A New Year Prayer for 5773

May the One who blessed our Ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, bless us as we enter the New Year.  As we gather to come before You, Holy Majesty, help us bring a whole heart to our prayers.  May we bring all that was good forward with us into the New Year and let go of all of that which polluted our souls.  Help us repent for our sins and purify our hearts and minds and hands so that we can walk righteous paths toward You.  Hear our Prayer Majestic Holy One and grant your atonement for all of our wrongdoings.

Bless our families and friends with sweetness, joy, prosperity and health. And remind us as this New Year begins, the celebration of Your creation, to care for our world and one another. As Your Torah teaches us “Love Your Neighbor As Yourself.”

וְסָלַחְתָּ לַעֲו‍ֹנֵנוּ וּלְחַטָּאתֵנוּ וּנְחַלְתָּנוּ

  Pardon our iniquity and our sins and take us for Your inheritance.

Standing before the New Year

 

Parshat Nitzavim

Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20

This week we read the Torah portion right before Rosh Hashanah, Nitzavim.   Shabbat Nitzavim comes literally a day before the New Year.  As we read the words, we are literally standing at the edge of the New Year.  The Israelites too are standing at the edge of the Promised Land.  We don’t know what to expect and they didn’t know either.

 

In both cases our ancestors and for us are renewing the covenant with God.  Each year as we come to the edge of the New Year we come face to face with our traditions and the chance to renew our connection to God through our holy covenant, first given at Mt. Sinai.  On the New Year and during the Ten Days of Awe through to Yom Kippur even as we purge ourselves of our sins and purify ourselves from them, we get ready to stand up and receive the Revelation of our unique path in the world. The Torah, our covenantal promise and ethical blueprint for living is renewed and we re-affirm our commitment to this Jewish way of life!

 

 

This week’s Torah portion makes it abundantly clear that this is our task.  The words of Torah to the Israelites remind us that this covenant is made with the Israelites as they stood across the Jordan from Eretz Yisrael and simultaneously this covenant is made with future generations.  That is all of us!  And the Torah portion reminds us that this covenant isn’t too hard to follow.  It is simple no matter what our station in life.  The words of Torah, God’s words of instruction, are clear.

The Torah even describes our straying from the Jewish way.  It describes how we will chase after false gods but it also describes how we will be brought back to the Jewish way of life.  “You will return and listen to the voice of Adonai” (Deut. 30:7).  This is our task during these Days of Awe: To return in love and listen to God speak to us once again, even if we have previously gone astray.   And this is the message of Nitzavim.

 

The Torah portion reminds us that God gives us free will.  “I set before you this day, life and death, blessing and curse, therefore choose life that you and your offspring shall live” (Deut. 30:19). We are a people who choose to affirm life.  We are a people whose covenant affirms life and goodness and the blessing that comes from our covenantal way of life.

 

That is why what happened in Libya to our Ambassador Christopher Stevens and Foreign Service Information Officer Sean Smith and 2 other US personnel is so shocking to our sensibilities.  Protest is one thing. Murder in cold blood another.  In a Democracy even a fledgling one like Libya protest is healthy but when it turns deadly and violent it is a violation of our beliefs. We Jews believe we have free will and can control our actions. Violence of that sort and murder  and terrorism is against our way of life.  Choose life.  That is what we are to do.

As we stand on the edge of the New Year looking into the Promised Land of 5773, we offer our condolences to the families of the slain diplomats.  And we re-commit ourselves to the notion that choosing life and blessing should guide us into the New Year.

Getting to the heart of the matter

This is the first week without a Jewish holiday other than Shabbat!  The whirlwind of Tishrei holy days is now behind us for this year.  I hope that the good feelings and thoughtful reflections that you had during the Holy Day Season will remain with you and most importantly inspire you to a new way of being this year.  From Rosh Hashanah until Simchat Torah our cycle of holidays takes us on a journey from the deepest soul work of reflection, forgiveness, repentance and atonement to the soul work of celebrating and rejoicing with family and friends the abundance that really is ours.  We can only really celebrate the heights Sukkot when we have explored the depths of our own transgressions.  And now we must try and return to the pace of our regular lives.

