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From the Rabbi - Words of the Spirit

Xtreme Holy Days

09/29/2015 04:50:17 PM

The Jewish year cycle can be understood as an object lesson in extremes, at least at the beginning of the calendar year. Maybe we should call this Jewish month XTishrey, and all the holiday events our XTishrey Games!

We start in joy, celebrating a new year, and wishes for sweetness, but shaded in the colors of teshuvah throughout the days of repentance. Ten days later, we are at our most abject, fasting and praying through an evening, morning and afternoon. 

A mere four days after breaking the fast, we’re mandated to be “completely joyous,” a key biblical phrase for the holiday of Sukkot. This festivals ends, as they all do, with a yizkor service, drawing us back not just to our memories of deceased loved ones, but the recent experience of yizkor on Yom Kippur. Next? As in the next day (or, in some communities, the same day)? Simhat Torah, where we explode in a frenzy of dance and song.

One could easily suffer from spiritual whiplash in the Jewish month of Tishrey.

Because then what follows is ……. nothing! A month of NO holidays. Not even a minor fast day, a specific megillah, or tractate, or theme. Heshvan. MarHeshvan, as the rabbis dubbed it, bitter month.

Actually, it seems not bitter or sad to me, but rather wise. Because we actually do have something to look forward to, in the regular Torah cycle. It’s that perpetual opportunity to see ourselves, our ancestors, our community, our values in Torah; to translate ancient tales and experiences into ways to see ourselves, in these times.

Our regular engagement with Torah is what makes us a kehillah kadosh¸ a holy community. And choosing to do so, in this day and age, is an Xtremely radical act. 

Hag Sukkot and Hag Simhat Torah Same’ah.

- Rabbi Liz


Previous posts from Words of the Spirit >>

Thu, 8 October 2015 25 Tishrei 5776