Across Israel, Meir Panim responds to the growing needs of the country’s 1.75 million impoverished residents through various food and social service programs.
There are those who view an authentic Jewish life as confining and repressive – pessimistic even. So many restrictions. Countless obligations. So much “observance” rather than “celebration.” Yom Kippur fasts. Tzom Gedaliah. Tisha B’Av. The Seventeenth of Tammuz. So much sadness. So much pain. And then there is the emphasis on the in-depth study of mussar – ethics – emblematic of the Jewish need to continually rise to higher moral and spiritual levels.
“Just accept yourself for who you are,” suggests the Jewish cynic. Rather than a full thirty days of reflection and prayer in preparation for the Yamim Noraim isn’t it enough to come on the first of Tishrei, or even the tenth, to pray, wish, reflect and amend? Why sound the terrifying sirens of the shofar from the second day of Elul?
Why recite Psalm 27 – L’Dovid Hashem Ori – and awake in the predawn darkness to recite Selichot? Mind you, in the Sephardic communities, Selichot is recited for the full month of Elul. Ashkenazim begin “only” a week before Rosh Hashanah. Nevertheless, the entire month of Elul is to be a period of spiritual preparation and rejuvenation, anticipating the Days of Awe. Blowing the shofar rouses Jews to the approaching awesome, serious and introspective days.
“All so gloomy, depressing and pessimistic,” the cynic sighs with a shrug. “It makes us all seem like lost sinners, hopeless and forlorn, who by some supernatural grace of God will be saved from His wrath.”
But does it? What I have presented is Judaism through the eyes of the cynic, the one for whom the glass is only half empty. That same glass, viewed through the eyes of the faithful, is wonderfully half full.
Considering the other half of the glass, we quickly discover the state of mind God actually intends for us – from the start of Elul through the very close of the Days of Awe and holiness, on Shemini Atzeres. Open up your prayer books and discover the most optimistic of all psalms, selected specifically for this awesome period – Psalm 27. The Midrash teaches that the words L’Dovid Hashem Ori – “The Lord is my life” – refers to Rosh Hashanah; v’yishi – “and aid” – reflects on Yom Kippur; while ki yitzpeneni b’suko – “He will hide me within His tabernacle” – places us within Sukkot.
Glance through the psalm and discover all the words that conjure up hope, optimism, happiness, and strength. Begin with the first verse and go through the chapter: light, aid, stronghold, not fear, confident, desire, dwell in the house of the Lord, pleasantness, shelter, safe, high, sing, chant, gracious, seek you My presence, help, care, teach, guide, land of the living, hope, strong, brave.
In fourteen short verses, twenty-four terms and phrases that sing out loud and clear to an optimistic soul and worldview.
God’s name appears thirteen times in the psalm, we are taught, for during the month of Elul the thirteen gates of rachamim- of mercy and hope – are open to us.
The commentaries teach us the psalm is divided into two distinct parts. Verses 1-6 express the clearly stated hope of David to “dwell in the house of the Lord” and to behold His pleasantness. Verses 7-14 are a call for help on behalf of all Jews. It is a clarion call that brings to mind the sign put up by Breslover chassidim on the gate to their Second World War ghetto: Yidden, zeit zich nisht m’yaesh – “Jews, don’t give up!”
It is natural to want to give up when the other half of the glass is so clearly empty. Just as then, the emptiness of that half of the glass can feel overwhelming. There is growing anti-Semitic and anti-Israel sentiment worldwide; rampant assimilation and intermarriage in the midst of an ever-expanding secular city; blatant disregard for honesty and integrity, for plain good old ehrlichkeit in the midst of increased Torah learning.
There is so much evidence to justify the cynic’s perspective. And yet and yet, by whose say do we succumb to pessimism and gloom?
Listen to these words, uttered twice a day for fifty days, repeated a hundred times: “Hope in the Lord, be strong, and let your heart be brave: yes, hope in the Lord.”
About the Author: Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Safran serves as OU Kosher’s vice president of Communications and Marketing.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
President Obama’s foreign policy is based on fantasy.
Welcome the book of Leviticus!
If the nationalist Knesset members don’t provide the answer, the Arab MKs will do so in their place.
Yeshiva University Museum recently hosted an exhibit titled “Threshold to the Sacred.”
Even a foxhole Yid has to admit that antisemitism is on the upswing.
As shocking and insulting and horrifying as it is, Nazi war criminals are still living freely among us.
One can almost imagine a shocked Mr. Kerry thinking to himself, “How could he?” Yet not only did Mr. Putin do what he did, China, one of the three major international players along with the U.S. and Russia, agreed with him, not with Mr. Kerry.
Ramaz is a venerable Modern Orthodox educational institution whose mission statement contains the explicit commitment to “Ahavat Yisrael, and love and support for the State of Israel.”
In the course of the ages there wasn’t a Jewish community more convinced of its capacity for survival than the Jewish community of Hungary in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Liberals got an Affirmative Action president who doesn’t have the wisdom or the authority to change the battle plan.
The world excuses Islamic murder, but focuses on flaws, often imaginary, on the part of Israel.
Abbas also sent wreath to honor suicide bomber who killed 8.
It has been a very challenging year that has taken a toll on the Cohen family.
The only way for children to find a way back to the path is through parental love and understanding.
The road back is paved with love, understanding, hugs, and honest communication.
An educator must not be satisfied until that soul he refuses to handle, love, nourish and develop is registered in another school, one more caring and embracing.
No matter where we look, our lives are touched by miracles.
If a teacher thinks his task is merely “to teach” – that it is no great thing to teach, that “anybody can do that” — he must immediately be set straight.
A fisherman living near the banks of a river was making his way home one evening, exhausted from his long labors. As he trudged along the path, he dreamed of what his life might be like if he were suddenly rich. Just then, his foot brushed against a leather pouch. He picked it up only to discover it filled with small stones. Falling back into his reverie, he absent-mindedly began throwing the pebbles into the water.
One of the beautiful customs of Rosh Hashanah is to eat an apple dipped in honey and other sweet foods as a way of asking Hashem to make things sweet for us in the coming year. People also wish each other a healthy and sweet New Year. However the best way to make the year sweet for ourselves and for others is to become “sweet” people, remembering to smile and treat each other in a sweet and friendly way.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/on-jewish-optimism/2010/08/25/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online:
No related posts.