But we aren’t just to return to the regular pace–we are changed! And that my friends is what the hope is for this time of year. That you can readjust back to your daily regime but that you can do it differently, keeping the promises you made in Temple to God and yourself.  Appreciating the family and friends you welcomed into the Sukkah.  Taking the resolutions you made for the New Year of 5772 and making them stick!

So on with the task at hand.   I hope to see you soon.

Happy 5772

I want to wish you a very Happy New Years day. Tonight the month of Tishrei arrives and so does 5772 of the Jewish calendar. I hope that this night ushers in for you and those you love a season of renewal, blessing and hope. The Ten Days of Repentance allow for deep reflection and an opportunity to make amends to self, to God and to others. bears repeating year after year that Judaism believes that sins between God and a person Yom Kippur atones for. But those between people can only be forgiven by making amends to that person.

So here’s to a beautiful holiday. A complete atonement. And sweetness and blessing in the new year. Shanah tovah

No Status Apologies

We are entering the last hours of 5771.  And soon the Jewish New Year will be here.  I am fascinated by the number of posts and status updates on facebook, linkedin and the like that are blanket apologies for behavior.  New Year’s greetings abound.  But I have been noticing this year more than last many folks resorting to blanket apologies.  Let me say this is no substitute for the real thing.  Part of the process of Teshuvah or repentance for sins committed in this past year has to do with actually facing those who were wronged.  Not just a general statement.  But a specific encounter with those who you hurt.  So while the sentiments of a status updates reaches many -and perhaps with the new format changes on Facebook the real time feed-even more, it is this rabbi’s opinion that these status apologies are no substitute for actually making teshuvah/repentance to the individual harmed.  While teshuvah/repentance can’t always be done face to face. Sometimes a conversation by phone or even a letter may be the way a true apology can be made.  Perhaps by direct message on twitter-however you would be limited to 140 characters.  But blanket apologies do not suffice.

As the RAMBAM writes in Hilchot Teshuvah of the Mishneh Torah in Chapter 2.9

 Repentance and the Day of Atonement atone only for sins, such as eating a forbidden food, having prohibited intercourse, et cetera, which are committed against God. Sins such as injuring, cursing, stealing, et cetera, which are committed against one’s fellow man are never atoned for until one has paid any necessary fines to the person against whom one sinned, and discussed it with him. Even though one may have paid back any due money one still has to discuss the sin with him and ask for forgiveness. Even if one teased someone else just verbally one has to appease him and make up for it, in order that he will forgive one. If the person against whom one had sinned did not want to forgive one then one has to ask him for forgiveness in front of three of his friends. If he still didn’t want to forgive one then one asks him in front of six, and then in front of nine, of his friends, and if he still didn’t want to forgive him one leaves him and goes away. Anybody who does not want to forgive is a sinner. If one had to ask one’s Rabbi for forgiveness, one us to approach him even a thousand times until one receives forgiveness.

So while the sentiments for wishing all a Shanah Tovah are welcomed. Make teshuvah/repentance/apologies/ask for forgiveness in a direct way.

Wishing you all the sweetness of the season.

Pisces Moon

The astrology columns tell me today’s full moon is in Pisces. I have no idea what that really means. I know it’s supposed to have some significance about how the world is reacting or some influence on our attitude and behaviors. As if there are some unique characteristics because the moon appears in a certain place in the heavens.

But all I know is that a full moon can mean only one thing. And that is Rosh Hashanah is only two weeks away! The full moon in the Elul sky should light up for us the task of repair of self and relationships that have been chipped away. It is time to make teshuvah and engage in the act of repentance. It shouldn’t matter what sign of the zodiac that the moon resides in. For the Jewish world this Elul full moon should urge us to engage in that teshuvah process. Don’t wait. Let the moon shine on you and inspire you and light up a path to renewal and the New Year. Shanah Tovah