Monday, September 14, 2015 First Day of Rosh Hashanah
Tuesday, September 15, 2015 Second Day of Rosh Hashanah
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Thursday, September 17, 2015, Fast of Gedaliah 5:16a.m. – 7:51p.m*.
Friday, September 18, 2015
SHABBAT, September 19, 2015, SHABBAT SHUVA**,Parshat Vayelech, Deuteronomy 31:1- 31:30
Saturday, September 19, 2015
Sunday, September 20, 2015
*TZOM GEDALIAH – FAST of GEDALIAH
The Babylonians destroyed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and exiled many Jews in 3338 (423 BCE). They then appointed Gedaliah ben Achikam as governor of the remaining Jews in the Holy Land. Jews who had taken refuge in the surrounding lands of Ammon, Moab and Edom heard of his appointment and returned to Judea to join his group; the last remnant of the once-mighty Judea. Under his astute and virtuous leadership, they ploughed, planted and cultivated, bringing the ravished land back to health.
Prior to Rosh Hashanah 3339, Gedaliah was told, just prior to Rosh Hashanah 3339 that a man named Ishmael ben Netanya who envied and was dissatisfied with Gedaliah’s association with the Babylonians, was preparing to usurp the leadership for himself. But the trusting Gedaliah refused to believe that Ishmael would act treacherously, and restrained those who wanted to kill him. Nevertheless on Rosh Hashanah, Ishmael came to Gedaliah with ten men, ostensibly to celebrate the holiday with him and while they dined together, Ishmael and his men killed Gedaliah and all the other Jewish men and Babylonian soldiers who were present. The treasonous act brought more bloodshed causing the Jews to flee to Egypt, thereby terminating any prospect of Jewish settlement in the Holy Land until the return of the Babylonian exiles in the year 3390 (371 BCE).
Thus, in memory of Gedaliah’s being murdered and the consequences thereafter, the 3rd day of the month of Tishrei is a day of fasting. Like other “minor” fasts, it begins at dawn (alot hashachar) and ends at nightfall.
The Shabbat that falls during the week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Shuvah, or the Sabbath of Return. Interestingly, and almost like a pun, Shuvah sounds very much like teshuva, or repentance, a most central concept of the High Holidays.
As Yom Kippur approaches, and the Book of Life becomes of pointed concern on most Jews’ minds, the prayer services at this Shabbat and the atmosphere tend to be solemn and focused on the future.
The haftarah portion is made up of selections from the books of the Prophets: Hosea, Micah and Joel. The selection from Hosea focuses on a universal call for repentance, and the promise that those who return to G-d will benefit from His healing and restoration. Joel foresees a mighty trumpeting of the shofar that will unite the people for fasting and supplication. Hosea focuses on G-d’s Divine forgiveness, and how great it is in comparison to the forgiveness of man. Other than the special haftarah, the service on Shabbat Shuvah is not any different from a regular Shabbat.
Shabbat Shuvah in the past was the Shabbat when the rabbi of the community would present a sermon to the congregation. While in modern communities it is generally part of the Shabbat
service to have the Rabbi speak to the congregation, in previous eras a rabbi’s sermon was expected only twice a year: on Shabbat Shuvah, and on Shabbat HaGadol, the intermediate Shabbat of Passover. Sermons on Shabbat Shuvah traditionally focused on themes of repentance, prayer, and charity.
Shabbat, September 19, 2015 SHABBAT SHUVA, Parshat Vayelech, Deuteronomy 31:1- 31:30
|1||Kohen||Deuteronomy 31:1 – 31:3|
|2||Levi||Deuteronomy 31:4 – 31:6|
|3||Shlishi||Deuteronomy 31:7 – 31:9|
|4||Rivii||Deuteronomy 31:10 – 31:13|
|5||Chamishi||Deuteronomy 31:14 – 31:19|
|6||Shishi||Deuteronomy 31:20 – 31:24|
|7||Shivii||Deuteronomy 31:25 – 31:30|
|Maftir||Deuteronomy 31:28 – 31:30|
|Haftarah||Hosea 14:2 – 14:10, Micah 7:18 – 7:20, Joel 2:15 – 2:27|
Moses has now reached his last day on earth. He tells the people that he has is now one hundred and twenty years old and can no longer continue. He transfers the mantle of leadership to Joshua, and concludes writing the Torah on a scroll he entrusts to the Levites for safekeeping. The mitzvah of hakhel, “gathering” is given, commanding that every seven years, during the festival of Sukkoth, the entire people of Israel must gather at the Temple in Jerusalem, where the reigning king should read portions of the Torah to them. The Parsha concludes with the regrettable prediction that the people of Israel will turn away from their covenant with G-d. (AK)
Hosea calls on a sinning people to return to God by pronouncing humble words, instead of offering animal sacrifice (14:3): “Instead of bulls we will pay the offering of our lips.” He promises that G-d will respond lovingly and will no longer be angry with Israel. Hosea describes God as dew that will nourish, and Israel as a blossoming lily, a strong tree in Lebanon, an olive, and a Cypress tree. In the closing words of the haftarah, Hosea provides a final directive regarding human behaviour and the path of righteousness (14:10): “For the paths of the Lord are smooth; the righteous can walk on them, while sinners stumble on them.”
