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Rabbi's Week in Review - 8/1/2023

08/01/2023 09:30:23 AM


It is good to be back on with our Congregation Kol Ami newsletter after a summer hiatus. While summer is a time in which we expect to take a break, the Jewish calendar, with its particular logical rhythm, pushes us forward toward a continual process of self-reflection, self-improvement and living Torah in our daily lives. It is a balance of mourning/sadness and celebration/joy, contemplation/study and action/engagement.  

In the past week, we reached a culmination of a three-week period of mourning with Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av, wherein we commemorate and call to memory every tragedy that has befallen our people — the destruction of the first and second Temples, the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and all other instances of persecution and tragedy for the Jewish people. On Tisha B’Av, we read Eichah, the Book of Lamentations, in which we confront how our own behavior — the sin of sinat chinam, of baseless hatred — rather than the actions of our enemies has brought about the destruction of the Temples and our exile from the Land. Other than Yom Kippur, it is the only major fast day on the Jewish calendar.

Following Tisha B’Av are seven weeks of consolation leading right up to Rosh Hashanah. We read words of hope from the prophet Isaiah, that notwithstanding our proclivity toward our lesser inclinations, we are not hopeless. G-d has not given up on us, and we should not give up on ourselves or one another. As we begin our preparation for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur — a time for deep self-reflection on our behavior and where we have gone wrong — we need this message of hope. Ultimately, we always have hope to experience G-d’s spirit of redemption and compassion. We need to know that there is a reason for doing better and acting better. We can change the trajectory of our lives and the world.

Taking that message of hope to heart, we are now ready for Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Ten Days of Awe, and Yom Kippur, our Day of Atonement. We can do the necessary hard work of cheshbon hanefesh, accounting for our souls, reflecting on how we led ourselves astray in the past year, and what we can do differently and better in the year to come. On Yom Kippur, we commit ourselves to do better next year.

Five days after Yom Kippur, we begin our celebration of Sukkot, either literally or figuratively building our sukkah, our rickety booth in which we welcome guests, reaching out to the stranger in our midst. It is a time of z’man simchateinu, the season of our joy. Sukkot provides us with an immediate opportunity to act on our commitments made on Yom Kippur — to do better, to reach out to the stranger. When we connect with others, we connect with G-d and experience all the joy afforded in our Sukkot celebration.

No part of the Jewish calendar stands alone. We are led on a constant journey toward leading lives of greater meaning and purpose. By engaging with and plugging into our calendar, we enrich our lives. May we take this journey through the Jewish calendar together — lifting one another up through the sad and the difficult, and celebrating together the joys in our lives.

Mon, July 15 2024 9 Tammuz 5784