A High Holiday Message, Part 1

As Rabbi Emeritus of the LAJC, I thought you might find some value in reflecting on three things as we approach the High Holidays.  In this first of three short installments, I am introducing a theme I’d like to encourage you to explore during this High Holiday season, one based on a passage (1:2) in the rabbinic work entitled Pirke Avot (Ethics or Chapters of the Fathers).  “Shimon the Righteous One …used to say ‘The world stands on three things – on Torah, on Service [to G_d], and on deeds of kindness.’”  One can draw a parallel during this special fall holiday season between Shimon’s list and our three primary relationships, that with ourselves, with G_d, and with each other.  The first of Shimon’s three, the Torah, is much more than simply the Five Books of Moses.  Torah is a shorthand for our Jewish text tradition and encompasses a vast literature expressing the thoughts of thousands of our predecessors, continuing to this day.  When we walk into the synagogue, we are part of a community, and we are also individuals.  Our struggle with Jewish texts, both those in the prayer book and elsewhere, helps us understand who we are.  We agree with some of what we read, and we disagree, sometimes strongly, with other passages.  This year, I encourage you to read at least one Jewish book in advance of Rosh HaShanah (I’m always happy to make recommendations) and then think about how the ideas in that book can help you re-center yourself.  This is part of the preparatory process called cheshbon ha-nefesh, basically personal stock-taking, which we typically follow as we approach the High Holidays. And if you find a good book, please let me know!

L’shana tova,

Rabbi Jack