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August 27, 2014 / 1 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Rosh Hashanah’

Rosh Hashanah Guide for the Perplexed

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

1.  Rosh Hashanah and the Shofar (ritual ram’s horn) symbolize and commemorate:

*The annual reaffirmation of faith in God;
*The first human-being, Adam, was created on Rosh Hashanah, the sixth day of Creation, the first day of the Jewish month of Tishrey;
*The opening of Noah’s Ark following the flood;
*The almost-sacrifice of Isaac (thou shall not sacrifice human beings!) and the covenant of the Jewish People with God;
*The three Jewish Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and Prophet Samuel (the latter inspired Thomas Paine, the author of “Common Sense,” the cement of the American Revolution), were conceived/born during the month of Tishrey, which is called “The Month of the Strong Ones”;
*The release of Joseph from Egyptian jail;
*Mt. Sinai and receiving the Ten Commandment and the Torah;
*The commitment to liberty. The blowing of the Shofar also announces the beginning of the Jubilee (“Yovel” in Hebrew), which is a synonym of Shofar. The blowing of the Shofar represents deliverance from spiritual and physical slavery. It inspired the American anti-slavery Abolitionist movement;
*The reconstruction of the 2nd Temple and the destruction of both Temples;
*The ingathering (Aliya) to the Jewish Homeland, the land of Israel;
*The cycle of nature - seed planting season and the equality of day and night;
*Optimism in the face of daily adversity – genuine repentance and mending behavior warrants forgiveness;
*The fallibility of all human-beings, starting with Adam and including the most pious persons, such as Moses;
*Humility as an effective means to minimize wrong-doing;
*Restraint. Patience and long-term commitment – “Hashanah” in Hebrew (השנה) means “the year,” “change” and “repeat.”  No quick fixes!
*The “Ten Days of Awe” are initiated on Rosh Hashanah and sealed on Yom Kippur.

2.  Rosh Hashanah – unlike all other Jewish holidays – is a universal (stock-taking, renewal and hopeful) holiday. “Rosh” (Hashanah) means in Hebrew “beginning,” “first,” “head,” “chief.” The Hebrew letters of Rosh (ראש) constitute the root of the Hebrew word for Genesis, “Bereshit” (בראשית), which is the first word in the Bible. Just like the Creation, so should the New Year and our own actions, be a thoughtful, long-term – not a hasty – process. Rosh Hashanah is celebrated at the beginning of the Jewish month of Tishrey, which means beginning/Genesis in ancient Acadian. The Hebrew spelling of Tishrey (תשרי) is included in the spelling of Genesis (בראשית).

Rosh Hashanah is referred to as “Ha’rat Olam” (the pregnancy of the world), and its prayers highlight motherhoodoptimism and the pregnancies of Sarah and Rachel, the Jewish Matriarchs, and Hanna, who gave birth to Isaac, Joseph & Benjamin and Samuel the Prophet respectively. Sarah, שרה (the root of the Hebrew word, Israel, ישראל) and Hanna, חנה (the root of the Hebrew words Pardon, Amnesty and Merciful, חנינה) were two of the seven Jewish Prophetesses: Sarah, Miriam, Hanna, Deborah, Huldah, Abigail, Esther.  Hanna’s prayer has become a role-model for God-heeded prayers. Noah – who led the rebirth of humanity/world – also features in Rosh Hashanah prayers.

3.  The three pillars of Rosh HashanahRepentance (returning to good deeds – תשובה – in Hebrew), Prayer and Charity (doing justice – צדקה – in Hebrew).

4.  The Hebrew word for atonement/repentance is Te’shuvah (תשובה), which also means“return” to core morality and values and to the Land of Israel. On Rosh Hashanah, one is expected to plan a “spiritual/behavioral budget” for the entire year. The three Hebrew words, Teshuvah (Repentance/Atonement, תשובה), Shivah (Spiritual and Physical Return, שיבה) and Shabbat (Creation concluded, שבת) emerge from the same Hebrew root.  They constitute a triangular foundation, whose strength depends on the depth of education and commemoration. According to King Solomon, “The triangular cord cannot be broken.”

5.  Rosh Hashanah is mentioned in the Book of Numbers (29:1) as “the day of the Shofar blast” (Yom Te’roo’ah in Hebrew). The Shofar (ritual ram’s horn) is blown on Rosh Hashanah as a wake-up call, a break away from the professional, social and political mundane, in order to recommit oneself to roots and basic valuesrepair our order of priorities andmend human behavior.  Shofar (שופר) is a derivative of the Hebrew word forenhancement/improvement (שפור).  Blowing the Shofar symbolizes a new beginning – replaying the birth of the Jewish People – and the receipt of the Torah – at Mount Sinai, which was accompanied by sounding the Shofar.

