particularism to universality. Rosh Hashanah is the birthday of the world, a day on which we rejoice in all creation. The Torah readings we read on Rosh Hashanah are particularistic: the birth of Sarah’s son, the struggles between Sarah and Hagar, the agreement between Abraham and Avimelech, the almost sacrifice of Isaac. The story read on Yom Kippur, however, is a universal one: the Kohen Gadol taking a goat, which has the sins of the entire community cast upon it, and leading it into the wilderness. On Yom Kippur we transcend our personal stories and come together as a community. Our main prayers are in the plural, from אשמנו, detailing all the things which we as a community have done wrong, to על חאט שחטאנו, the longer confessional, to אבינו מלכנו, read when Yom Kippur is not on Shabbat to beseech G-d, “our heavenly Father,” to write us in the book of life.

At the same time, there is an individual element to repentance on Yom Kippur, and it begins by examining tomorrow morning’s Torah portion. The text on the Kohen Gadol, or High Priest, atoning for the people of Israel through the goat offered to G-d and the goat offered to Azazel teaches us three things about repentance. First, the Kohen Gadol must prepare for seven days prior to Yom Kippur in order to be familiar with the laws of communal purification. Similarly, Yom Kippur is preceded by the entire month of Elul, Rosh Hashanah, and the ten days of repentance, all of which deal with preparation for this moment. Also, the Kohen Gadol must do the entire atonement service, which we reenact with the Avodah service tomorrow, by himself. Similarly, atonement can only be achieved by each of us for ourselves. Finally, the Kohen Gadol atones for himself first and his family first, followed by his tribe, and finally for all of Israel. Concurrently, we are responsible to take care of ourselves first, then our families, and then those geographically closest to us, infinitely extending outward.

Two years ago I spoke about Yom Kippur being a joyous day in our being forgiven for all our sins. Today, I want to teach another aspect of that joy. Too often we look at our shortcomings rather than undergoing הכרת הטוב, a recognition of all which is good in us. A contemporary prayer, written by Rabbi Avi Weiss and modeled after the אשמנו (we are guilty) but called אהבנו (we have loved) does just that. It goes as follows:

אָהַבְנוּ, בֵּרַכְנוּ, גָּדַלְנוּ, דִבַּרְנוּ  יֹפִי
We have loved, we have blessed, we have grown, we have spoken positively.

הֶעֱלִינוּ, וְחַסְנוּ, זֵרַזְנוּ
We have raised up, we have shown compassion, we have acted enthusiastically,

חָמַלְנוּ, טִפַּחְנוּ אֱמֶת
We have been empathetic, we have cultivated truth,

יָעַצְנוּ טוֹב, כִּבַּדְנוּ, לָמַדְנוּ, מָחַלְנוּ
We have given good advice, we have respected, we have learned, we have forgiven,

נִחַמְנוּ, סָלַלְנוּ, עוֹרַרְנוּ
We have comforted, we have been creative, we have stirred,

פָּעַלְנוּ, צָדַקְנוּ, קִוִּינוּ לָאָרֶץ
We have been spiritual activists, we have been just, we have longed for Israel,

רִחַמְנוּ, שָקַדְנוּ
We have been merciful, we have given full effort,

תָּמַכְנוּ, תָּרַמְנוּ, תִּקַּנּוּ
We have supported, we have contributed, we have repaired.[3]

The Ashamnu, unlike most prayers in Selichot, is written in a major key. As we say it, we are hopeful about changed behavior. Similarly, by saying Ahavnu, we can be grateful for all the positive things we do in life and use them as examples to propel us forward.

This year I would like to develop more patience, more satisfaction with what I have and increased understanding that things will work out in the end. Too often we focus on the things we don’t have, or our inadequacies, instead of all the things we do have. What if the balance was reversed-that we spent the majority of the time counting our blessings and only a minority of it looking at what we lack?

Rabbi Sharon Brous teaches (and I took her words as the title of my sermon) that Yom Kippur gives us “permission to move.” We need to ask ourselves what we are waiting for in order to transform our mindsets, “the inflexibility, insecurity and inertia of our lives.”[4] One of the main things we have control over moving is our mentality. We can’t always control what happens to us but we CAN control how we respond to it.  What are the messages of love, strength, and healing that we can carry with us into the new year of 5778?

