Time to Reboot

“Because your future is not chained to your past.” –Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, Rosh Hashanah 5780Back on August 25th, I published a blog post on this blog titled, Elul and the High Holy Days.” The Jewish month of Elul is now almost over, and the celebration of the Jewish New Year known as Rosh Hashanah begins this Sunday at sundown, September 29, 2019, and ends at nightfall on Tuesday, October 1, 2019. It is also the beginning of the month of Tishrei and the beginning of the High Holy Days on the Hebrew calendar.

Rosh Hashanah is all about rebooting. “Reboot” is one of those techie terms that, according to Urban Dictionary, is defined as follows:

To start anew with fresh ideas in a way that is consistent with the principals of the original, but not unnecessarily constrained by what has taken place before. (Quote source here.)

In a brief article titled, Reboot,” by Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, senior editor at Chabad.org, he writes:

Time is not a train of cars hitched one to another.

A year is not dragged along by the year preceding. The present is not hitched tightly to the past. The future is not enslaved to the present.

Rather, every year arrives fresh from its Creator, a year that never was before and could never have been known before its arrival.

That is why we call Rosh Hashanah “the birth of the world” in our prayers. The past has returned to its place, never to return. With the blowing of the shofar, the entirety of Creation is renewed.

From this point on, even the past exists only by virtue of the present. (Quote source here.)

I like the idea that “the entirety of Creation is renewed” on Rosh Hashanah. Much like our New Year’s celebration on New Year’s Eve and January 1st for those of us who are not Jewish, the New Year in both cases offers a “clean slate” to begin afresh from the past. However, Rosh Hashanah is just the beginning of the celebrations that take place during the month of Tishrei.

In an article titled, Happy and Sweet New Year,” by Esther Rosen, contributor on Chabad.org, she writes:

Tishrei (Tishri), the first month of the Jewish year (the seventh when counting from Nisan), is full of momentous and meaningful days of celebration. Beginning with the High Holidays, in this month we celebrate Rosh Hashanahthe Ten Days of RepentanceYom KippurSukkot and Simchat Torah. Each one is filled with its own meaningful customs and rituals. Some are serious, awesome days set aside for reflection and soul-searching. Some are joyous days full of happy and cheerful celebration.

But all of these days, throughout the month of Tishrei, are opportunities to connect, to be inspired, and to become more fulfilled and in tune with our true inner selves. Tishrei is considered the “head” of the year, and the reservoir from which we draw our strength and inspiration throughout the year ahead. (Quote source here.)

Specific to the High Holy Days,” also known as “The High Holidays,” Rosh Hashanah begins these days and culminates with Yom Kippur, which is quickly followed by the festive holidays of Sukkot and Simchat Torah. An article titled, The High Holidays: Rosh Hashana and Yom Kipper,” (the author’s name is not mentioned) states the following:

What Are the High Holy Days?

If the year is a train, the High Holidays (AKA High Holy Days) are its engine. A delicate blend of joy and solemnity, feasting and fasting, prayer and inspiration make up the spiritually charged head of the Jewish year.

The High Holiday season begins during the month of Elul, when the shofar is sounded every weekday morning, a clarion call to return to G‑d in advance of the sacred days that lay ahead.

The two-day holiday of Rosh Hashanah is the head of the Jewish year, the time when G‑d reinvests Himself in creation as we crown Him king of the universe through prayer, shofar blasts, and celebration.

A week later, the High Holidays reach their crescendo with Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). Like angels, we neither eat nor drink for 25 hours. Dressed in white, we pray in the synagogue—united as one people, children of One Father.

But it does not end there. The other-worldliness of the High Holidays is then channeled into the festive holidays of Sukkot and Simchat Torah, which bring the annual fall holiday season to a most joyous conclusion. (Quote source here.)

As a Christian, I must admit that I never gave much thought to the Jewish holidays until I stumbled upon Tisha B’Av(also known as The Ninth of Av) in June 2012 which “commemorates a list of catastrophes so severe it’s clearly a day set aside by G‑d for suffering” (quote source and a list of those catastrophes is available here.) Since that time, I have written a number of blog posts on my regular blog not only on that particular Jewish holiday but others, too.