6.  The Shofar should be humble (bent and not decorated), natural and unassuming, just like the foundation of a positive character in general and leadership in particular.

7.  The Shofar is the epitome of peace-through-strength.  It is made from the horn of a ram, which is a peaceful animal equipped with strong horns, fending off predators. The numerical value of the Hebrew word, “ram” (איל), is 41, equal to the value of “mother” (אם), who strongly protects her children.

8.  While the blowing of the Shofar is a major virtue, listening to the Shofar is at least as important a virtue. The Hebrew root of “listening,” האזנה, is Ozen, ear (אוזן), which contains thebalancing mechanism in our body (אזון).  Ozen is also the root for “Scale” (מאזניים) and “Balance,” which is the zodiac sign of the month of Tishrey.  Both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (when people balance their good deeds vs. bad deeds) are observed during the month of Tishrey.

9.  The three ways of blowing the Shofar express the inner constant values (Te’kiyah), the tenacious human marathon through success and failure (She’va’rim), and the determined pursuit of faith-driven long-term vision (Troo’ah).

10.  The three series of blowing the Shofar represent the faith of mankind in God (Malkhooyot), the centrality of history/memory/roots and God’s Covenant with the Jewish People (Zichronot) and repentance/enhancement (Shofarot).

11.  The three different soundings of the Shofar represent the three Patriarchs (Abraham – tenacity, fighting capabilities and mercy, Isaac – benevolence, Jacob – truth), the three parts of the Bible and the three types of human beings (pious, evil and mediocre), all of whom are worthy of renewal.

12.  Rosh Hashanah services include 101 blows of the Shofar. It is the numerical value of the Hebrew spelling of Michael, a Guardian Angel, which was one of the names of Moses.

13.  The pomegranate - one of the seven species that bless the Land of Israel – is featured during Rosh Hashanah: “May you be credited with as many rewards as the seeds of the pomegranate.” The pomegranate becomes ripe in time for Rosh Hashanah and contains – genetically - 613 seeds, which is the number of Jewish statues. The pomegranate was employed as an ornament of the Holy Arc, the holy Menorah (candelabrum), the coat of the High Priest and the Torah Scrolls. The first two letters of the Hebrew word for pomegranate (רמון), Rimon – which is known for its crown - mean sublime (Ram, רמ). The pomegranate (skin and seeds) is one of the healthiest fruit: high in iron, anti-oxidants, anti-cancer, decreases blood pressure, enhances the quality of blood and the cardiac and digestion systems. Rimon is a metaphor for a wise person: wholesome like a pomegranate.

14.  Honey is included in Rosh Hashanah meals in order to sweeten the coming year. The beeis the only insect which produces essential food.  It is a community-oriented, constructive and a diligent creature.  The Hebrew spelling of bee (דבורה) is identical to “the word of God” (דבור-ה).

15.  Shofar Blowing Commemoration Day (Leviticus 23) is one of the names of Rosh Hashanah. One can avoid – rather than repeat – past mistakes by learning from history. The more one remembers, the deeper are the roots and the greater is one’s stability and one’s capability to withstand storms of pressure and temptation. The more stable/calculated/moral is the beginning of the year (Rosh Hashanah), the more constructive will be the rest of the year.

May the New Year (5773 according to the Jewish calendar) be top heavy with truth, realism and tenacity and low on distortion, wishful-thinking and vacillation.

Visit Yoram Ettinger’s website The Ettinger Report.

What Bill Belichick and the Patriots Can Teach Us about the Days of Awe

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

A conversation between God and the angels is recorded in Tractate Rosh Hashanah:

Angels: Why aren’t the Israelites singing Hallel (psalms of praise) on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?

God: The books of Life and Death are open before Me, and you want them to sing?

In this conversation, the Angels appear to have forgotten which Holidays we’re discussing, expecting these serious Days of Awe to be days for singing and happiness.

The following sports metaphor should help us understand the Angels’ question:

The great Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick, who has lead his team to many Super Bowl appearances, five as a head coach and three more as defensive coordinator, is arriving in July for the team’s first training mini-camp. His basic goals is to get the team ready for the new season by setting their sights on another Super Bowl, introducing the play book, and instilling the discipline necessary for a winning team.

The latter would include a commitment to adhere to the coach’s direction. Coach Belichick is known for his “New England way”: team success over individual success, thorough preparation, shutting out distractions, and looking no further than the next game, or, as Coach Belichick puts it: “We just gotta’ get ready for next week.”

