this issue, there are several articles relating to the atrocity
that took place in Mumbai, India. In light of that darkness and
because in my part of the world it is very cold and dark, I decided
to create the following eight meditations for Hanukkah. This can
be done after the blessings and songs are sung when the candles
are burning or even after they go out.
First night: Imagine bringing the light from the
one candle to any place in your body where there may be a health
concern or simply little aches and pains. Let the warm sensation
from the light relax the tight muscles around the pain. Feel the
area improving from the healing glow of the light and all stiffness
and soreness is releasing.
Second night: Feel free to repeat the first night
meditation knowing that the light is double in strength. Now think
of any emotional pain you are feeling. Are you missing a close friend
or relative who had been celebrating Hanukkah with you every year?
Were you expecting a raise or simply a holiday bonus but did not
get it? Let the light from the candles whirl in your mind, dissolving
all of the sadness and bitterness replacing it with the thought
that something good is just around the corner.
Third night: One can repeat night one or any of
the previous night’s meditations on any of the upcoming nights
as needed, knowing that the light will be even brighter than it
was the first time around. Now that you are feeling stronger, think
about any concerns with your family or close friends. Is one of
them in harm’s way? Grieving a loss? Not getting along with
a spouse? Shine the light all around them bringing with it a sense
of love and peace.
Fourth night: Are there challenges in your neighborhood,
your synagogue or the city where you live? Some congregants want
to allow women on the bimah and others do not. Some Jews want a
menorah in a public place and others oppose it. Let the light swirl
around the dark places where differences of opinion are. Imagine
it shining brightly over the situation bringing new ideas to encourage
a solution or compromise.
Fifth night: As the lights continue getting brighter,
think about the state where you live. Are there challenges in your
state? Some citizens want prayers before the legislative sessions
and other want separation of church and state. Let the bright light
swirl around those citizens with opposing points of view and help
them to see both sides of the situation and resolve to make an effort
to understand each other. Maybe a solution will eventually come
Sixth night: The bright lights from the candles
are filling up the room. Are there challenges in your country? Let’s
see. No shortage here: the economy, the stock market, the bailouts,
adjusting to the new administration, gays and lesbians struggling
for equal rights, racial prejudices, to name a few. Let the bright
lights shine over these very difficult topics and bring with it
the needed patience and compassion to work through them.
Seventh night: Even brighter lights are just in
time for the planet’s woes. What about the challenges facing
the world that we all share together? Again no shortages: the environment
including safe drinking water and global warming, wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan, ongoing conflict in the Middle East. Let’s all
shed some light on these ordeals and see what becomes visible when
the darkness is dispersed. Maybe some fresh insights will come.
Eighth night: Tonight the lights are very bright!
We have experienced how the warmth and glow of the lights have been
a source of comfort and joy during this dark time. This is how it
was when God was creating the world and it was very dark. Then God
said, “Let there be light!” That same powerful light
is available to us now in this dark, cold season and in this difficult
time to help us heal ourselves and heal our world.
Wednesday at sunset starts Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year.
Don't miss it. Even if you can't completely fast, fast as best as
you can. Ask your local rabbi to find out how much you can eat and
drink and still be considered fasting. Spend as much time as you
can in shul and soak up a lot of holiness. May Hashem wipe all of
our slates clean, and give us all a good year.
Baruch Hashem, we had a beautiful Rosh Hashanah.
The first day I walked to and from our local hospital, since we
don't drive on Rosh Hashanah. I walked an hour to get there, spent
an hour blowing the shofar about 500 times, and walked another hour
back. By then I was rather exhausted, but very happy. In comparison,
the second day was a breeze.
The second day of Rosh Hashanah I walked to the
hospital, but I was in much better shape after the first day's workout.
At the hospital I met a neighbor from K’far Chabad. We split
between us the job of blowing the shofar. I blew in one ward, and
he blew in the next. So I only had to blow the shofar 250 times.
Then we waited in the hospital until it got dark and the holiday
ended, and got a lift home.
What was the high point? I blew the shofar for
a man suffering from meningitis. Four months ago he got the disease.
During the acute stage he became blind and deaf. I met him a few
weeks ago and tried to help him put on tefillin but didn't succeed.