Christianity has it’s roots in Jewish history, and Jesus celebrated the Jewish holidays during his lifetime on earth. In fact, his death and resurrection take place during the Jewish holiday of Passover with his death taking place on Passover and his resurrection taking place on the Feast of Firstfruits(see article titled, The Timing of Jesus’ Deathat this link).

The significance of the Jewish holidays to Christianity cannot be understated. They are very much intertwined with Christian history, and the Old Testament (Jewish history) is filled with prophesies concerning the coming of the Messiah which were fulfilled by Jesus Christ (see article titled Biblical Prophesies Fulfilled by Jesus at this link). Also, check out an article titled, What Proof Do You Have that Jesus is the Messiah?” by Jews for Jesus at this link.

In an article published in November 2011 in HuffPost.com titled, Dreams, Renewal and Rosh Hashanah,” by Levi-Ben Schmuel, contributor, writer, singer-songwriter, and inspirational speaker, he writes:

As we know, life is seldom a smooth road. Our dreams do not always manifest in the form we had hoped or in the time we imagined they would. As you reflect on why your dreams have not been realized, and perhaps look to place blame for them not working out on yourself or others, how will your frustrations and disappointments impact you moving forward?

The Jewish tradition counsels that before arriving at Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year also known as the Day of Judgment, it is wise to reflect back on the previous year. The opportunity is to honestly examine where you have fallen short, then go through a process of asking for forgiveness that allows you to become renewed before God, ready to face life’s challenges in the new year. But in the process of renewal, will you simply wipe the slate clean, forget about your dreams, perhaps go for something less grand and safer, or continue to believe in your vision for your life?

Sister Joan Chittister, a Roman Catholic nun, was ready to enter a graduate program in creative writing as a step to fulfill her dream of becoming a novelist. Before the program started, her order directed her to serve God and the church in a more traditional way. Regarding the loss of her dream, Sister Joan wrote in her book “Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope,” “There is no one who has not known what it is to lose in the game of life…. There is no one who does not have to choose sometime, some way between giving up and growing stronger…. The essence of struggle is the decision to become new rather than simply to become older…”

Sister Joan did not let her disappointment and loss get in the way of moving forward with renewed strength. In her case, she chose to let go of a dream. Her story also points out some important things to consider as you reexamine your dreams and hopes for the New Year. Where does your dream come from? Is it inspired by God, or simply a desire of your ego? And does your dream conflict with God’s plans for you?

Joseph, the great dreamer from the Bible, did not have an easy time with his dreams. Early in his story, sharing his dreams led him to slavery in Egypt and eventually jail with no end in sight. Through his dark times, he went through a healing process that led him to devote his life and his dreams to God. His childhood dreams became reality many years later, certainly in a form he never imagined. Through partnering with the Divine, through weathering challenging times and gaining strength from them, Joseph renewed himself and became a great blessing to a foreign nation and his own family.

Dreams and hopes are wonderful things. We need to be on guard not to let the disappointments in life sour us on them. Yes, it takes work to clear away the results of our mistakes and failures. Therein lies a great beauty in life: When we clear away the debris, genuinely ask for forgiveness and recommit to work in partnership with God, God answers us with open arms. We can be renewed and energized to follow our dreams for another year trusting in God’s plans and our ability to work with the Divine in creating them.

Happy New Year! (Quote source here.)

In an article published just 21 hours ago in The Times of Israel titled, Rosh Hashanah: The Gift of Life, Hope and Renewal,” by Bonnie Chernin, pianist, writer, certified professional coach, and founder of Jews for Life (now known as Jewish Life League), she writes:

Rosh Hashanah is nearly upon us, and we are preparing for the High Holidays with hope, reflection, renewal….

Rosh Hashanah means the Head of the Year, and there is a mission that is sometimes hidden that each of us as a unique human being needs to fulfill. Think about revealing your mission so you can achieve renewal and positive change. Change requires action. How can you change your situation today when you are so worried about what will happen in the future?

For change to happen in 5780 [the Jewish year starting on this coming Sunday evening], welcome each day with a new understanding of doing teshuvah, and that means returning to G-d every day for renewal. The year 5780 is called the year of redemption. Consider your most redeeming qualities. Cultivate your good qualities and do something meaningful every day. When in doubt about something, show restraint in your speech. Letting go of limiting beliefs is a liberating experience.

