Archive for the 'Yom Kippur' Category

25
Sep
12

Reflexions on Erev Yom Kippur…


Often, the most mundane occurrences, even small (or major) annoyances, can trigger a moment of introspection, can bring on a time for thought on how we interact with others, on how we truly relate to Hakadosh Baruch Hu

Granted, timing could have been better, but tight scheduling compelled me to shop mid-morning Erev Shabbat (before Rosh Hashana) for essentials I needed for the Chag. I found parking close to the discount supermarket, a minor miracle in post summer Brooklyn. I hadn’t been there since their recent renovations; surrounded by cases of merchandise and vegetable stands, I had to ask for guidance to the new entryway. The store looked bigger, but as chaotic as ever. I hope that they still plan to reorganize the space, but were just too busy getting ready for the holiday crowds to implement a more shopper friendly environment.

There were more workers than usual, mostly busy restocking shelves. The nearly empty meat department, I carted to first, was a big disappointment. Prices were definitely higher; no more family packs of chicken breasts for $3.99 per pound, and none of the usual sales I used to count on. Chaval!  I bought what I needed and headed to check out. I had a case of 7oz cups, a case of baking tins and about a dozen other items.

Every aisle was packed with anxious ‘got to get home to cook’ shoppers lined with overloaded carts (May Hashem miraculously continue to provide!) all the way down to the fridge section waiting to check-out.  With not nearly enough check-out stations and a poor configuration afoot, tempers were a little testy. I went to the back of the long express checkout – 12 items or less – line with my 2 cases and close to 12 items, and was assaulted with variations on a theme chorusing:  “This is the ‘express’ line, you’re on the wrong line!!!!” With a smile and a promise of checking out no more than the allowed twelve items and finally got a consensus that a case, though internally many, constitutes no more than1 big item and I was graciously permitted to stay.

Every new person arriving to stand on line however, began a fresh verbal barrage on my apparently over- filled cart. One petite fire-brand of a woman arrived with two items declaring that she would not go to the back of the line, because no one was following the rules and she was justifiably going to cut the line before her turn with her two puny little items in tow.  I said nothing, but the chorus certainly did, and the woman became more passionately entrenched in her position to cut the line of food carting transgressors  justifying her position of entitlement with the sins of others and the general theory that when mayhem abounds counter-bedlam is sanctioned.

Meanwhile, feeling the burning heat of guilt for the three extra items,  I laid them quietly to rest in an abandoned cart. I was planning to not include them at check-out, but felt the preemptive move wise under the circumstances. The diminutive, now ferocious, harridan pitched herself before the crowd demanding a supervisor, and the volley of accusations began anew. A woman in the next check-out aisle felt sorry for me, and started putting my items on the belt.  I’ve had this idea floating in my head as a precursor to Rosh Hashana and the Asseret Yimey Tshuvah; how some of us have gone beyond rationalizing to ourselves and others about our behaviors and actions and have moved toward the more intransigent reasoning that resembles Jean Paul Sartre’s existentialist notion of bad faith.

We have convinced ourselves so thoroughly of our own righteousness, that we not only believe the lie, but will fight to the death to protect its integrity; leaving little room for change or subsequent good action. The most difficult people I know are so clear that their positions are ‘right’ even heroic, it would take an act of G-d to move them from their prideful entrenchment.

How can we claim to worship, to honor the Bore Olam when we are so disdainful of His betzelem Elokim? How can an individual believe to be a betzelem Elokim if one doesn’t honor and respect his/her fellow humans first? Thank G-d for Rosh Hashana, for the Asseret yimey tshuvah, for Yom Kippur, and the opportunities to right the real wrongs we have done to ourselves and to others.  As we face a world bent on our demise, may we conquer the sinat chinam extant within our midst, may we learn more tolerance, may we recognize our own bad faith and find ways to love and embrace Klal Yisroel blev echad. Should one resolve to and actually make this changes in one’s heart, inone’s attitudes, inone’s behavior, then next year – as the individual clinically examines the past year’s deeds, he/she will realize that – for a change – one did not have overspetd on the good will from fellow humans and that individual will truly merit a healthy portion of Hashem‘s endless bounty.

SYR

G’mar Chatima Tova!!!

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Who Will Live, Who Will Die

18
Oct
11

Hoshana Rabbah and Shemini Atzeres


[Reposted from last year. CS]

On Hoshana Rabbah the chazan or the sheliach tzibbur dons a white kitl as he does on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur… The Zohar on Vayehi 120a and Terumah 142a tells us that that while we are all judged on Yom Kippur the verdict is not handed down until Shemini Atzeret, but our last chance to do tshuvah is on Hoshana Rabboh

At the end of each of the seven rounds of circling the bet haknesset we stop to hear the blowing of the shofar… This is not one of the Days of Awe yet there are tremendous similarities in the ritual. CHaZa”L never referred to this day as being a Day of Judgment, yet there is a strong hint to back up the Zohar‘s assertion in the fact that in the days of the Temple the sacrifices corresponding to the Days of Judgment and Shmini Atzeret were the same. Some Mahzorim attested to the special status of Hoshana Rabbah in the High Holy Days prayer U-netaneh Tokef, having the following version: “On Rosh ha-Shanah judgment is made, and on Yom Kippur it is written, and on Hoshanah Rabbah it is sealed.” In Romania it was customary to add some other Yamim Nora’im prayers as well to the Amidah for Shemini Atzeret.

