Approaching the High Holy Days: The one key, you like to start with.

Do you have also a bunch of unmarked keys at home which you know that the each key must fit somewhere? Perhaps to an old box or door, perhaps to a lock, to your car, a gate, a diary, a neighbour’s house, or to a cupboard. You haven’t had the time to check every key and to mark them, but you know that they are too important to just ignore or even  throw over board.

Elul, the current Jewish month, is the month where we traditional occupy ourselves with a spiritual introspection. We are looking for our shortcomings, where we missed the bar we set for ourselves, and where we transgressed the boundaries our Jewish tradition has drawn up for us. We are doing so, in order to make T’shuva; the going back to the point where we erred and to use this new gained knowledge to follow the right direction in the future.

Part of this process, and perhaps the most painful one, is to acknowledge that we have been wrong, to admit our failures – not to others, but to ourselves. To open the door to our soul and to make reality test whether our actions, thoughts and deeds of the past, are really what we hope them to be—or if we have created a myth around them— is not easy and not always pleasant. We all know that…and if we do find the courage to start the process, we are often faced with another question: how? Where do we start? And, how can this become a meaningful journey for us?

Our Jewish liturgy is like the bunch of keys I mentioned in the beginning. Many of the prayers, poems and wisdoms we encounter in our prayer books are keys to our inner selves. The right word hopefully triggers something in us that helps us to understand what we have done and how we perhaps could have done it differently. Once discovered, we can use them again and again to monitor our lives and actions.

Yes, some of the prayers we read are heavy, especially during the High Holy Days. Some seem to be outdated and more than once we are willing to throw them over board. But, please wait before you do so! As much as not every key opens the first door we approach, so too every prayer doesn’t reveal  its value immediately. Sometimes, we need to be already on the journey, as some doors already need to be open, and others locked again. In other words, T’shuva does not happen over night, and even the whole month of Elul plus the 10 days of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur might be not enough. But, we can start, we can find one prayer, one moment, one word that will lead us in a new direction, at this time. And in a next step, we continue from there.

I am sure that honest, small steps are much more meaningful than a spiritual sprint. And so, I invite you to open your siddur, your high holy day machzor, and to find the one prayer, the one key, you like to start with.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Adrian M Schell

 

A healing prayer for when a loved one is suffering

In last week’s Torah portion Miriam and Aaron talk about the „Cushite woman“ whom Moses has married. In addition, they complain that God speaks not only through Moses but also through them. As a result, Miriam is struck with tzara’at, often translated as leprosy. In an interesting twist of the story, Moses shows a deep love for his sister and begs God to heal her. Tradition understands this short intervention as the foundation for  our healing prayers we say when someone we love is sick.  Below are two texts we often use in the service, but can be used by everyone, at anytime:

Mi Shebeirach avoteinu v’imoteinu, Avraham, Yitzchak v’Yaakov, Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel v’Lei-ah, hu y’vareich et hacholim [names]. HaKadosh Baruch Hu yimalei
rachamim aleihem, l’hachalimam ul’rapotam ul’hachazikam, v’yishlach lahem m’heirah r’fuah, r’fuah shleimah min hashamayim, r’fuat hanefesh ur’fuat haguf, hashta baagala uviz’man kariv. V’nomar: Amen.

May the one who blessed our ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, bless and heal those who are ill [names]. May the Blessed Holy One be filled with compassion for their health to be restored and their strength to be revived. May God swiftly send them a complete renewal of body and spirit, and let us say, Amen.

(A musical version can be found here: https://youtu.be/2og0YFpzdhA)

The following Mi Sheberach prayer and song was written by Debbie Friedman:

Mi shebeirach avoteinu
M’kor hab’racha l’imoteinu
May the source of strength,
Who blessed the ones before us,
Help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing,
and let us say, Amen.
Mi shebeirach imoteinu
M’kor habrachah l’avoteinu
Bless those in need of healing with r’fuah sh’leimah,
The renewal of body, the renewal of spirit,
And let us say, Amen

(A musical version can be found here: https://youtu.be/uxAw8Z-3qOc)

Wishing you a blessed Shabbat and a good health.

Rabbi Adrian M Schell

(Source Mishkan Tefila Page 371)

 

Vayetze: Bargaining with God ?

1280xParashat Vayetze tells of Jacob’s travels to Haran, his sojourn there, and his return to Canaan. It recounts Jacob’s first meeting with Rachel, his time working for Laban, living with Rachel and Leah, and the birth of all his children save Benjamin. Jacob has a dream in which he sees a ladder set upon the earth reaching up to the heavens. God appears at the top of the ladder and promises Jacob he will inherit the land of Canaan. He promises Jacob, saying: „Remember I am with you.” Jacob wakes up and offers the first recorded Jewish prayer in the Bible:
„If God remains with me; if He protects me on this journey that I am making and gives me bread to eat and clothes to wear, and if I return safely to my father’s house – the Eternal will be my God …“
There is something troubling about Jacob’s prayer. It sounds more like Jacob is saying ‚let’s make a deal‘ than the exalted theological language we would expect from one of our forefathers. More than that, his vow is strange because he seems to be asking for the very things that God has already promised him!
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