The following are responses to an invitation from New Jersey Jewish News to leaders of area congregations to share their High Holy Day messages:
Lives in balance
THE TALMUD BERACHOT 32b states that four human activities require strengthening: a) Torah study, b) Acts of kindness, c) Prayer, d) Making a living. Our lives should be balanced between achieving two goals: the spiritual and physical. With Torah study and prayer on one side, and acts of kindness and earning a living on the other, these are the areas of our lives we should focus on.
Today there are no prophets to give us advice and direction in life; only by studying the holy texts and trying to fathom God’s are we able to find direction in these confusing amoral times.
Prayer is our vehicle to connect to God to unburden ourselves from our troubles, to praise, thank, and reach out to him.
Acts of kindness are the interface between us and other people: our relatives, friends, and others. People remember us by the kindnesses and smiles that we give them.
Earning a living is as hard as crossing the Red Sea. To find a decent, honest trade and keep it in today’s economy is extremely stressful. People should find a trade that gives them fulfillment and that makes use of the unique skills that each person has.
By focusing our energies on these four areas of our lives we will achieve success in our mission here in this world.
A happy, healthy and peaceful New Year to all.
Rabbi David Bassous
Congregation Etz Ahaim, Highland Park
Three times three
AS WE ENTER the New Year 5775 let us all together pray for a year of good tidings, good health, prosperity, and peace. May God Almighty bless each and every one of us with an abundance of blessings, and may we in turn resolve to become closer to our Creator, and to every one of our brethren.
We always look for something special and unique when we approach this season, and we seek guidance with a practical manner of celebrating the New Year in a more meaningful and beautiful manner.
This year, we find that Rosh Hashana, the Sukkot holiday, and Simhat Torah all begin on Wednesday evenings. One of the beautiful “mitzvot” of welcoming each and every holiday (and Shabbat) is the time-honored precept of lighting candles. So this year, we find that we will be lighting candles for three consecutive evenings (Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday) — three times during the month of Tishrei.
Our rabbis teach that the number three is special, denoting strength and permanence. Accordingly, our lighting of the Shabbat and yom tov candles three times for three consecutive days should give us a feeling that the light of our Torah will surely accompany us and our extended family, wherever we may be, throughout the New Year.
This lesson is even more important in a time when the world is dark around our nation and around our homeland, Israel. May all our combined prayers be speedily fulfilled, may we all celebrate together as one nation, and may we merit the fulfillment of all our prayers, the coming of Moshiach, now!
Rabbi Yosef Carlebach
Chabad House at Rutgers University, New Brunswick
AT ROSH HASHANA, we reflect upon the year that is ending. In this past year much has changed for Jews throughout the world.
The psalmist wrote: “If I forget thee O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning.” Our hearts remain with our brothers and sisters in Israel who endured the conflict in Gaza. We pray for the Israeli soldiers who gave their lives in defense of the Jewish state and those civilians who were lost. May God watch over their souls and be with their families. And we pray for all of our fellow Jews in Israel, that God give them strength, courage, and hope.
The conflict in Gaza also brought out a rise in Anti-Semitism throughout the world. Jews in France and other countries in Europe have made aliya in record numbers. Many Jews no longer feel safe in their own homes. We hope and pray that God will bring a renewed sense of understanding to the people of the world, so that our Jewish communities will remain safe and at peace.
As we prepare to welcome in the New Year of 5775, we are grateful for many things. We are blessed with family and friends. We have a roof over our heads and food to eat. And in our complex and difficult world, these are blessings that we must not take for granted.
L’shana tova. May we all be blessed with a New Year of joy and peace.
Rabbi Eric Eisenkramer
Temple B’nai Shalom, East Brunswick
Trove of merits
OF RAV AVRAHAM Yitzhak Kook’s many lessons, one of my favorites is about the importance of peoplehood and favorable judgment. He points out that too often we get caught up in judging others for not behaving (or observing) as we think they should. Kook points out that each person has a treasure trove of merits, even though we may not see them. Instead of focusing on differences and being critical, Kook teaches us to be generous and judge favorably. This way, when we come together, we come together as one. We come in wholeness, and love, and in openness.
To Rav Kook, and to me, this is the best way to approach the High Holy Days. May we look favorably, with love, to all those around us, and in doing so, may we feel supported by everyone else in our spiritual and sacred journeys.
L’shana tova um’tuka — a good and sweet New Year.
Rabbi David Z. Vaisberg
Temple Emanu-El, Edison
THE FIRST STEP of a baby. The smell of a new book. The first bite of a crunchy apple. The open space of a brand-new home. Beginnings are fresh, new, and exciting. Beginnings hold the promise of change, a fresh chance, a happy outcome.
How do we impact change and change outcomes? The answer is in the call of the shofar — the powerful horn that makes everyone stop and think. The shofar has three distinct sounds: The tekiah — one long note, the shevarim — three short sounds, the teruah — a series of short blasts. These sounds reflect on an internal process taking place as we prepare for a new beginning.
Tekiah — The long blast symbolizes the mission statement, the New Year resolution of increased Jewish commitment which we are taking upon ourselves.
Shevarim — Its three blasts tell us the importance of defining our resolution into distinct areas of change.
Teruah — Its series of mini-blasts reminds us to apply our resolution to the details of our lives.
This year, make your New Year resolution to visit Chabad Jewish Center of Monroe and meet Rabbi Eliezer and Chanie Zaklikovsky. Chabad’s homey, welcoming building is located at 261 Gravel Hill Rd. (corner Union Valley). When you step into the door, you are overwhelmed with warmth, love, and of course the knowledge that you have taken the first step to a new and great beginning.
Rabbi Eliezer and Chanie Zaklikovsky
Chabad Jewish Center of Monroe
Iron Dome prayers
“IRON DOME” were two words we heard a lot this summer. We are grateful that this method of self-defense, installed with the generous assistance of the American government, deflected many of the most potentially lethal rockets from Gaza. While in Jerusalem at the outbreak of the Gaza War, I witnessed firsthand from an ice cream parlor as a rocket over Jerusalem was taken out by this marvelous technological defense mechanism.
Iron Dome is a spiritual term too. “Kipat Barzel” — a kipa of iron are the prayers of our Mahzor at these High Holy Days. They are ancient words warmed over by thousands of years of repetition, which are double-edged. They can either repel spiritual life threats or cause us to become complacent about the reality of spiritual life threats.
What is the threat? The Mahzor says, “B’yad kol adam hotem bo” — The hand of each being seals the year. The threat is our own behavior. That is what heshbon hanefesh — spiritual stock-taking at the High Holy Days — is all about.
Teshuva, (repentance) tefila (prayer), and tzedaka (deeds of compassion and charity) serve as a kind of spiritual remedy to the threats. They themselves are iron domes that deflect those forces within ourselves that attack.
I pray that Kipat Barzel, Iron Dome, works in the most profound way for you in 5775.
Leshana tova t’kateivu.
Rabbi Gerald L. Zelizer
Congregation Neve Shalom, Metuchen