We often look at our world as stable until something shatters that stability. We think we are in control until something comes along that demolishes those feelings of control. How do we own our lack of control, believing that we have agency when it feels like we have anything but, affirming that the world is good when it does not feel that way? How do we move ourselves to feeling that we can make a difference as opposed to sighing and saying what difference do we make?

We can illustrate this by means of a story. A Chasid once asked his Rebbe: “Why pray on Yom Kippur? After all, we inevitably sin again.” In response, the Rebbe asked him to look out the window. Outside was a toddler learning to walk. “What do you see?” asked the master. “A child, standing and falling,” replied the disciple. Day after day, the Chasid came back to witness the same scene. By the week’s end, the child stood and did not fall. The child’s eyes expressed the joy of having attained this milestone. “So it is with us,” said the Rebbe. “We fall again and again, but in the end, a loving G-d gives us the opportunities we need to succeed.”[5]

This story resonates deeply with me, as I’ve watched Ariela learn how to walk. I saw her transition from being scared to stand in place on her own to now running all over the place. In May the pediatrician said she was behind and might need PT yet within one day of getting our puppy Simba, she was walking after him. Sometimes in life we need something to jar us out of our rut, to get us over the hump after failing numerous times. Even after walking, I watched Ariela develop numerous scrapes and bruises from falling yet saw her determination nevertheless. If only I had that spirit to continue forward encountering obstacles rather than staying back and resting on my laurels. What would give me the oomph to feel I have the permission to move forward despite the potential pitfalls lurking in my path?

This Yom Kippur, I hope that each of us will feel that we have permission to move forward in all of our pursuits, that we will not be pushed back by the challenges that we will encounter, that we will move forward recognizing that we are imperfect beings and that’s ok. It does not stop us from continually working on ourselves. As in the immortal words of Rabbi Tarfon, לא עליך המלאכה לגמור ולא עתה בני חורין להבטל ממנה, “It is not up to you to complete the work but neither are you free to desist from it.”[6] Let us always understand that we are a work in progress and may we give ourselves permission to move forward, one step at a time. If we are faced with a challenge, like a child learning to walk, let us never give up but always propel ourselves forward with the determination that G-d will give us the strength we need to succeed. Ken Yhi Ratzon, may it be our will to do so.

Before we return to prayer on the most spiritual day of the year, we continue with a cute poem sent out by Young Israel of Jamaica Estates entitled “Time to Pray” sent to me by Steve Mann.

I got up early one morning

and rushed right into the day;

I had so much to accomplish
that I didn’t have time to pray.

Problems just tumbled about me,

and heavier came each task.

“Why doesn’t God help me?” I wondered.
He answered, “You didn’t ask.” 


I wanted to see joy and beauty,

but the day toiled on, gray and bleak;

I wondered why God didn’t show me.
He said, “But you didn’t seek.” 


I tried to come into God’s presence;

I used all my keys at the lock.

God gently and lovingly chided,
“My child, you didn’t knock.”

I woke up early this morning,

and paused before entering the day;

I had so much to accomplish 

that I had to take time to pray.  

We continue with the reverse acrostic Yaaleh on Page 227. Please rise as the ark is opened.

[1] Lucille Frenkel, A Jewish Adventure (Milwaukee, WI: The Eternity Press, 1983), p. 130.

[2] Idea from Rabbi Sharon Brous of IKAR in Los Angeles from New York Board of Rabbis High Holidays Sermon Seminar, September 8, 2016.

[3] Taught to me by Rabbi Avi Weiss and found here: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/ahavnu-beirachnu-yom-kippur-is-also-a-time-to-confess-our-good/

[4] Taught to me by Rabbi Sharon Brous of IKAR in Los Angeles at New York Board of Rabbis High Holiday Sermon Seminar, September 8, 2016.

[5] Rabbi Avi Weiss, “Four Reasons to Rejoice on Yom Kippur,” in The World of the High Holy Days, edited by Rabbi Jack Reimer (Miami, FL: Bernie Books, 1992), p. 231.

[6] Mishnah Avot Chapter 2 Mishnah 16.