Sunday, 25 September 2011 12:22

L'Shana Tova

Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), which begins on Wednesday evening at sunset,  and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) next Friday night are the holiest days in the Jewish calendar. During these ten days of awe, we Jews celebrate the New Year, but also reflect on past misdeeds and resolve to do better.
While positive resolutions to do better are commendable, the process of Teshuvah (repentance) is not based on the human emotional need for improvement. It is the realization that our purpose in this world is to serve a higher being to the best of our abilities. Walking in Teshuvah means humbly acknowledging our weaknesses and sin, as we turn back to goodness, back to God. 

On Rosh Hashanah, we recognize that change is not only necessary, but possible. Listen to the U'Netaneh Tokef,  one of the only prayers recited on both Rosh Ha’Shana as well as Yom Kippur, and the best known prayer after Kol Nidrei:
"Let us now relate the power of this day's holiness, for it is awesome and frightening. On it Your Kingship will be exalted; Your throne will be firmed with kindness and You will sit upon it in truth. It is true that You alone are the One Who judges, proves, knows, and bears witness….”
In the Jewish tradition we perceive repentance as not only regret for past failings, but a deep commitment to make things right going forward. We understand prayer as lifting our voices high and, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught, "praying with our feet" by getting involved in helping those in need.
This September 28th at sundown Jewish communities around the world will begin our celebration of Rosh Hashanah, a new year and the start of ten "Days of Awe," a period of reflection on the past year and a declaration of our hopes for the year ahead, concluding with the fast of Yom Kippur.
May you know the strength of a living relationship with a loving God for a Blessed New Year.
L'shana Tova!
Published in Abba Lazarus' Blog

1. Trumpets are sounded at a coronation and God is hailed as King on this day. Let us acknowledge him and his ways in our lives, our families and nation.

2. The shofar heralds the beginning of the season of renewal. This is the time for reflection and re-commitment to God, family and all that is right and good. 

3. The Torah was given on Sinai accompanied by blasts of the shofar. Let us be bold to follow God's commandments even when it is not popular or comfortable.

4. The prophets compare their message to the sound of the shofar. Let us not grow weary in well doing. Let us not lose hope but reopen our hearts to the possibilities of a better world.

5. Conquering armies gathered under the sound of the shofar blast. May we be willing to take a bold stand against the injustice, lies and corruption in society. Let us fight for the rights of the poor and oppressed.

6. The ram was substituted for Isaac. Let us offer up ourselves to love even as he who sacrificed himself for us an offering to cleanse and renew our spirits.

7. The prophet asks, "Shall the shofar be blown in a city and the people not tremble?" (Amos 3:6) Let us walk in humility before God our king and before man.

8. The prophet Zephanaiah speaks of "the great day of the Lord" as a "day of the shofar and alarm," (Zeph. 1:14,16) As we contemplate the judgments of God let us lift up our voices and let truth and mercy be heard once again in the gates.

9. The prophet Isaiah speaks of the great shofar which will herald the Messianic age. (Isa. 27:13) Let us be patient and wait. Do not fret, our times are in God's hands.

10. The shofar will be sounded at the resurrection. Maimonides writes: "Although it is a divine decree that we blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah, a hint of the following idea is contained in the command. It is as if to say: "Awake from your slumber, you who have fallen asleep in life, and reflect on your deeds. Remember your creator. Be not of those who miss reality in the pursuit of shadows, and waste their lives in seeking after vain things which neither profit nor save. Look well to your souls and improve your character. Forsake each of you his evil ways and thoughts."

Published in Abba Lazarus' Blog

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