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The year is coming to an end and the new year potent with possibilities is approaching.
Take time to reflect and open the heart to forgiveness. Forgiving yourself and others is the royal road to happiness and joy.
Shanah Tova! May the new year be pregnant with new possibilities and joy for you and family.
In 2005-2006, I served part time as the rabbi of Congregation Sholom Aleichem with Cantor Isaac Kriger. We have wanted to share a bimah for the Fall Holy Days again ever since. If your congregation, traditional or liberal wants an inspiring Rosh haShanah and Yom Kippur, please contact us here in Central Florida. Cantor Kriger lives in Orlando with his talented voice coach/accompanist/musical directress Elizabeth Brahms-Kriger; I live in Daytona Beach, and work part time in my retirement as the chaplain for Haven Hospice, DeLand, FL. They met in Israel, singing for the Israeli Opera Company, then sang in Europe before returning to the USA. I am reachable at 386-405-4432 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ever since I moved to Newton, Mass., I have found services to be just boring. Maybe it’s because now we go to a bigger, less personal synagogue, or when the rabbi talks, I often find myself dozing off. This year I was determined to make Rosh Hashanah meaningful for my family, especially my three year old little boy, Ariel.
I decided to make a birthday party for the world. By making Rosh Hashanah a birthday for the world, I felt my son would truly understand the meaning of the day or at least think it was really cool that we were all dressed up wearing birthday hats and eating sweet food.
For each of the two days of Rosh Hashanah we invited Ariel’s friends and their parents over to our house. We had a mix of families with guests who originated from New York, Canada, China, Ukraine, and Australia. We started each meal with apples and honey and a new fruit. It is a tradition on this holiday to try an unusual fruit for the first time in the season and recite the Shehecheyanu, a prayer of thanks that is said on many occasions including when something new happens,”.
We then moved on to the typical fare of homemade gefilte fish, brisket, noodle kugel, and carrots but we were all wearing birthday hats. Each meal was finished with birthday cookies; We keep kosher and don’t mix diary and meat, and I had a hard time finding a pareve birthday cake (one that is not dairy) and am not the type to bake it myself!
We also talked about how G-d created the world with all of the animals and plants on Rosh Hashanah. Then we talked about how nice it would be if we did good deeds or mitzvahs all year because G-d was nice enough to create the world for us. (I figured that as Ariel and his little friends are only three, we could include a discussion on evolution a few years down the road.)
It was the best Rosh Hashanah we’d had in a long while and I hope it will continue for many more years.
Last Saturday, I co-officiated at a beautiful wedding ceremony at Curtis Farm in Wilton, New Hampshire. The bride is Catholic and the groom is Jewish, and I co-officiated with a wonderful and welcoming Priest from Bedford, NH. The wedding was in an open field with a view of the mountains and fortunately, the weather was warm and sunny, even though rain was in the forecast. I believe that both families were very happy with the ceremony, and a great time was had by all.
I was the m'sader kiddushin (officiant) at the marriage of Shannon Reed and Alex Iosevich. It was an intermarriage in more ways than one -- Shannon's family is from rural Missouri and the wedding was held on her parents' farm outside of Jefferson City, MO. Alex is from the former Soviet Union, and most of his guests were, as well. It's quite a sight to see so many people from the FSU sitting on hay bales at an outdoor wedding! But many people on both sides were not very familiar with Jewish traditions, and all seemed grateful for the explanations I provided. I look forward to more such happy occasions.
One day, Sam, a poor man came home from work tired and exhausted. He begged The Creator for just a little treasure. All of a sudden, Sam noticed a little purse lying near his feet. A heavenly voice said to him: "Take this purse as a gift from Creator. You will find a single coin inside, and the moment you take it out, another coin will take its place - until you throw the purse into the river. The moment you spend the first coin, the purse will lose its magic powers." By that evening, Sam had succeeded in gathering a full sack of coins from the purse, but there was no bread left in the house, because he would not spend a single coin to buy food for himself. "I will gather another sack of money, and only then throw the purse into the river and begin to spend the coins." That day Sam asked a neighbor for bread and on the following day he went out to beg for bread in the streets, because, as he said, "It won’t do me any harm if I fill another sack with coins before I spend the money and throw the wonderful purse into the river." And so he continued to beg for bread and to gather coins until the end of his days, never spending anything because he did not want to part with his wonderful purse. Sam died a very rich man and his home was filled with sacks of coins - but he died still a poor beggar.
Sam did not realize that in order to truly change his life, he needed more than just money and material possessions. He failed to realize that what he really needed was a different outlook, a change of direction. Even when his wishes/prayers were answered, he was "stuck" in a rut and couldn't see beyond his negative feelings of fear, greed, the self perception that he was nothing but a poor beggar.
Often, like Sam, we don't realize our potential and strengths. We wish to have this, and hope to become that. Then, when our prayers are answered, we forget to enjoy what we have. As a result, we keep it all to ourselves and forget to share with world.
It's easy to get caught up in negativity and self loathing, sometimes it may even give us comfort. But consider this; instead of thinking about what you're missing, try thinking about what you have that everyone else is missing. The positive thinker sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible. The difference between can and cannot are only three letters. Three letters that determine your life's direction.
Share your inner light without fear and or doubt. Light is good from whatever lamp it shines.
Wake up & Hear the Shofar!
The sound of the shofar at the giving of the Torah has never ended. It continues and becomes stronger from generation to generation. It calls upon Israel and the people of the nations of the world to fulfill the commandments of Creator, to be loving and kind, which gladden the heart and enlighten the eyes.
This year especially, let us use the sound of the Shofar as a wakeup call - a way to bring us back to civility and compassion, love and light. Let us reach out to those in need; those in physical need and those who need our extra love and support emotionally.
The time has come for us to stop labeling people as “this” or “that,” and start putting ourselves in the other’s shoes. Love does not discriminate and neither should we! The Almighty created each and every one of us as we need to be (in the Divine image). We need to embrace diversity and realize that true/pure love has no boundaries.
Let the Shofar remind us that we should Never under estimate the power of love & light. A little word of encouragement, a hug, a smile, are just a few of the actions we can take to make someone else’s life better and ultimately enrich our own journey. Hot heads and cold hearts never solved anything, so think before you say something or take action. Survival requires a source of self-respect, self-awareness, and self-honesty. Find a balance point before reaching out, and fill your heart with warmth, passion and compassion.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev said: “Some people hear the shofar of Rosh Hashanah all year, and some hear the sound of the shofar which was blown when the Torah was given all the days of their lives.”
Let us stop hitting the snooze button any longer so that we may fully experience the joys of living in peace and harmony as brothers and sisters.
Remember us in Life, Ruler who creates our lives; inscribe us in The Book of Life, Creator of Life.
The Maharal of Prague said, "All the month of Elul, before eating and sleeping, a person should look into her/his soul and search her/his deeds, that he may make confession."
As we approach the Jewish High Holidays, we spend some time reviewing the past year. Where am I on the path of spiritual transformation? Am I still as passionate about it as I was when I first began the journey? It's easy for us to fall into patterns of routine and to become bored, even when it concerns bettering ourselves and our world.
All too often we tend to focus on what we don't have, rather than the beautiful things we do. See the things you take for granted just as you did in the beginning - before you got used to them and forgot they were there...