What Rosh Means to Me J
Hag Samayach!! Happy 5769!! When Art asked me to give the drash for today it freaked me out. You want me to give the Drash for Rosh Hashannah? Are you sure? Well, Ok, I’ll try J
What on earth I am going to talk about? I feel under great pressure to give a deeply meaningful, deeply spiritual, deeply moving drash, I mean it’s Rosh Hashannah, yikes!! So I decided to talk about what Rosh Hashannah means to me J Last year’s Rosh was particulary difficult for me because my son Jacob was in the NICU and not here with me at services. 1 year ago today he came home from the hospital and here he is today J
Rosh Hashannah, head of the year. Endearingly I refer to it as Rosh J How lucky are we that we get to celebrate 2 new years during 365 days? But is it just me or does it seem weird to celebrate a New Year at the end of December? It never felt right to me. School starts in the fall, everything seems to begin in the fall. I always have felt, that since school is starting, it is a new school year, it is the beginning of a new season, and my year was starting new too. And how lucky for me because 2-3 weeks after the new school year started I got to have new years!! It really made sense to me. It is a perfectly timed transition.
Rosh has always been fun for me because dear friends of our family would come from New Jersey, it was like an extra set of grandparents coming and I always got excited looking forward to their visit. Unfortunately this year they are not feeling well enough to come L Knowing that Lynnie and Roz were going to be davening in their cool little robe talis things and wearing their cool head scarves was always something I looked forward to because it was different than the norm.
Several years ago Deborah Katz Downey introduced me to Chocolate Chip Challah (I really don’t like raisins) how often do you ever get chocolate chip challah? That is definitely something to get excited about!!
I enjoy getting the house ready for company and doing extra cleaning to get everything ready for the new year. Thinking about what am I going to try to do better? What resolutions can I make? And then I begin thinking about how to get myself ready for Yom Kippur (endearingly: Yom Kips). I make every effort in the time between Rosh and Yom Kips to apologize to those I have knowingly upset or unknowingly upset.
I attended Jewish summer camp for 9 years and the drashot that always were most memorable to me were ones that had a story. Here is a story from Rabbi Dovid that I really enjoyed and wanted to share with you (some of you may have already read it from your email)
What Does Rabbi Tiechtel Really Think About the Person Who Shows Up Once A Year in his Shul
Dear friends, As we approach the Jewish New Year, I would like to share with you a question that was recently asked of me:
“Rabbi, I am a once a year Jew. I come to your shul for the High Holidays, having not shown my face the entire year, and then I disappear till next High Holidays. Do you think I’m a hypocrite for coming to shul once a year?”
After a few moments of contemplation, I answered as follows:
What a hypocrite!? No way my friend! Funny, I feel the opposite. I am in awe of once a year Jews. I think you are more in touch with your soul than I am.
I go to shul every day, observe Shabbat, keep kosher, enjoy horseradish on my gefilte fish – all the things that Judaism expects of me. But that’s because I know what they mean. I have been privileged to learn the meaning of Jewish practice, the power of Torah, and I have seen the positive transformation real Judaism can achieve in a person. It’s no surprise that I observe – who wouldn’t if they knew what Judaism was all about?
But I look at the once a year Jews, who mostly have little or no Jewish education, don’t know the meaning of the prayers, are not sure whether they believe or not, and still they come. Why? What are they doing in shul? What brings them?
There is only one explanation. It’s their soul. They have a Jewish soul, so they come to shul.
I on the other hand may have other reasons to come to shul. My mind tells me to go, my habits force me to go, I go this week because I went last week. My wife tells me to go. But for the once a year Jews, there is no external reason to attend shul. The drive comes from deep within; their Jewish essence tells them to go.
The High Holidays season is the one time of year when the Jewish essence comes out of the closet. Jewish souls make a bold and loud statement: “Whether I understand it or not, I am Jewish, and I belong in shul.”
So please don’t feel funny coming to shul. Maybe you’ll be inspired to become a once a month Jew, or even once a week. But even if not, just by coming you remind us of the power of the Jewish soul.
I am teaching the B’nei mitzvah class this year. Their journal assignment for last week was to write about how they get ready for and celebrate Rosh and Yom Kips, and if there was any new tradition they would like to start doing with their family what was it and why? I ask you to think about the same thing this year. Who knows maybe next year you’ll have a chocolate chip challah J
From my family to each of yours, have a happy, healthy, sweet new year!! Shananh tovah!!