It was so wonderful to bring in the New Year with all of you. What a blessing to have David Wasser leading us in prayer! They were truly Days of Awesomeness! Thank you also to our musicians: Angela Libman (vocals), Dan Cohen (percussion), and Jonathan Finkle (keys).
Join us for more music and song at Sukkot Friday Night Live (Oct 6). You can shake your lulav and eat in the sukkah Sunday morning (Oct 8), and at 4pm, we are hosting a men’s l’chayim with scotch and cigars in our home sukkah.
Now if I were to ask you, “What is the holiest day of the Jewish year?” You would probably say “Yom Kippur.” However, the Netivot Shalom taught that Sukkot is actually holier than Yom Kippur. Why? It is the climax full moon of the holy 7th month of Tishrei. All of the work of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur has prepared us to more fully appreciate eating, drinking, and celebrating on Sukkot. On Yom Kippur we had to negate our bodies and cry “Avinu Malkeinu!” (Our Father Our King) up to the heavens. On Sukkot we have to feast and sleep in the womb of the Shechinah (Feminine Divine Presence) also known as “Sukkah.”
We also learn that Sukkot is holier than Yom Kippur for another very important reason. On Sukkot we are not just praying for Israel, we are praying for all nations. In the ancient Temple, seventy bulls were offered, one for each of the 70 nations of the earth. Our national vision from the Torah is Universalist because we hope for all nations to live free and in peace. Yet we are also very Particularist in our need to be have our own indigenous homeland.
Recently we sang “Hatikvah - The Hope” Israel’s National Anthem at a school family service. We stood around the Israeli flag and I asked, “What is the Hope that we are singing about here?” One of the clever students read from the translation in front of her, “To be a free people in our land, Zion and Jerusalem.”
“Yes, this is true and in addition to this the Jewish people have a hope that includes all nations.” In this time of great division the Jewish people have an essential message for the world, that it is possible to be both Nationalist and Globalist at the same time.
May the joy that we offer up on Sukkot and Simchat Torah bring peace and abundance to all of the nations of the world.
Chag Sukkot Same’ach! (Happy Festival of Sukkot)
Summer is a great time for immersive Jewish experiences. As I am writing this some of our congregants are on their return flight from Israel and others are immersed in the exuberant village culture of Jewish Summer camp. Positive immersive Jewish experiences are essential to our survival as Jews in the exile.
My own daughter Sophie is having her first Jewish Summer Camp experience right now at Eden Village (an organic Jewish farm camp). During our tour, Sophie noticed that a hen was loose and walked over and snatched the hen up just a few feet away from a swarming bee hive! “The Chicken Rabbi” was kvelling… But the main reason I smile when I think of her is that now she will know how it feels to live and practice Judaism in a village-like setting.
The challenge with these experiences is that they end too soon and then we return to our mostly fragmented Jewish life. Mordechai Kaplan (among others) noted that the Jewish people have thrived in the exile largely because we were forced to live in close-knit communities. Perhaps this is one of the factors why Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods have grown in recent decades while Reform and Conservative have shrunken significantly. Orthodox Jews often live in the same neighborhoods so that they can experience Shabbat together without driving.
If we want to grow and strengthen our own community we need to meet more often on Shabbat and engage in mitzvoth together. We might also try an immersive experience together in Israel or a Shabbaton weekend at Camp JORI. May the Holy One bless us that we will get together more often this year.
Kayitz Tov! Have a Good Summer!
Rabbi Aaron Philmus
Rabbi Aaron brings a traditional style and approach of prayer to the conservative synagogue. He has a background in ecology and Jewish education and teaches Torah through agriculture and wilderness skills, and plays guitar as a way to bring music to the synagogue. He’s a naturalist who believes that everything stems from nature, and he understands the plight of others who are less fortunate, and how to use the land to enrich ourselves.