Yamim Nora'im 5768: "Reaching Beyond"
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor
The image of the person is larger than the frame into which they have been compressed.
Adapted from Abraham Joshua Heschel

Each of the upcoming holidays brings us closer. Closer to each other, closer to our spiritual home, closer to those we remember. Rosh HaShannah reminds us that our world is a universal inheritance, Yom Kippur teaches us about inner and individual rebirth, and Sukkot invites us out of our homes into the waiting experiences of nature and consistent interaction.

A central challenge of our modern world, as I’ve experienced it, is leaving our sheltered homes to get into the car (itself a smaller sheltered world), arriving at our destination (shelter of a different kind), and returning via the same isolated route. This is one of the redemptive aspects of taking walks with new friends and sharing small group programs (as opposed to large group davenings) – we are out of our familiar surroundings, and are experimenting with new relationships.

The symbols of the upcoming holidays hold similar meaning. On Rosh HaShannah we hold the Shofar, feeling its rough exterior and smelling its age. Its sound simply breaks us – we each hold our breath waiting for the end of its sound, melting into the Tekiyah Gedolah as it lifts us beyond wherever we were. Yom Kippur brings us to an ever-deeper mindful relationship with our bodies and with questions of personal meaning sharpened by hunger. We shake with the Lulav and Etrog (now available at Afikomen at 655-1977), each connected to a different part of the body, trying out new directions, remembering to look behind ourselves as we explore what awaits. And then we dance. Simchat Torah is less a procession of scrolls than a release of pent-up energy accumulated over the past weeks. Our Torah is truly a Tree of Life in those moments of abandon, of fun.

What can I say, chevreh? Our communities must become places where all this exists in abundance, where we hold each other and our shared experiences of depth and fun, hunger and comfort – all parts of the spiritual journey. And our precious spiritual homes cannot be one thing for all people. "Home" is many things to many people. But it is a central, safe place for personal journeying.

I believe that God is very present in our holy places. In moments of stress, I’ve walked alone into the magnificent and intimate sanctuary of my shul and stared at the clouds surrounding the Hebrew letter ‘Aleph’, representing (to me) limitless possibility. And I’ve consistently felt less alone.

Every tangible part of a holy community points beyond itself. We each hold incredible meaning within, and each of us must feel invited to bring that which is uniquely ours not only in the holidays but to search beyond Rosh HaShannah and Yom Kippur. These three important days help us to rediscover our centers as we reach toward newness.

Wishing us all a Powerful, Healing, Sweet Year - Shannah Tovah Um’tukah,

Rabbi Creditor

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