Now think about it: how does the team feel when their great coach arrives at that mini-camp? Obviously, they’re glad he’s arrived, and anticipate getting ready for another championship run.

The ten day period from Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur are similar: God, our great, respected ”coach,” starts our year by ”joining us” for ten days with the goal of getting us ready for another ”Super Bowl season.” He wants to direct our attention 1) towards that goal2)towards focusing on the ”play book” (the Torah) and towards the recognition of God as our absolute ”coach,” who we must adhere to in order to ”win.”

So the Angels correctly ask why we’re not joyfully singing Hallel as God ”arrives” at the beginning of our year-we certainly are ecstatic upon his arrival and much anticipate ”kicking off.”

Let us begin our year on the right foot towards another Super Bowl season.

Why We Blow Shofar

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

Here’s a lovely image of two kids blowing shofars on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year celebration, at the Saint Paul Jewish Community Center, circa 1990.

We blow shofar 100 times, give or take, on each day of the two-day holiday of Rosh Hashanah, which is a two-day holiday not only in Diaspora but in Israel, too.

We blow our shofars so many times, a task which often proves quite challenging to the “ba’al toke’ah,” the shofarmeister, because of the mother of an ancient enemy, the Canaanite general Sisera who was defeated by an Israelite army led by a reluctant young man named Barak and a zealous prophetess named Deborah. Sisera himself was killed—with a tent peg smacked into his temple—by a young Kenite woman named Yael.

Sisera was a mythical enemy, whose army had been undefeated until that fateful day at the Kishon River—not far from today’s city of Haifa. When Sisera dipped in the sea, he trapped enough fish in his beard to feed his entire army.

This could mean either that he had a very small army or a very big beard.

In any event, General Sisera did not return from that last mission, and his mother, waiting for him with growing concern, sighed 100 times. And this mother’s anguish came up before the Divine Throne and served as an accusatory voice against the Jews. And so, each new year, we drown out her sighs with our 100 shofar blasts.

Shows you the value of a mother’s feelings to the Creator of the world. Shows you also the importance of drowning out negative publicity.

Have a sweet and meaningful holiday and a delightful new year, come back for more Wednesday morning.

Netanyahu Rosh Hashanah Message Highlights Gov’t Achievements

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a Rosh Hashanah youtube message yesterday highlighting his government’s achievements throughout the year, displaying one government achievement per month.

Examples given in the video include the return of Gilad Shalit, increasing funding for education allowing children to attend school from age three, and allowing other companies to use cell phone infrastructure, adding several new cell phone companies to the market with significantly lower prices.

The video, below, is in Hebrew.

President Obama’s Rosh Hashanah Greeting (Video)

Friday, September 14th, 2012

At sundown this Sunday, the Jewish community here in the United States and all over the world will celebrate the start of the new year. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur mark a time of prayer and self-reflection, and offers Americans of all faiths an opportunity to focus on what unites us instead of what divides us, to work together to make this a more perfect union and to continue the work of repairing the world.

As we look forward to the beginning of the Jewish High Holidays Sunday night, I want to extend my warmest wishes to all those celebrating the New Year.

This is a joyful time for millions of people around the world. But Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are also opportunities for reflection. They represent a chance to take stock of our lives and look forward to the coming year with clear eyes and renewed purpose.

In that spirit, the Jewish Tradition teaches us that one of the most important duties we have during this period is the act of reconciliation. We’re called to seek each other out and make amends for those moments when we may not have lived up to our values as well as we should.

At a time when our public discourse can too often seem harsh; when society too often focuses on what divides us instead of what unites us; I hope that Americans of all faiths can take this opportunity to reach out to those who are less fortunate; to be tolerant of our neighbors; and to recognize ourselves in one another. And as a nation, let us be mindful of those who are suffering, and renew the unbreakable bond we share with our friends and allies – including the State of Israel.

In that spirit, Michelle and I wish you and your families a sweet year full of health, happiness, and peace. L’Shana Tovah.

A Sweet New Year

Friday, September 14th, 2012

At the Ramat Gan Safari, near Tel Aviv, the animals were treated to sweet fruits and honey in celebration of the approaching of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year).

I went looking online for an answer to a troubling question: is honey good for bears? I mean, those beasts are heavy enough as it is, do they really need all that added sugar?

But I couldn’t find a single serious source on this issue. Some suggested the bears are really after the bee larvae inside the hive, but others said unflinchingly that bears have a sweet tooth and that’s it.

Except, with so much sugar, will they get to keep their teeth?

