New beginnings always bring an admixture of stress and excitement. And, this year, with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur occurring so early in September, our New Year will be upon us in a matter of days. The fact that the High Holy Days fall so closely on the heels of summer does not release us from the obligation to prepare ourselves for the important days of introspection ahead. One Hasidic Rabbi used his own practice to illustrate the importance of preparation: “The Rebbe of Tsanz was asked by a student: What does the Rabbi do before praying? I pray, was the reply, that I may be able to pray.”
With less than two weeks until Erev Rosh Hashanah, now is the time for our spiritual warm-up exercises. Now is the time to clear our minds and search our hearts as we review the year that is ending. Now is the time to think about the relationships in our lives and to consider our actions and theirs over the past year. Have we brought our best selves to our family and to our work? Have we met the goals that we set at last year’s High Holy Days -- to live better and more meaningful lives? Have we reconciled our differences and clarified our misunderstandings with others, that, if left unresolved, will impede our efforts to live -- and to live well -- in the coming months?
We are promised that the Gates of Repentance are always open. There is still time to get ready. Each of us still has the opportunity to enter the Sanctuary on Erev Rosh Hashanah next Sunday evening feeling open to the self-reflection that these Days of Awe require.
The entire month of Elul, leading up to Rosh Hashanah, is intended to help us get into the right frame of mind -- one day at a time. There is no prescribed method of preparation. Each of readies ourselves differently for peak moments in our lives. So, I encourage you to find some space and time in the next week and a half to discover your own “zone” – to create your own Kavanah (trans: intention, purpose). Perhaps try scanning the prayer book a bit in the coming days or listen to the music of the High Holy Days; maybe experiment with some new recipes for the days ahead or do Yoga or meditation.
One of the great comforts of the High Holy Days is that following this period of private self-assessment, we will come together as a community to begin the New Year as a congregational family. Even as each of us will delve into our own thoughts and actions, we will sit next to one another and give and receive the positive energy that makes our congregation unique.
I look forward to ushering in the New Year with each of you, and to helping create a safe and welcoming place for all our prayers and blessings. I am eager for you to be led in music by Jodi Blankstein, Adam Dehner and our CBT Choir members.
All of us at Congregation B’nai Torah send wishes of health and happiness for the New Year 5779…together with the hope that the weeks and months ahead will bring satisfaction and peace to one another and to the world.
Rabbi Lisa S. Eiduson