Yom Kippur(Leviticus ch. 16)
Yom Kippur 5765
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GOOD MORNING! A friend of mine lamented the difficulty getting through the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur prayer services. "They're too long and I don't relate to them." So, I thought to share with you...
SOME IDEAS TO MAKE THE UPCOMING YOM KIPPUR SERVICE MORE MEANINGFUL
- Take pleasure! You made an important decision to attend. Don't regret it.
- You are not there to be entertained. You are there to accomplish something on a spiritual level - to come closer to the Almighty, to introspect, to set yourself on a better path in life.
- Don't blame the service or the rabbi or the prayerbook. If you want to you can prepare in advance - read the machzor (the special prayerbook for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur) to understand the ideas and the words. Read the Rosh Hashana / Yom Kippur Survival Kit by Shimon Apisdorf (available at your local Jewish bookstore, at judaicaenterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242). Make a list of what deeds or behaviors you regret, would like to correct and would like the Almighty to forgive.
- The mind seems to have 2 tracks - a person can talk and think about what he wants to say next; he can read and think about something else; he can pray and think about a million other things. When reading a silent prayer, concentrate on what you're reading. When listening to the chazan (the person leading the service) focus on a spiritual thought -"Almighty, I love You." "Almighty forgive me." "Almighty help me." It prevents thinking about the score of the game, bills due, repairs needed at home. Most people will not understand the Hebrew liturgy being chanted. However, even if the mind can't understand it, the heart and soul can take nourishment from the words, the tune, the atmosphere. Relax and listen to the essence.
- Make the best use of your time. Look at the commentary on the prayers. Bring something about Yom Kippur to read. And if you are really suffering, then just ask, "Almighty, please accept all of my suffering for being in synagogue as an atonement for my transgressions."
Many people complain each year, "How can my synagogue charge so much for tickets for High Holiday services? It's a sin to have to pay to pray!" Actually, you don't have to pay to pray; you can stay home and pray. Unfortunately, only 25% of all Jews in the USA belong to anything Jewish -and possibly most belong to Jewish Community Centers. This means that for the synagogue to stay solvent all year for the "twice a year" Jew to attend, they have get support where and when they can. I believe that people were paying a lot more for tickets to the Olympic games than most synagogues charge for High Holiday tickets - and the people were glad to be able to get tickets. Believe me, you will get more out of synagogue on Yom Kippur than watching people run around a track!
Q & A: WHAT IS THE MEANING OF SUKKOT AND HOW IS IT CELEBRATED?
The Torah has something for everyone. If you like the great outdoors, Sukkot is your holiday! We build a temporary dwelling and then to the best of our ability we live in it - weather and other elements permitting. There is no empty ritual in our heritage; there are mitzvot (commandments) and lessons for life to be derived through fulfilling them. Let us look at the upcoming holiday and its mitzvot and see what we can learn from them.
Sukkot starts Wednesday evening, September 29th. Sukkot means "booths." During the 40 years of wandering in the desert, we lived in "sukkot". We are commanded in the Torah regarding this holiday:
"You shall dwell in booths for seven days ... so that your generations will know that I caused the Children of Israel to dwell in booths when I took them out of Egypt, I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 23:42-43)
We are commanded to make our Sukkah our main dwelling place - to eat, sleep, learn Torah and spend our time there. If one would suffer from being in a Sukkah - i.e. from rain or snow, he is freed from the obligation to dwell there. Depending on climatic conditions, people try to at least eat in the Sukkah.
The love and enthusiasm you put into building a Sukkah and decorating it makes a big impact on your children. A friend told me that his father was a klutz (not handy) with tools and their Sukkah would oftentimes fall down. But, what he remembers is his father's love for the mitzvah of building the Sukkah and happiness in building it each time. We cannot decree that our children have our love for our heritage. However, by showing them our delight and energy in the mitzvot, they build their own love for Torah and the holidays. A teacher once taught, "Parents only owe their children 3 things: example, example, example."
The mitzvah of dwelling in the Sukkah teaches us trust in God. We tend to think that our possessions, our money, our homes, our intelligence will protect us. During Sukkot we are exposed to the elements in a temporary hut. Living in a Sukkah puts life into perspective. Our possessions are transient - and our corporeal beings are even more transient than our possessions. Life is vulnerable. Our history has borne out how transient are our homes and communities. No matter how well-established, wealthy and "secure" we have become in a host country, in the end it too has been a temporary dwelling. Our trust must be in God.
We are also commanded to wave the arbah minim, the Four Species, during the week-long holiday. There are many deep and mystical meanings to be found regarding Waving the Four Species. One understanding from waving in all four directions and up and down - that the Almighty controls the whole world, the winds, the forces and everything everywhere. A second lesson from holding the Four Species together - that all Jews are bound together as one people, be they saints or sinners, knowledgeable or ignorant (see the Dvar Torah for more on this!). These are lessons learned from doing the mitzvot, but what is the impact upon the universe of millions of Jews performing this mitzvah all over the world?
Sukkot is called zman simchateinu, the time of our joy. Joy is distinct from happiness. Happiness is taking pleasure in what you have. Joy is the pleasure of anticipating a future good. If we trust in God and know that everything that the Almighty does for us is for our good, then we will know great joy in our lives! Everyone trusts in something(s), but only trusting in God is the ultimate trust.
Sukkot is one of the Shelosh Regalim, Three Festivals (the other two are Pesach and Shavuot), where the Torah commands everyone living in Israel to leave their homes to come to Jerusalem to celebrate at the Temple. For the last 2,000 years since the destruction of the Temple, we've been unable to fulfill this mitzvah. May we soon be able to fulfill this mitzvah once again in its entirety!
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE ARBAH MINIM?
One of the special commandments for Sukkot is to take the arbah minim, the Four Species (etrog, lulav, hadassim, and aravot), and to wave them in the four directions of the compass as well as up and down. The meaning of the waving is that God is everywhere. However, why are these four species designated for the mitzvah?
Our rabbis teach that these four species are symbolic of four types of Jews: the etrog (citron) which has a fragrance and a taste represents those Jews who have both Torah wisdom and good deeds; the lulav (date palm branch) which has a taste (from the dates), but no fragrance represents those Jews who have Torah wisdom, but no good deeds; the hadassim (myrtle branches) have a fragrance, but no taste representing those Jews who have good deeds, but no Torah wisdom; and lastly, the aravot (willow branches) have neither a taste nor a smell representing those Jews who are lacking in Torah wisdom and good deeds.
What do we do on Sukkot? We symbolically bind together and recognize every Jew as an integral and important part of the Jewish people. If even one of the species is missing, the mitzvah is incomplete. We must do all we can to bind together the Jewish people and work to strengthen the Jewish future!
CANDLE LIGHTING - September 24:
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Change is inevitable.
Change for the better is a full-time job.
-- Adlai Stevenson
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