G-d did not intend for us to seek His forgiveness when we are preoccupied with personal judgments, insurmountable shame, fear or guilt. This is the time to remember what went wrong, how we can correct past mistakes and improve our lives.

During the Ten Days of Repentance, it is important to be introspective and commit to doing good deeds. By giving charity, attending services and connecting with others in the Jewish community, we can effect positive change in the world. We ask for forgiveness from people we have hurt. Sometimes it is not possible, so do what you can.

Rosh Hashanah commemorates G-d’s creation of the world, and of Adam and Eve.   Tishrei is a month of creation. According to tradition, the blast of the shofar is a call to repentance for the Jewish people. G-d is accessible to us and He is listening. During the Ten Days of Repentance, He is especially aware of the prayers of each and every one of us.

The best way to know that G-d is there for us is to be there for G-d. Teshuvah [repentance] should not be a temporary thing. Show up all year for G-d, not just on Rosh Hashanah.

Why not see today–this unique day that you are alive–as a day to experience growth, self-examination and improvement. What is your mission and purpose? My mission is to end abortion and provide resources that can help heal post-abortive women. My hope is to see a day when every unborn child is protected as a human being with potential. My purpose is to continue to involve myself in pro-life activities until a “Personhood Amendment” is passed to protect unborn children.

If I only lived for that future and got anxious over pro-abortion politicians, abortion policies, elections and obstacles in my way, I would not be able to do the pro-life actions that I take each day. I always keep my hopes high and my expectations in check. You can do the same.

Don’t think about what you will do tomorrow or for the entire year. You only have today, and no one is infallible. Did you know that by January 9th most people give up on their New Year’s resolutions? Likewise, on October 18th (nine days after Yom Kippur) will you give up on your resolutions to G-d? Will you forget about the promises you made for self-improvement in 5780? Or will you embrace each day with joy, enthusiasm, a sense of purpose and appreciation for the life that G-d created just for you?

If you can answer that one last question with a resounding “YES!”, then you are all set.

Shanah Tovah! (Quote course here.)

By including the above article, it is not meant to try and “guilt” anyone, but rather to cause us to reflect on our own personal relationship with God and what He means to us. In a brief article on the meaning of Shanah Tovah (that ends the article above) written by Rabbi Menachem Posner, staff editor at Chabad.org, he states:

Ever wondered what to say on Rosh Hashanah when you meet a Jewish person? Here’s what you need to know.

The Jewish new year is not just a time to renew our resolve to lose another fifteen pounds. Rather, it’s the time when our fate stands in the balance as G‑d reviews our past year and decides whether or not to renew our lease on His planet. As such, Jewish greetings for this time of year (the Jewish New Year is in the fall) reflect our prayers for a good, sweet year up ahead.

The catch-all greeting you can use for the entire season is “Shanah tovah” (שנה טובה), which means “Good year.” The word “u’metuka” (ומתוקה), and sweet, is sometimes appended to the end….

No matter what we say, the main thing is to wish each other a good, sweet year with all our heart–because that is what G‑d values the most. (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post by saying “Shanah Tovah,” 🙂 and quoting Micah 6:8: He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice…

And to love kindness . . .

And to walk humbly . . .

With your God . . . .

YouTube Video: “Rosh Hashanah Rock Anthem” by Aish.com:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Elul and the High Holy Days

“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.”King Solomon, third and last king in the ancient Kingdom of Israel, renowned for his wisdom, his prolific writings, and his building accomplishments. (Quote is from Song of Solomon 6:3)Back in the summer of 2012, I discovered the Jewish holiday known as Tisha B’Av (the 9th of Av), which is an annual fast day in Judaism, on which a number of disasters in Jewish history occurred, primarily the destruction of both Solomon’s Temple by the Neo-Babylonian Empire and the Second Temple by the Roman Empire in Jerusalem. Tisha B’Av is regarded as the saddest day in the Jewish calendar and it is thus believed to be a day which is destined for tragedy. Tisha B’Av falls in July or August in the Gregorian calendar–our Western Calendar (quote source here). I have previously written five blog posts on Tisha B’Av on my regular blog (see search link here) beginning with my first blog post published on July 29, 2012, titled Tisha B’Av and 9/11.”

