Monday, September 29, 2014

A Quick Overview of the High Holidays

Good day everyone!

I've started a new book, Toward a Meaningful Life, and I wanted to share a piece giving a fantastic overview of the Holidays we find ourselves in the midst of --
On Rosh Hashana, we learn that we have the power to still the trembling world and assist in the birth of a new one. The tremors of the old world are the birth pangs of the new. It is within our power to help bring about that rebirth, by taking steps to renew our own spiritual lives (xiii) 
The message of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is that renewal is possible even after loss and destruction.... Rebirth can be more powerful than the initial birth. The first revelation of the Law on Mount Sinai took forty days, but Moses spent twice as long to persuade G-d to yield to his entreaties and replace the broken tablets. The effort required to rebuild after destruction is much greater than the work of building in the first place. But the rebuilt structure, when it is finally completed, is stronger than the original and can never again be destroyed...Yom Kippur is the holiest day in the year because it is the day when life's essential element, Hope, was born. The message of Yom Kippur is unequivocal: even after great loss, we can repair, rebuild and regenerate... Yom Kippur makes clear how we can achieve these things: by connecting to G-d, to immortality (xiv-xv). 
The festival of joy, Sukkot (Tabernacles), follows in the wake of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur with a vital lesson of its own for today's difficult circumstances. Joy is an external sign of the soul's innate celebration of life. Awareness of our indispensable purpose, that we are connected to our Divine mission, is cause for celebration. Conversely, if we are cut off from this awareness - that is, if we feel that our lives lack purpose and direction - we are prey to feelings of insecurity, fear, uncertainty, and despondency... The joy of Sukkot is an extension of the hope born on Yom Kippur. Joy cannot be experienced to the fullest until we have encountered loss and begun to recover, as happens on Yom Kippur. With hope regained, after our broken spirits have revived and we have started to rebuild after loss, we celebrate (xvi).
This is only the beginning of the book. I'm looking forward to reading and learning more!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Happy New Year 5775!

How time flies. We're back at the beginning - Shana Tova to all! Happy New Year!

It's the beginning of the Jewish New Year! A celebration completely different than the secular one, we spend the day thinking about G-d as our King.

For me, Rosh HaShana and the upcoming holidays are a bit tough to get my head around. I am blessed with three small people, 3.5 years, 2 years and 3 months old. Getting in the mood and to synagogue is more than a small challenge (more like a bad joke). Happily, I found someone in my building who blew the shofar for me.

I'm revisiting the idea of learning something Jewish for 5 minutes a day. For anyone who thinks that 5 minutes is no big deal should come visit my home. I'm hoping to find that 5 minutes block - rather, I think it may have to be broken up into parts.

I'll share with you a series of books that I enjoy. There are at least six books in the series so far, each focusing on different parts of the Torah. I just finished Let Me Join Your Nation by Yosef Deutsch. (Took me three months, trust me, it's not a long book). It's a novelization of the Book of Ruth. Using commentaries and midrashim, he weaves a coherent narrative, fleshing out the story. What I like about it is that he includes footnotes, so if you were so inclined, you could actually check out the details. I feel like you are learning by reading a book without working too hard.

The next book I'm going to be working through is one I've read before, but it's been about six years since I've cracked it open. It's called, Toward a Meaningful Life: The Wisdom of the Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson. It's got a universal message, so anyone from any faith should get something out of it - but obviously geared toward Jews. I don't remember much from the last time I read it, but I do remember enjoying it. I am excited to give it another read (as slow and painful as that may be).

So again, I'm going to try to write a weekly dvar Torah, and hopefully I won't peter out like I did last time. Try, try again!

A healthy and happy Shana Tova to all!