Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Between Tisha B’Av, Elul and Rosh HaShanah ... and Yom Kippur

By the time I write these words and you read this small piece, we are all preparing for Rosh HaShanah and the onslaught of fall Hagim. Now how exactly did this happen? And keep in mind that this year the holidays are coming “late” though, of course they are always right on time!

Nonetheless, last year at this time we were already in the middle of the very season that will begin in yet another week and a half. Along with this extremely pensive time in the Jewish calendar, we also begin many new undertakings – new school years, new academic goals, new rhythms of life while we leave the more relaxed pace of the summer behind and so on. It seems so fitting that this should be the time of self examination and taking accounting of what we want from life and what life wants from us.

As we proceed through Elul and listen to the call of the Shofar each morning, we are reminded of our own need for the preparations necessary to approach the about-to-come awe inspiring days. We have moved from mourning over the community calamities associated with Tisha B’Av and are now concerned about our own lives and our personal goals and hopes for growth and improvement.

Judaism clearly teaches that these are not antithetical to each other nor are they mutually exclusive of each other; rather, how we function as a community and how we live as individuals are inextricably tied together. For, we as individuals join together to make a community! Even in the ongoing language of the Torah and Prophets, we see this as there is a continual dynamic between the use of the plural as well as the singular to refer to ALL of Israel – we are simultaneously a collection of individual and distinct parts while simultaneously all joining to form a larger and more effective single entity.

I am always aware that on Yom Kippur I retreat into a bubble, while the community and those around me move further away and I turn totally introspective. Nonetheless, as I do this, so much of the focus of all of the prayers and readings in which I am totally immersed is about community. The reading of Jonah during the afternoon of Yom Kippur when we are totally depleted and empty in so many ways, reminds us that we CANNOT escape the group and our responsibility to it. I think that this is one of the most powerful reasons that we remain to make a minyan for Maariv and run to begin building our Sukkah right after we finish the serious and lengthy experience of self evaluation that Yom Kippur brings. We begin our new individual year by being an active and contributing member of our community.

Community building and cooperative ventures are the end goal for the Three Weeks that culminate in Tisha B’Av during the heat of the summer when we commemorate the destruction of our Second Temple because of the lack of such. Similarly, that last Shofar blast at the end of Yom Kippur brings us out of our individual pensive cocoons and reminds us that as individuals we will only be truly strengthened and effective as members of the collective – the community.

May G-d, The Creator of All, strengthen and bless us all in the coming year, both as individuals and as members of the wonderful collective that binds our destinies as one. Shanah Tovah U’Metukah.... and by now, I should say Gimar Hatimah Tovah to all.

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