Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Preparing for Rosh Hashono

On Rosh Hashanah the world is new. It’s life-force is different that of any previous year -- a spiritual color never seen before. We cannot see this profound renewal, but its effects are real.
For each of us individually, this means new potential for spiritual growth. Rosh Hashanah shakes us out of our spiritual slumber, hence the Shofar blasts, to reconnect, to recommit to our divine mission in this world.

Each of us pauses to draw up а balance sheet for the past year. With unflinching honesty we assess our past actions and resolve to better ourselves. Thus committed, we confidently pray for а happy year, both materially and spiritually. And we pray that this year will bring the coming of Moshiach.

If we have thus far not taken full of advantage of the opportunities inherent in Elul to prepare ourselves, the time to start is now. Preparation is essential for success in anything in life—be it material or spiritual, be it an audit of your taxes, or an audit of your soul.

Imagine yourself arriving in the reception room of a big corporation.

"Can I help you?" asks the receptionist. "Oh, I guess so," you answer yawning and looking uninterested.
The receptionist looks quizzically at you.

"Well... why are you here?"
"Ummm...i'm not exactly sure", you answer her.
Are you here to apply for a job, perhaps?"
"Yes I think that's it." you say.
"Okay, did you bring a resume?
"You look at her feeling a little stupid. "No, I didn't bring anything."
"Well, then perhaps you can come back when you've prepared for this." She says.

If you arrived ill prepared, you'd expect nothing to happen. Similarly, if you arrive at shul on Rosh Hashana without preparation, without knowing what you are there for, or what this is all about, then what can you truly expect?

Moshe Rabeinu was on the mountain for 80 days. We don't have to physically go to the mountain, but we have to climb.
Let's each resolve to take on one more good deed, and increase the goodness in the world.

Our Sages say that giving Tzedoko, to the needy opens the way for our prayers to bring us good health, prosperity and happiness.

Wishing you and yours, and all of Israel, a sweet, prosperous, and meaningful new year!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Selichos in Berditchev

It was the day before Rosh Hashanah in Berditchev. The spirit of holiness hovered in the air. Each heart was throbbing with the thought of the imminent Day of Judgment; each mind was occupied with thoughts of repentance; perhaps too much time was wasted which could have been spent in the study of the Torah, more help should have been given to the poor, and way too much gossip was spoken during the past year, but thank G-d for the selichot. Here is the last chance before the year is over to turn to G-d in humble prayer, for the new year will most definitely be a better one...

The Jews of Berditchev made their way to the house of Rabbi Levi Y. Of Berditchev to accompany him to the synagogue for the selichot services, As they approached his home, they saw him on his way out holding a bottle of vodka and some herring …What on earth is the Rabbi going to do with the refreshments at this hour?" they wondered, as they followed him in silence to the outskirts of the town into a large inn.

At the inn the Rabbi bent over a sleeping poor Jew. Gently, the Rabbi whispered: "Reb Yid, Wake up have some vodka and fresh herring." The Jew opened his eyes wide with amazement, threw a glance at the refreshments, and said in horror -

"What? have you no G-d in your heart? Would I drink vodka before I've washed my hands? Would I eat before I have said my morning prayers?!

The Rabbi then moved on to a sleeping country peasant.

"Ivan, do you want a schnapps and some refreshments?"

"Give it here!"
he said, and he gulped down the glass of vodka and swallowed some herring, turned over and fell back asleep.

The Berditchever Rabbi lifted his eyes to heaven and said, "Master of the Universe! Look at your children! A Jew gets up in the morning, and his first thought is of You, G-d! A Jew would not let anything pass his lips until he has sung Your praises! But a non-jew's first thought is of food and drink… "

His face beaming with satisfaction as his mission was accomplished, the Rabbi turned to his followers. "And now, holy flock, let's go to the house of G-d. We can now face our Maker with confidence, and pray for a happy new year…!”