Torah and Teshuvah

Torah and Teshuvah

Sep 20, 2003 By Lauren Eichler Berkun | Commentary | Nitzavim | Vayeilekh | Rosh Hashanah | Yom Kippur

The beautiful and famous words of this week’s parashah have always touched my heart. This year, I read the following passage with new lenses, as I immerse myself in the month of Elul and the spiritual preparations for teshuvah. The Torah teaches:

“Surely, this Instruction (Ha-Mitzvah Ha-Zot) which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, ‘Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who among us can cross the sea and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?’ No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it” (Deut. 30:11-14).

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How To Choose Life

How To Choose Life

Aug 31, 2002 By Melissa Crespy | Commentary | Nitzavim | Vayeilekh | Rosh Hashanah

We stand at an exciting and important time in the Jewish year. We stand less than two weeks before Rosh Hashanah, when so many of us will spend hours in synagogue praying for a good, healthy and fulfilling new year. We stand in a moment of transition, filled with potential. There is so much we can do, so much we can learn, so much we can become.

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Shattering Our Idols

Shattering Our Idols

Sep 4, 2004 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Ki Tavo | Rosh Hashanah | Yom Kippur

Judaism tantalizes the senses with the sights, sounds and fragrant smells that characterize its observance. Rosh Hashanah is certainly one of those times when we are overwhelmed by the richness of Jewish symbolism. At the heart of our New Year observances, however, lies the piercing cry of the shofar. What is the meaning of the shofar? Many explanations have been offered to explain why we blow the shofar during the month of Elul into Rosh Hashanah, and at the close of Yom Kippur. Included in these interpretations are the following: it signifies creation, specifically of the beginning of God’s kingship, it is meant to remind us to hearken to the blasts echoing from God’s revelation at Sinai, it links us to the binding of Isaac since the shofar is a symbol for the ram caught in the thicket by its horns that ultimately is offered to God in place of Isaac; and, that the sharp sound of the shofar is to be understood to be a call to teshuvah, repentance.

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“The World Belongs to God”

“The World Belongs to God”

Aug 24, 2002 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Ki Tavo | Pesah | Rosh Hashanah

The month of Elul is a time for preparation for the High Holy Days. Some industrious hosts and hostesses are already making tzimmes and putting it in the freezer. Other kinds of preparations are being made, too– studying, thinking about and discussing the themes and meanings of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur so that these holidays are not just repetitions of prior years. Even our weekly Torah readings, seemingly disconnected from anything to do with the High Holy Days, can be read through Elul eyeglasses.

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A Psalm for Repentance

A Psalm for Repentance

Aug 28, 2004 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Rosh Hashanah | Yom Kippur

The Hebrew month of Elul offers us an opportunity to repent. It is an auspicious time granted us each year, during which we can shake off the shackles of our spiritual apathy and seek an engaging and loving path back to ourselves, our fellow human beings, and most importantly, God. One of the traditions prescribed to arouse the feeling of teshuvah, repentance, is the recitation of Psalms.

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Judging Ourselves

Judging Ourselves

Aug 30, 2003 By Lauren Eichler Berkun | Commentary | Shofetim | Rosh Hashanah

As we enter the month of Elul, the period of spiritual preparation for the High Holidays, it is fitting that we read Parashat Shofetim. The word Shofetim means “judges.” This Torah portion is dedicated to the establishment of a judicial system in the Holy Land. In our communities today, we are counting down to the “Day of Judgment,” Yom HaDin.

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God Wants Us Back

God Wants Us Back

Aug 31, 2015 By Joel Alter | Short Video | Rosh Hashanah | Yom Kippur

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On Baseball and Jewish Endurance

On Baseball and Jewish Endurance

Sep 25, 1995 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Rosh Hashanah

Seminary lore has it that Solomon Schechter advised the young Louis Ginzberg, when he joined the faculty, to master the game of baseball.

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Conquering Our Anger

Conquering Our Anger

Aug 31, 2015 By Julia Andelman | Short Video | Rosh Hashanah | Yom Kippur

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The Path Towards Perfection

The Path Towards Perfection

Sep 13, 1996 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Rosh Hashanah

When Louis Finkelstein was Chancellor of the Seminary and I was a rabbinical student, he would always start the opening breakfast of the year by reciting the verse from Second Isaiah (57:19): “Peace, peace unto those from afar and near.” consisting of but four words in Hebrew, the verse offered a ringing welcome to students new and old, those coming from abroad and those from nearby. Word was that the custom dated back to Solomon Schechter, whom Dr. Finkelstein revered.

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