The minor holiday of Tu B’Av follows Tisha B’Av six days later, and it is known as a Jewish Valentine’s Day. Tu B’Av was the topic of my last blog post published on August 14th on this blog titled, A Day of Love.” I have also previously published a blog post on my regular blog on this holiday on August 5, 2017, titled, Tu B’Av 5777 (2017).”

Av is the eleventh month on the Jewish calendar (the Jewish civil year), and it is followed by the month of Elul, the last month of the Jewish civil year. The following information gives a brief description of the activities associated with the month of Elul leading up to the High Holy Days and Sukkot which follows the High Holy Days:

Elul usually occurs in August–September on the Gregorian calendar (Western calendar). In the Jewish tradition, the month of Elul is a time of repentance in preparation for the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur…. “Elul” can be understood to be an acronym for the phrase “Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li” meaning “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Song of Solomon 6:3). Elul is seen as a time to search one’s heart and draw close to God in preparation for the coming Day of Judgement, Rosh Hashanah, and Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.

During the month of Elul, there are a number of special rituals leading up to the High Holy Days. It is customary to blow the shofar every morning (except on Shabbat) from Rosh Hodesh Elul (the first day of the month) until the day before Rosh Hashanah. The blasts are meant to awaken one’s spirit and inspire him to begin the soul searching which will prepare him for the High Holy Days. As part of this preparation, Elul is the time to begin the sometimes-difficult process of granting and asking for forgiveness. It is also customary to recite Psalm 27 every day from Rosh Hodesh Elul (1st day of Elul) through Hoshanah Rabbah on Sukkot (Hoshanah Rabbah is the seventh day of Jewish holiday of Sukkot and the 21st day of Tishrei, the first month of the new year on the Jewish civil calendar). (Quote source here.)

From the first day of Elul through the last day of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot (Hoshanah Rabbah), these dates convert to the following dates on our Western calendar for 2019: September 1, 2019 through October 20, 2019. This time period will start on Sunday, September 1st, which is one week from today. Actually, it will start at sundown on Saturday, August 31, 2019, as days on the Jewish calendar start at sundown.

As an introduction to the month of Elul, Chabad.org states:

Elul is the 12th and final month in the Jewish calendar (the sixth month counting from Nisan). It is a month that connects the past year with the coming year—a time when we reflect on where we stand and where we should be going.

It is called “the month of repentance,” “the month of mercy” and “the month of forgiveness.” Elul follows the two previous months of Tammuz and Av—months of tragedies that were brought upon us through our sins. In Tammuz, the Jews sinned with the golden calf; on Rosh Chodesh Elul, Moses ascended to Mount Sinai for a third 40-day period until Yom Kippur, when he descended with the second tablets (luchot) and G‑d’s word of joyful, wholehearted forgiveness. (The first time Moses ascended was to receive the first tablets; the second time was after the sin, to ask for forgiveness; and this third time was to receive the second set of tablets.) These were days when G‑d revealed to the Jewish people great mercy. Since then, this time has been designated as a time of mercy and forgiveness, an opportune time for teshuvah”repentance.

The four letters of the name “Elul” are an acronym for the phrase in “Song of Songs (6:3): “I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me.” “I am to my beloved”—we approach G‑d with a desire to return and connect. “And my beloved is to me”—G‑d reciprocates with Divine expressions of mercy and forgiveness.

This is the month when “the King is in the field.” Read: The King is in the Field

G‑d, the King of all Kings, is accessible. All can approach Him, and He shines His countenance to all. (Quote source here.)

In an article titled, Elul: 5 Things to Know About the Lead-up to the High Holidays,” by Jane E. Herman, senior writer and editor at the Union for Reform Judaism, she writes:

Elul is the Hebrew month that precedes the High Holidays (Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur).

Some say that the Hebrew letters that comprise the word “Elul”–aleph, lamed, vav, lamed–are an acronym for “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li,” a verse from Song of Songs that means “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” Most often interpreted as love poetry between two people, the phrase also reflects the love between God and the Jewish people, especially at this season, as we assess our actions and behaviors during the past year and hope for blessings in the coming year.

Several customs during the month of Elul are designed to remind us of the liturgical season and help us prepare ourselves and our souls for the upcoming High Holidays.

1. Blowing the shofar

Traditionally, the shofar is blown each morning (except on Shabbat) from the first day of Elul until the day before Rosh HaShanah. Its sound is intended to awaken the soul and kick start the spiritual accounting that happens throughout the month. In some congregations the shofar is sounded at the opening of each Kabbalat Shabbat service during Elul.

