Rabino Kalman Packouz
This Friday evening, September 21st, begins Yom Kippur with Kol Nidre. On Shabbos day is Yizkor, the memorial service for our departed loved ones. A reminder: one must fast (no food and no drink) on Yom Kippur even though it falls on Shabbat.
___When we enter the synagogue for Yom Kippur and we look at the prayers, let us avoid the easy path of giving in to our frustration to what we don't understand. Below are more ideas that might be helpful.
___HOW to Make YOM KIPPUR More Meaningful:
1. Take pleasure! You made an important decision to attend synagogue. Don't regret it. ___
2. 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. ___
3. Don't blame the service or the rabbi or the prayerbook. If you want, 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 book Yom Kippur published by Artscroll (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. ___
4. 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. ___
5. Make the best use of your time. Look at the commentary on the prayers. Bring something about Rosh HaShana/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." ___
6. Prepare in advance a list of deeds you wish to ask for forgiveness and a list of character traits you wish to improve.
___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!
* * *
___Judaism has something for everyone. If you like to drink, we have Purim. If you like asceticism or self-denial we have Yom Kippur. If you like to play with fire, we have L'ag B'omer (celebrated with bonfires!) If you like to dance, we have Simchat Torah, and ... if you like the great outdoors, we have Sukkot!
___Sukkot starts Wednesday evening, September 26th. 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 -- or heat and humidity, he is freed from the obligation to dwell there. We make, however, every effort 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 holiday. A teacher once said, "Parents only owe their children 3 things:example, example, example."
___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. 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?
___The Torah tells us, "...On the fifteenth of the seventh month (counting from the Hebrew month of Nissan when the Jews left Egypt) shall be the holiday of Sukkot, seven days (of celebration) for the Almighty. The first day shall be a holy convocation; all manners of work (creative acts as defined by the Torah) you shall not do; it is an eternal decree in all of your dwelling places for all generations" (Leviticus 23:34-35).
___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!
___Deuteronomy 16:13-15 tells us "The festival of Sukkot shall be to you for seven days when you gather from your threshing floors and your wine cellar. You shall rejoice in your festival ... for the Almighty will bless you in all of your produce and in all of the work of your hand and you shall be completely joyous." It is fitting that Sukkot is a harvest festival. People who work the earth are amongst the most religious of people trusting in the Almighty (followed perhaps by fundraisers). They take a perfectly good seed that could be eaten and they stick it in the ground not knowing whether there will be rain or drought or floods or pestilence. They put forth hard work not knowing the outcome.
___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.
___As King David wrote in Psalms 20:8 "There are those who trust in chariots and those who trust in horses, but we trust in the name of the Almighty." Only the Almighty is the Creator of the world, the Master of history, our personal and caring God Who can be relied upon to help us.
___While we had our two Temples in Jerusalem, during the Festival of Sukkot, 70 offerings were made for the nations of the world -- so that the Almighty would provide rain for their crops. The Talmud tells us that if the nations of the world understood the value of what the Jewish people provided them, they would have sent their armies to defend our Temple in Jerusalem to keep it from being destroyed.
___ 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!
CANDLE LIGHTING - September 14
Jerusalem 4:57Guatemala 5:41 - Hong Kong 6:03 - Honolulu 6:10J'Burg 5:44 – KOAH Porto 6:50- Los Angeles 6:44Melbourne 5:57 - Mexico City 7:15 - Miami 7:02New York 6:38 - Singapore 6:44 - Toronto 7:00
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Happiness is joy digesting