Wednesday, October 1, 2008

May You, and I, May We Be Inscribed.

Rosh Hashanah reflections? I have few. I'll have to say I was very distracted by the fact that I was born 25 years ago on Rosh Hashanah (making my Hebrew birthday Simchat Torah). I was destined to really let that Jewish soul loose, is what this means.
So for Erev Rosh Hashanah I went to the Chabad dinner since it was so close. It turns out the rabbi is keeping tabs on me, as someone mentioned to him I guess that I'd been in New York. I told him I'd been in Washington Heights, which, I guess, to those from other NY neighborhoods is where the "fancy Jews" are. The food was good, the conversation, too, and I walked away with a bowl full of gefilte fish, which was a stellar parting gift considering I got beat up by the rabbi's middle child (I could really go off on the lack of discipline here, but these are the Days of Awe and I'm really pushing for the book of life). Tuesday, I went to services at Hillel, heard a teenage undergraduate blow the shofar with might while the rabbi's child-size son toyed with the other shofar while oozing with cuteness. A lot of stuff in the service was skipped because there were a couple "break out" sessions of meet your neighbors and to discuss Hannah's song. And after everything? There was no lunch served. But there was Tashlich, and it was my first service as such. It was a little unnerving watching the birds pick up all the things which I had cast off, but I suppose they were carrying it up and above instead of it sinking down below. That night I was a horrible person and ended up going to see a (free) movie screening (of "Religulous") with Evan and then he took me to dinner for my birthday. I also have to mention that he gave me an amazing bouquet of White Roses for the big Two-Five, a gift I haven't gotten from anyone, ever, period. What a prince, no? And today? I was sick. I blame too much gefilte fish and kugel (which I had consumed essentially every day since Friday). So now, Rosh Hashanah is over and we prepare for Yom Kippur. I also realized not so long ago that tomorrow is a fast day (Fast of Gedalia ), but it's a minor fast from dawn until dusk and I'm not so keen on whether this is a hard-core across-the-board type of fast or one of those "you can, you don't have to, but you should, but no hard feelings." Feel free to let me know!


So I sat down tonight with Martin Buber's "The Way of Man: According to the Teaching of Hasidim " because it's 41 pages long and took me about five seconds to plow through. There was a lot of interesting -- and relevant -- stuff in the text which I really want to share with you, my ever-so-lucky readers! In a chapter discussing the tenet of "Not to Be Preoccupied With Oneself," Buber discusses the significance of "turning" or what we know of as teshuvah, which is incredibly appropriate for this period of the Jewish calendar. He tells of a rabbi who married his son to the daughter of Rabbi Eliezer. After the wedding, the rabbi approaches Rabbi Eliezer and tells him that he feels close to him now, that he can tell him what is eating at his heart, he says "My hair and beard have grown white, and I have not yet atoned!" Rabbi Eliezer's response is "Oh my friend, you are thinking only of yourself. How about forgetting yourself and thinking of the world?" Buber, in his wisdom, says that essentially what Rabbi Eliezer is saying is "Do not keep worrying about what you have done wrong, but apply the soul power you are now wasting on self-reproach, to such active relationship to the world as you are destined for. You should not be occupied with yourself but with the world." Buber goes on to iterate a sermon by the Rabbi of Ger on the Day of Atonement, and I think it sums up something pretty worthwhile for considering at this season:
He who has done ill and talks about it and thinks about it all the time does not cast the base thing he did out of his thoughts, and whatever one thinks, therein one is, one's soul is wholly and utterly in what one thinks, and so he dwells in baseness. He will certainly not be able to turn, for his spirit will grow coarse and his heart stubborn, and in addition to this he may be overcome by gloom. What would you? Rake the muck this way, rake the muck that way -- it will always be muck. Have I sinned, or have I not sinned -- what does Heaven get out of it? In the time I am brooding over it I could be stringing pearls for the delight of Heaven. That is why it is written: "Depart from evil and do good" -- turn wholly away from evil, do not dwell upon it, and do good. You have done wrong? Then counteract it by doing right.
Indeed, we're conditioned to dwell. We see the bad in things or in ourselves and it becomes the spotlight's focus. But by dwelling on such things, we're not working in the right way. It must be counteracted, not given validation. That, folks, is your food for thought as we approach Yom Kippur.

Tomorrow I'll put up a piece also from this book by Buber which I think can provide us all a little bit of air when it comes to the many paths to G-d -- anyone who tells you there is one way is truly mistaken. So stay tuned and Shana Tova!