Most every year, the High Holy Days occur as if without warning. It’s summer time, it’s Labor Day and suddenly it is yom tov. This year is different. As a result, we have some wonderful opportunities.
The month of Elul, which immediately precedes Rosh HaShanah, is set aside for preparing for the Days of Awe. During these four weeks, the task of mending relationships with others is the top priority. In doing so, we are able to begin the holidays with a heart open to the spiritual messages of the days.
The three activities commended to us are teshuvah (repentance), tefillah (prayer) and tzedakah (righteous giving). For some of us, the three words are enough – they are prescription and guidance. But for others, though we probably know the meaning of each word, we are hard pressed as to how to accomplish them.
On three successive Thursdays (September 11, 18 and 25) I will lead Adult Education classes on preparing for the High Holy Days. One class will be devoted to each of the three activities and will include text study and a "practicum." Class will begin after our 7:50 evening minyan. You are welcome to some or all of them.
Equally important to cultivating a sense of the import of the holidays is a marvelous opportunity which presented itself late this summer. Rabbi David Cooper is an extraordinary teacher who has helped to open the world of Kabbalah and its spiritual practices to contemporary Jews. He will visit Agudas Achim on September 12 and 13 in the midst of his travels in conjunction with his newest book, God is A Verb: Kabbalah and the Practice of Mystical Judaism. Rabbi Cooper will speak on Friday night and late Shabbat afternoon (as part of our mincha/maariv/ havdalah)on contemplative Judaism and approaches to Kabbalah. Details are elsewhere in The Bulletin.
The rich inner life which contemplative practices can open is a vehicle to personally meaningful worship, allowing the yearnings of your heart and soul to combine with the magnificent liturgy and music which are the substance of our communal gathering. Rabbi Cooper’s teachings will show you paths drawn from our own deep tradition of meditative practices, complimenting the extensive intellectual heritage with which we are more familiar.
And what if these dates and times are not convenient? Please find time for some personal conversation with me or other teachers and friends. The gift of this extra month has the potential to make these upcoming Holy Days the most meaningful in a long time.