A community of communities

August 2013

Fri, 08/30/2013 - 12:00am -- Rabbi

To prepare ourselves for the New Year that begins Wednesday night, we will follow the tradition of reciting S'lichot - prayers for forgiveness - beginning this Saturday night.  We will have a musical S'lichot service beginning at 8:30 PM in the Charry Sanctuary, as well as a late-night S'lichot prayer service beginning at 10:45 PM in the Magil Chapel, and I encourage you to come to either or both services. 

Asking for forgiveness from those we have wronged in the past year is an established prelude to the High Holidays, and S'lichot services encourage us to take that step of apologizing to and reconciling with those from whom we may have become estranged.  We ask for forgiveness from other human beings, and we also ask for forgiveness from God, hoping to enter the New Year without the burden of feeling that others harbor anger or resentment toward us. However, if we truly want to enter the year with a full heart, we must also take the time to offer forgiveness to those who may have wronged us or whose relationship with us has become difficult, whether they know it or not, and whether they have taken the step of asking for our forgiveness or not.  Together, these two steps can lighten our burdens and allow us to walk into the New Year with the freedom to truly change our path. 

May our prayers and our songs during this time of turning bring us to a place of fullness of heart, tranquility, and peace. 

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Fri, 08/23/2013 - 12:00am -- Rabbi

In looking over the past year and thinking over our actions, we can often be filled with regret for what we have done wrong.  While regret is an important part of the process of repentance, it is equally important that we remember what we have done right in the past year. Focusing only on the negative can impede the process of repentance by making us lose hope for ourselves and the possibility of changing course in the new year. We cannot lose ourselves in the voice that whispers to us that we can never change.  Instead, we must look at all parts of ourselves and concentrate on the power we do have - that we have shown in the past - to enact our highest selves in our daily lives.  The ancient rabbis teach that when faced with a decision, we should imagine that the whole world is equally balanced between good and evil, and our next action can tip the balance either way. Similarly, when we look at ourselves in this time of introspection, we should think of ourselves as equally balanced between good and evil.  The choices we make and the direction we move in the year ahead can make all the difference. 

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Fri, 08/16/2013 - 12:00am -- Rabbi

In the Talmud (Berachot 10a), the story is told of Rabbi Meir, who was constantly harassed by thieves, so much so that he prayed for them to die.  His wife, Beruriah, said to him, "What are you thinking of?!  Are you relying on the verse 'Let sinners be consumed' (Psalm 104:35)?  But does the psalm really mean 'sinners?'  Instead, you should understand it as 'Let sins be consumed.' What is more, you should look at the end of the verse: 'And let the wicked be no more,' which implies that when sins come to an end, then the wicked will be wicked no more.  Instead of praying for these people to die, you should pray that they repent so that they will be wicked no more."  Rabbi Meir took Beruriah's advice and prayed for the thieves, and they did in fact turn in repentance and were wicked no more. 

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We sometimes speak of good and evil as qualities of human beings, as if people themselves could be good or bad.  Jewish tradition, by contrast, insists that every person has the potential for both good and evil action. The important thing is the choice that each of us makes; that is the standard by which we can be judged, both by other people and by God.  While we are responsible for the choices we have made in the past, we also have the immense power to make different choices in the year that is coming.  Using that power to lay our course in a slightly different direction and to change the pattern of our choices in the future is what repentance is all about.

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Fri, 08/09/2013 - 12:00am -- Rabbi

The month of Elul is a time to slow down the rush of our lives, to take the time to get ourselves ready for the High Holidays. Here are some ideas of what you can do to prepare: 

1.  Look back over the past year.  What have been the high moments of the year for you?  What are the places where you feel you could have done better? 

2.  Look forward to the coming year.  What do you hope to accomplish in the New Year?  What do you hope to change?  Where do you want to go? 

3.  Plan a few specifics.  Give yourself some goals.  Set some dates and times to put into practice your plans for making the New Year truly new. 

4.  Plan to celebrate.  Whether at our communal Erev Rosh Hashanah dinner, at home, or with friends or family, make plans to share the first moments of the New Year with others.  Wherever we are on our life's path and wherever we are going, we all have much for which to be grateful at the turning of the year. 

Anticipating the new, in Elul we begin to wish each other well in the year to come.  L'shanah Tovah Tikateivu - may you be inscribed for a year full of blessings. 

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