The bear in the picture was offered a lovely assortment of fruits and vegetables, which he is examining, but not yet devouring as of the snapping of this shot.

Do bears really subsist on fruits and vegetables? That’s so monkey…

Couldn’t they give him a nice, juicy salmon for Rosh Hashanah?

We’re celebrating our first new year in our old-new land. This, from now on, will be our only two-day Jewish holiday of the tear.

According to the sages, Rosh Hashanah is actually one long day stretched over 48 hours.

It’s a legal fiction.

When our Israeli guests ask what to bring for the holiday dinner, we say strange fruit. For the second night of Rosh Hashanah, so we can make a blessing over them and circumvent a halachic dilemma created by the concept of a 48-hour “long day.”

Our sages made up more legal fiction than Agatha Christie.

And I salvaged this one OK joke from an awful website full of bad polar bear jokes:

Q: What are polar bears called when they get caught in the rain? A: Drizzly bears.

Shabbat Shalom and a happy new year.

‘To Be A Bee Or Not To Be, A Bee’

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

“Dip the apple in the honey
Make a bracha loud and clear
Shana Tova Umesuka[1]
Have a happy, sweet new year”

An elderly carpenter was eagerly preparing for retirement. When he informed his employer/contractor of his plans, the employer asked him if he could do him a personal favor and build one more house before he left. After so many years of working together the carpenter felt he could not refuse, and so he begrudgingly agreed. It quickly became apparent that the carpenter’s heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and he used inferior quality materials. It was an unfortunate way to end a dedicated career.

When the carpenter finished the house he informed his employer that the job was done. The employer smiled and handed the key to the front door to the carpenter.

“This is your house,” the employer said, “It is my personal gift to you, with gratitude for your dedication and work for so many years.”

The carpenter was crestfallen! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have built it so differently. Now he would be living in a substandard home with no one to blame but himself.

We are the carpenters constructing our own lives. “Life is a do-it-yourself project.” The attitudes and choices we make throughout our lives are the nails, boards, and walls that compose the “house” we live in tomorrow. We would be wise to build carefully and adroitly!

One of the most famous aspects of Rosh Hashanah is the universally accepted custom to eat symbolic foods on the eve of the holiday, and to recite prayers which incorporate a play on words with the Hebrew name of the food, to ask G-d for various blessings during the coming year. Arguably, the most beloved is dipping challah and an apple into honey and petitioning G-d for a sweet new year. In fact, along with the shofar, honey is a symbol of Rosh Hashanah and of our deepest hopes for a happy and healthy new year.

Perhaps there is a deeper connection and meaning in the custom to “dip in honey” on Rosh Hashanah than the mere fact that honey is sweet. The very manner in which bee-honey[2] is produced serves as a powerful lesson for our main objective and focus on Rosh Hashanah.

Honeybees use nectar from flowers to make honey. Nectar is almost 80% water with some complex sugars. In North America, bees get nectar from flowers like clovers, dandelions, berry bushes, and fruit tree blossoms. (Different colors and flavors of honey are primarily based on what kind of flowers the bees use to produce their honey.)

The bees use their long, tube like tongues as straws to suck the nectar out of the flowers. Then they store it in their “honey stomachs.” (Bees actually have two stomachs, their honey stomach which they use like a nectar backpack and their regular stomach.) When the honey stomach is full it weighs almost as much as the bee does. Honeybees must visit between 100 and 1500 flowers in order to fill their honey stomachs.

The honeybees return to the hive and pass the nectar onto other worker bees. These bees suck the nectar from the honeybee’s stomach through their mouths. These “house bees” “chew” the nectar for about half an hour. During this time, enzymes are breaking the complex sugars in the nectar into simple sugars so that it is both more digestible for the bees and less likely to be attacked by bacteria while it is stored within the hive.

The bees then spread the nectar throughout the honeycombs where water evaporates from it, making it into a thicker syrup. The bees help the nectar dry faster by fanning it with their wings. Once the honey is gooey enough, the bees seal off the cell of the honeycomb with a plug of wax. The honey is stored until it is eaten. In one year, a colony of bees eats between 120 and 200 pounds of honey.

Honey is created from a transformation that occurs within the bee. The bee gathers the raw materials and then works intensely to abet the process and ensure that it is completed. The process of teshuva – repentance, which begins on Rosh Hashanah – is not simply about going through the motions. Rather, it is a deeply internal and personal process. It is primarily a transformation that occurs within a person’s heart and mind, and includes a commitment to growth and improvement.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/holidays/to-be-a-bee-or-not-to-be-a-bee/2012/09/13/

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