Photo by: Yuval Nadav

Professor Yosef Tabori from Bar-Ilan University’s Talmud Department tells us:

Perhaps the closest connection drawn between the Yamim Noraim and Sukkot is found in the motif of the lulav. In antiquity, waving a branch on high was considered a sign of victory. The Sages interpreted our waving of the lulav on Sukkot as signifying the victory of the Jews over Satan on the Days of Judgment that precede the festival. They interpreted the words “delights are ever in Your right hand” (Ps. 16:11) as indicating that a person holding the Four Kinds in his right hand is showing that he emerged victorious on the Day of Judgment (Vayyiqra Rabbah 30.2). One of the earlier sources describing the special status of Hoshanah Rabbah in the synagogue uses this victory imagery:

When Hoshanah Rabbah comes they take willows, and make seven circuits around the synagogue, while the Hazzan of the synagogue stands like an angel of G-d, holding a Torah scroll in his arms as the people march around him as around the altar. For thus our Rabbis taught: every day it was customary to circle the altar reciting, “Please, O Lord, deliver us; please, O Lord, bring success,” and on the seventh day they would march around seven times, as King David said explicitly, as it is written, “I wash my hands in innocence, and walk around Your altar” (Ps. 26:6). Immediately the ministering angels rejoice and proclaim, “the people of Israel are victorious.” (Midrash Tehillim, Buber ed., 17.5)

[..]Thus, the entire period between Rosh ha-Shanah and the last day of Sukkot is a period during which one can still affect the verdict on rain for the better. According to a tradition ascribed to Rabbenu Tam, those who insist on reading the haftarah of Shuvah Yisrael on the Sabbath between Rosh ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur are making a mistake, since this haftarah was set for the Sabbath before Sukkot. The reason is that “Shuvah (Hosea 14:2-10) is directed towards praying for rain, since we conclude [the haftara] with a passage from Joel [the reading, Joel 2:15-27, sounds like an assemblage for prayers for rain and includes the verse “For He has given you the early rain in kindness“] and on Sukkot judgment is passed for the rain, and they are proclaimed before the judges[mentioned in Joel 2:16]” (Mahzor Vitri, p. 224).

In conclusion, even though we are especially enjoined to rejoice during the festival of Sukkot, we must not forget that we are in the process of being judged concerning the rain.

I pray that each one of us has indeed emerged victorious, may this year be one blessed with everything each of us truly needs. May it be a year of health, prosperity, and happiness; may it be a year with no tears, except for tears of joy. May this be the year when peace breaks out triumphant both on a global as well as on each individual’s level!

CS

07
Oct
11

Who will Live, Who will Die


On October 8, 2008, I posted the following on my political blog:

Fasting and praying at the Kotel on Yom Kippur. Photo from: http://www.independent.co.uk/

Who Will Live, Who Will Die

This evening starts the holiest, most solemn day in the Jewish calendar – Yom Kippur. Ten days earlier, the first of the two days of Rosh Hashana – the Hebrew New Year – marked the day, when according to the Jewish tradition everyone’s fate for the coming year is inscribed in the Heavenly ledgers. Yom Kippur is the day when whatever was written stays as is or is changed, but in either case fate becomes sealed.

In one of the most awe inspiring prayers of the day, Jews intone theses words: …mi ychie umi yamut (who will live and who will die)… mi bamayim umi ba’esh (who by water and who by fire… who will become impoverished and who will be rich… Many take these words literally and, as you can imagine, after hours of praying the tears often flow freely as these sentences are reached. But there is also an alternate interpretation. Based on what? At the end of this specific prayer, everyone announces at the top of their voice: uTshuvah, uTfilah, uTzdakah ma’avirin et ro’a hagzerah! (And Repentance, and Prayer, and Charity remove the negative Judgment!). The question then becomes, how is it possible that the Infinite, Almighty God allows Himself to be swayed by a mere mortal? If He is the beginning and the end (in other words, time in our human terms does not apply to Him as what we perceive as past, present and future all unfold simultaneously before Him), if He is the All-Knowing and understands that in spite of broken hearts and full sincere repentance, the next morning we find ourselves again doing the same deeds, having the same thoughts, feeling the same lusts and jealousies, how can He possibly allow our temporary repentance to change His mind?

The answer was given by the Sages of the Talmud when they taught that even with the sword at one’s throat, a person should not give up hope. It means that in these Days of Awe we are assigned a specific fate which, as a mark of Cain, shows what may become of us. It means that by truly mending our ways we become worthy of a different fate because we are longer the same person, it means that only our actions, our thoughts and the effort we expend to overcome our negative passions will remove the specific mark.