His sad response was that he can't see or hear. A week later I blew
the shofar, which he heard somewhat. He was very happy. Then I let
him hold the tefillin. Even though he couldn't see them, he recognized
their shape, and was very happy to put them on. He said the prayers
by heart. On Rosh Hashanah I blew the shofar right into his ear,
and he was very grateful.
I'm also very grateful for the opportunity that I had to help the
staff, patients and visitors hear the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. Millions
heard the shofar. With this mitzvah may we merit our final and complete
redemption, and gather together to celebrate Succos in the third
Temple in Jerusalem. This year it is a special mitzvah, called Hakhel,
for all men, women and children to gather in Jerusalem in the Holy
Temple to celebrate Succos and to listen to the king reading from
the Torah. We hope that this year it will actually happen.
Rabbi Cohen lives in K’far Chabad, Israel.
He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
September 28, 2007, Chol Hamoed Sukkot, 16 Tishri 5768
By Rabbi Jon Adland
Sukkot is the forgotten festival
on the Jewish calendar, only one step ahead of Shavuot. Though these
two festivals are two of the three pilgrimage festivals (shalosh
regalim) on the Jewish calendar, they have nearly disappeared in
much of American Jewish life. Shavuot continues to hold a special
place because many Reform Jewish congregations continue to link
Confirmation to this holy day as has been done for many, many years.
Many people don’t realize it is Shavuot, but we do our best
Sukkot would be lost if it weren’t for the
finale of the festival, which is Simchat Torah. Sukkot isn’t
part of the Torah celebration but was added as an additional day
to signal the end and beginning of the Torah reading cycle. At Indianapolis
Hebrew Congregation, our custom is to finish the reading in one
Torah and start the reading in another, but what is more impressive
is that we take out the Torah scrolls and unroll them so that one
can see the entire text of the Torah at one time. It is “way
cool!” Sukkot is a seven-day festival that is mostly home
based, as we are commanded to put up a sukkah and to eat and even
sleep in it for the week.
Sukkot is known as the harvest festival and many
Jewish congregations link Sukkot to food drives. As we celebrate
the bounty of our harvest, we remember those whose fast wasn’t
voluntary on Yom Kippur and who don’t share in the bounty
of the fall harvest. If you have a food bank in your community and
you haven’t yet made a fall donation, do it now. We need to
remember that not every bowl is filled everyday.
Beginning in the early 1980s, Sandy and I have
had a sukkah. We’ve gone through various frames, but the one
we use now is from www.sukkot.com of the Sukkah Project. There is
some expense involved in getting the initial hardware and lumber,
but it is easy to put up, take down and store. IHC uses a larger
version of the same one we have in our backyard. Our children help
us put it up and when the children aren’t here anymore, we
will ask friends to help us. We do it as soon after Yom Kippur as
we can, as Sukkot begins on the 15th day of Tishri and Yom Kippur
is the 10th day of Tishri. Once the sukkah is up, weather permitting,
we eat meals under it and fulfill the mitzvah of lulav and etrog.
Though it is a very festive holiday and the sukkah
is one of the most visual of our symbols, it also reminds me, as
it is supposed to, of our people’s wandering in the desert
after receiving the Torah at Sinai. Our journey from Egypt to Sinai
to Canaan, from slavery to freedom to independence, took many years
and we are reminded that all of our journeys take time for us to
grow, discern, understand, and feel at peace. As much as we think
we know everything at ages 13, 16, 18, 21, or 30, until one is 40,
50, and I presume 60 and above, one realizes how little one knew
and understood when one was younger.
Our people came out of slavery with little knowledge
in how to lead an independent life, but they did gain freedom. Over
the next 40 years, the Israelites grew up. When they crossed into
Canaan with Joshua, they were much more prepared than if they had
done so right after crossing the Red Sea and watching the Egyptians
Life is a process of small steps taken on a long
journey. Each year Sandy and I put up our sukkah. Each year I think
about my own personal journey. Each year the sukkah is a little
different, but each year it feels good. I know it seems laborious
or unnecessary to fulfill this mitzvah, but having a sukkah is a
great reminder of many things from hunger to harvest, from slavery
to freedom, from birth to old age.
As you light your Shabbat candles this evening,
light one for your own personal Jewish journey. Light the other
candle for all those whose journeys to freedom aren’t yet
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach.
Rabbi Adland is senior rabbi of Indianapolis