Micah is the text that is recited at tashlich, the ceremony in which Jews are able to “cast their sins” into a body of flowing water. Tashlich is traditionally held on Rosh Hashanah, but it can actually be performed any time during the fall holiday season, up until Hashanah Rabbah. The text describes G-d as “forgiving iniquity and remitting transgression” (7:18), using language that is similar to some of the common refrains of the Yom Kippur liturgy.
Joel is the text added in Ashkenazic communities which highlights the themes of the Holy Days with its reference to the shofar and a fast (2:15): “Blow a horn in Zion, solemnize a fast, proclaim an assembly!” Joel describes an entire community of old and young, men and women who come together to purify themselves and move closer to G-d, a metaphor reminding people of the task that awaits at Yom Kippur. The scene Joel describes ends in a positive manner as G-d, feeling the sincerity of His people, drives out Israel’s enemies, ensures that the rain falls at the right time, secures ample food for all, and makes it known that He continues to dwell in the midst of Israel. Reading and understanding the direction of these words on the Shabbat before Yom Kippur suggests an encouraging, hopeful message of humankind returning wholeheartedly to G-d with magnificent harmony and result.
Parshat Vayelech, Deuteronomy 31:1- 31:30
Last Sunday evening, September 13, we ushered in the Jewish New Year 5776, and became fully immersed in the period of judgment during the Yomim Noroyim and the “closing of the gates at Nilah Wednesday night, September 23, the 10th day of the month of Tishrei. Each of us will be called upon to consider and reflect on the events that occurred in our lives during the past year, and to make amends for the mistakes we might have made. It is either human nature, or human folly, to become engrossed in the larger issues of life and to forget the little events in the course of day-to-day living. This notion can be illustrated with the following story. Most unusually, a couple were celebrating their 75th wedding anniversary, a highly remarkable event in modern society. The media, drawn by the peculiarity, asked the husband how the couple had been able to sustain wedded bliss for so long. The husband replied. “Simple. On our wedding day we pledged that throughout life, my wife would make the little unimportant decisions, and I would decide on the important things.” “What things did your wife decide on”
asked the incredulous reporter. “Easy”, said the husband, “she decided where we would live, what house we would buy, what kind of car I could buy, when we would have kids…” The perplexed reporter jumped in, “So what kind of important issues did you decide?” “Simple,” said the husband, “I decided to admit China to the UN, I decided to ban the bomb…”
Truth be told, while this Parsha and the upcoming day of Yom Kippur forces us to focus in on the big decisions in life, it is really those constant “small” and sometimes “slightly-larger” decisions that shape our character and create the attitude and tone of our everyday lives. In the next few days, everyone reading this will be standing before G-d to account for their deeds of the last year, both the big and the small; specifically those multiple decisions that essentially reflect who we are and what we wish to be. We need to reflect on all of the small mistakes of the past year so that we can honestly repent and return to what is right. We need to remember our small hypocrisies, our unimportant duplicities, our minor moments of gossip and lashon hora, our tiniest words of disrespect to others in our lives, and all of the other little sins we committed before G-d and our fellow human beings. Taken as individual events, each may seem trivial and inconsequential. However, when put all together, they paint a realistic portrait of us, the person and who and what we really are.
We need to be strong, resolute, and forthright in these Days of Awe and at Yom Kippur. We need to use every bit of our courage to confront our misdeeds and our failures. No one is exempt from this task. Parshat Nitzavim told us that everyone stood before G-d to hear the laws of the Torah; from the most important person to the lowest choppers of wood and hewers of water. No matter our station in life, rich or poor, and no matter our social standing: every person is liable for carrying out G-d’s commandments, the big ones and especially the small ones, and there is no better time to start doing this but now! If we can remember this lesson and carry it through the High Holy Days and beyond, then perhaps we will achieve a true and lasting Teshuvah. Finally, as is the custom at this time of year, please let me take this last opportunity to seek your forgiveness for any negative act I may have committed against you, real or perceived, wilfully or subconsciously.
Let me wish you and those you hold dear a sweet and happy New Year filled with blessings, good health, fulfillment and prosperity, personal peace for you and your dear ones, and world peace for all.
Shabbat Shalom, Avram Kay
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of its author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Congregation Beth-El.
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““Better open rebuke than hidden love”
Rabbi Debra Orenstein interprets this proverb to mean that it is hard to hear that someone is dissatisfied with us, but consider that it is usually an act of friendship and love when someone is honest enough to tell you where he [or she] believes you have gone wrong. Consider the faith that person shows in you: in your ability to listen, in your openness, in your power to change, and in your desire to be truly and deeply good. If someone reproves you, don’t lose the opportunity.
Rabbi Debra Orenstein is renowned as a teacher and scholar-in-residence across North America, regularly speaking at synagogues, universities, and conventions. She is the spiritual leader of Congregation B’nai Israel in Emerson, New Jersey, and has taught in the rabbinical, graduate school, undergraduate, conversion, and continuing education programs at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, California.