As we look around the world, between the current economic meltdown and the forces that wish to destroy the West… the horizon looks rather bleak. Evil seems to be ascendant, the western nations are plagued by the cancer within, wittingly or unwittingly, working for their destruction. Western politicians of every political stripe, are guilty of the current situation whether for personal gain, for personal glory or merely because of absolutely naive misguidance. The world, as we know it, is marked for a major conflagration, but we may not despair, we can not relax our stand against those who would destroy us. As we westerners bear the mark, so do our enemies! If we just sit back with folded arms groping our way in the shadows, confused by the darkness surrounding us, the mark will surely become our fate. If we rise above our confusion, if we recover our lost spiritual values and shed the cynicism, the dark shadows will dissipate. That new light will bring hope, hope will translate into resolve, resolve will become strength and raise us from this stupor. We will then, with renewed vigor, as new different people, rise up against the enemy within and without. The mark of Cain will dissipate and a new era of health, prosperity and general wellbeing will replace it. Is the West up to the task or will the mark of Cain become final?

 

G’mar Chatima Tova!

 

CS

29
Sep
10

Hoshana Rabbah and Shemini Atzeres


On Hoshana Rabbah the chazan or the sheliach tzibbur dons a white kitl as he does on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur… The Zohar on Vayehi 120a and Terumah 142a tells us that that while we are all judged on Yom Kippur the verdict is not handed down until Shemini Atzeret, but our last chance to do tshuvah is on Hoshana Rabboh

At the end of each of the seven rounds of circling the bet haknesset we stop to hear the blowing of the shofar… This is not one of the Days of Awe yet there are tremendous similarities in the ritual. CHaZa”L never referred to this day as being a Day of Judgment, yet there is a strong hint to back up the Zohar‘s assertion in the fact that in the days of the Temple the sacrifices corresponding to the Days of Judgment and Shmini Atzeret were the same. Some Mahzorim attested to the special status of Hoshana Rabbah in the High Holy Days prayer U-netaneh Tokef, having the following version: “On Rosh ha-Shanah judgment is made, and on Yom Kippur it is written, and on Hoshanah Rabbah it is sealed.” In Romania it was customary to add some other Yamim Nora’im prayers as well to the Amidah for Shemini Atzeret.

Photo by: Yuval Nadav

Professor Yosef Tabori from Bar-Ilan University’s Talmud Department tells us:

Perhaps the closest connection drawn between the Yamim Noraim and Sukkot is found in the motif of the lulav. In antiquity, waving a branch on high was considered a sign of victory. The Sages interpreted our waving of the lulav on Sukkot as signifying the victory of the Jews over Satan on the Days of Judgment that precede the festival. They interpreted the words “delights are ever in Your right hand” (Ps. 16:11) as indicating that a person holding the Four Kinds in his right hand is showing that he emerged victorious on the Day of Judgment (Vayyiqra Rabbah 30.2). One of the earlier sources describing the special status of Hoshanah Rabbah in the synagogue uses this victory imagery:

When Hoshanah Rabbah comes they take willows, and make seven circuits around the synagogue, while the Hazzan of the synagogue stands like an angel of G-d, holding a Torah scroll in his arms as the people march around him as around the altar. For thus our Rabbis taught: every day it was customary to circle the altar reciting, “Please, O Lord, deliver us; please, O Lord, bring success,” and on the seventh day they would march around seven times, as King David said explicitly, as it is written, “I wash my hands in innocence, and walk around Your altar” (Ps. 26:6). Immediately the ministering angels rejoice and proclaim, “the people of Israel are victorious.” (Midrash Tehillim, Buber ed., 17.5)

[..]Thus, the entire period between Rosh ha-Shanah and the last day of Sukkot is a period during which one can still affect the verdict on rain for the better. According to a tradition ascribed to Rabbenu Tam, those who insist on reading the haftarah of Shuvah Yisrael on the Sabbath between Rosh ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur are making a mistake, since this haftarah was set for the Sabbath before Sukkot. The reason is that “Shuvah (Hosea 14:2-10) is directed towards praying for rain, since we conclude [the haftara] with a passage from Joel [the reading, Joel 2:15-27, sounds like an assemblage for prayers for rain and includes the verse “For He has given you the early rain in kindness“] and on Sukkot judgment is passed for the rain, and they are proclaimed before the judges[mentioned in Joel 2:16]” (Mahzor Vitri, p. 224).

In conclusion, even though we are especially enjoined to rejoice during the festival of Sukkot, we must not forget that we are in the process of being judged concerning the rain.

I pray that each one of us has indeed emerged victorious, may this year be one blessed with everything each of us truly needs. May it be a year of health, prosperity, and happiness; may it be a year with no tears, except for tears of joy. May this be the year when peace breaks out triumphant both on a global as well as on each individual’s level!

CS




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