2. Saying special prayers

Selichot (special penitential prayers) are recited during the month of Elul. A special “Selichot” service is conducted late in the evening–often by candlelight–on the Saturday night a week before Rosh Hashanah.

3. Visiting loved ones’ graves

Elul is also a time of year during which Jews traditionally visit the graves of loved ones. This custom not only reminds us of the individuals on whose shoulders we now stand and helps us honor their memories, but also prompts us to think about our own lives and the legacies we will leave to others–kind words spoken, comfort offered, love given and received–which take on added meaning as we enter the High Holiday season. Rabbi Daniel B. Syme explains more about this custom.

4. Reading Psalm 27

It is customary to read Psalm 27 each day from the beginning of Elul through Hoshana Rabbah, which is the last day of Sukkot.

5. Reflecting

It also is a month during which we are encouraged to study and take time for personal reflection around our actions of the past year and to seek forgiveness from those we have wronged or with whom we otherwise have “missed the mark” in our interactions and behaviors. Many readily available resources can help you make this process interactive, including:

Whether you participate in some, none, or all of these Elul traditions, may you find meaning and fulfillment in this time leading up to the High Holidays. (Quote source here.)

Regarding the daily reading of Psalm 27, in an article titled, I Am My Beloved’s and My Beloved is Mine,” by Reuven Hammer, Ph.D., former president of the International Rabbinical Assembly, and author of The Torah Revolution: Fourteen Truths that Changed the World,” he writes:

The selection of Psalm 27 is very interesting. The interpretation of that psalm found in the rabbinic commentary on Psalms, Midrash Tehilim, indicates that from ancient times this psalm was connected to the Days of Awe. “The Lord is my lighton Rosh Hashana, since this is the day of judgment… The Lord is my salvationon Yom Kippur, when He saves us and forgives our sins” (27:3).

The psalm itself is complicated. On the one hand, it begins by asserting that because of closeness to the Lord, one has no reason to fear or be afraid (verse 1); yet toward the end, the psalmist pleads, “Do not hide Your face from me; do not thrust aside Your servant in anger… do not forsake me, do not abandon me…” (verse 9). It seems that the psalmist very much desires the closeness of God–echoing the idea of “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine”but feels he has not yet attained it, and God is still far from him. Thus he does feel fear and trepidation, which he has to work to overcome.

He concludes by encouraging himself to continue the search and not give up–“Look to the Lord: be strong and of good courage! O look to the Lord!” (verse 14). The message being conveyed by the psalm is that it is not easy to attain the feeling of intimacy with God, which is desirable and will banish our fears, but we must work toward it and never abandon the search.

There is no question that feelings of concern and even trepidation are part and parcel of the High Holy Day experience, even if they do not define it. The reason is simple. As we confront a new year, we begin to think of what lies ahead–and one never knows what that is. Uncertainty breeds concern.

This is expressed most openly and strongly not in the order of prayer itself, but in “piyyutim”–liturgical poems–that have been added to it, especially the magnificent “Unetaneh Tokef,” which describes the Day of Judgment.

The images there are taken from prophetic books in which the end of days, the final day of judgment, is depicted. “Who will live and who will die,” we say….

Fortunately, the month of Elul gives us the opportunity to grapple with these feelings, of accepting responsibility for those things that are within our control, namely our own actions, of seeing how we can improve and, most of all, of moving closer to a relationship of love with God which will help us to deal with our fears.

“I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine”: These are our tasks during the month of Elul. (Quote source here.)

This post has turned out to be an introduction of sorts to the Jewish month of Elul, a time of reflection and repentance. I will most likely, later in the month, be following up with a blog post or two on the Days of Awe/High Holy Days and Sukkot.

As Chabad.org states, “The High Holiday season begins during the month of Elul, when the shofar is sounded every weekday morning, a clarion call to return to G‑d in advance of the sacred days that lay ahead” (quote source here). For a brief introduction to what follows, click here.

I’ll end this post with the last verse in Psalm 27 (verse 14): Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage…

And He shall strengthen your heart…

Wait, I say . . .

On the Lord . . . .

YouTube Video: “Psalm 27 (One Thing)” by Shane & Shane:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here