Rabbinic Reflections: Issue 78

September 10, 2021 (4 Tishre 5782)

What Are You Doing this Weekend?

Dear Holy Friends,

I hope you had an enjoyable and meaningful Rosh Hashanah and that you are enjoying the short break before Yom Kippur.

This Shabbat marks Shabbat Teshuvah, the sabbath between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Historically, this is the one of two Shabbatot, during the year, when the Rabbi would officially “preach” to the congregation. In deference to the approaching holiness of Yom Kippur, the theme of the rabbi’s traditional Derasha (sermon) on Shabbat Teshuvah was related to the concepts of Teshuvah (spiritual return) and Cheshbon HaNefesh (self-reflection).

In honor of Shabbat Teshuvah, please join us this Saturday morning for prayers, Kedushah, a Torah reading, Kiddush, and a special twentieth anniversary commemoration of 9/11. I will let you guess the theme of the Derasha.

As we approach Yom Kippur, I want to share with you a beautiful thought that was shared through the Hadar Institute in New York. For those of you, who are not familiar with Hadar, the Institute’s mission is to empower Jews to create and sustain vibrant, practicing, egalitarian communities of Torah, Avodah, (service) and Hesed (lovingkindness).

Hadar suggests that on Yom Kippur, the Day of Judgement, there is the possibility for each of us to think of ourselves as approaching God directly, face to face. As we enter the sanctuary, we are encouraged to think of forgiveness, self-reflection, our Jewish community, the world around us, and, of course, our relationship with the Divine.

In the Torah, one of the face-to-face encounters with God is described in the Book of Exodus, chapter three. We are all likely familiar with that encounter, when Moshe Rabbienu first meets with the Divine, at the Burning Bush. As God calls to Moshe, Moshe answers, “Here I am,” indicating his willingness to begin a new chapter in his own journey. It is only after declaring his readiness and convening with God, that Moshe can begin his mission to redeem the people of Israel.

I would suggest that as Yom Kippur arrives, we should all imagine ourselves as Moshe, approaching God for the first time, face-to-face, and with a spirit of readiness.

For this Yom Kippur, our readiness may take many forms. Over the next few days, perhaps we can mark out time to acknowledge our missteps, apologize sincerely to those who we have wronged, and reach out to reconnect with those in need of physical, emotional, or financial support. Perhaps our readiness will additionally include new commitments to study, prayer, and acts of lovingkindness.

This Shabbat Teshuvah, and in the days prior to Yom Kippur, I pray that we can all use the time to prepare ourselves for the holiest day of the year and prepare ourselves for our own “face-to-face” encounter with God, so we can each be able to say with confidence and faith, “Here I am.”

Shabbat Shalom and Shanna Tovah,

Rabbi Eric L. Wasser, EdD
201 562 5277

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