“I Am Jewish”

On what being Jewish means now to people my age in many circumstances:

Well said.

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Rosh HaShanah/Yom Kippur Reflections

Last night I went to see the movie 50/50. It was a fantastic and powerful movie.  I think what hit me was how real the story was – and how incredibly relevant it could be. I hope to never experience anything like that and I hope no one I know has to experience it either. Movies like 50/50 typically make me rather introspective. One of the things that I remembered was that I had yet to post some thoughts on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the Jewish New Year.

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement. This period, including the days in between, is often used for reflection and exploring hopes for the year to come. Importantly, it is also a time of asking for forgiveness. So, I ask everyone with whom I have interacted in one way or another to please forgive me for anything I may have done, said, thought against you, whether intentional or unintentional, during the past year.

What a year it has been! I met some amazing people. I have gotten to be better friends with old friends and made new friends, some of whom I wish I had known much earlier. I have learned a lot. I graduated from college with two degrees. I traveled around the world. I explored my understanding and grew my experiences of diversity and inclusion. I started a new job and the next stage of my life.

It hasn’t been easy. I have had amazing people supporting me. Sometimes I have let them down or have done things I should not have done. I am and will constantly challenge myself to do better and to be a better person. I know that I repeat mistakes, but I am trying to learn from them.

This coming year has a lot of potential. The job is still new. I have the potential for a lot of travel – personal, in addition to professional. I am able to spend more time with family. I need to stay connected with my friends, wherever they may be. It will be a big challenge, but I hope my wonderful friendships can and will continue. I also need to meet new people and grow my community in St. Louis. Who knows where that will lead?

Steve Jobs recounted a quote in his 2005 Commencement Speech to Stanford: “If you live each day as if it were your last, some day you will most certainly be right.” He followed that by saying that he asks himself a question every day: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” This could be a little more of a negative outlook thank I like in some ways – but on the other had, I agree 100%. Life is short.  Make the most of it.  I hope that this coming year is one of life, happiness, health, success, and prosperity – filled with family and friends. I hope to be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life. But since I cannot know what my future holds, I need to do the best I can with the life I have.

G’mar Chatima Tova!

Rosh HaShanah Rock Anthem

This is way too good not to share!

Almost Rosh HaShanah

In about two weeks it will be the Jewish New Year, Rosh HaShanah.  Here is a video to start getting in the mood:

Purim Videos Galore

The Jewish holiday of Purim is coming up in about a week.  In the run up, it seems that 2789572 related videos have been posted to Youtube.  Some of them are very similar so it begs the question of which came first and if any of the groups are copying each other.

The Maccabeats, an accapella choir from Yeshiva University, made famous by their “Candlelight” video for Channukah this past winter, have come out with a new one for Purim:

The Fountainheads, a group from The Israeli Academy for Leadership have created a video based on the same song parody:

I wonder whose video will become more popular…

 

Unetanneh Tokef

One of my favorite poems of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur is the Unetanneh Tokef, which includes the ever powerful “On Rosh HaShanah it is inscribed and on Yom Kippur it is sealed” – driving home the point that what we do now really does matter.  Read the words below and reflect on their awesome meaning.  I am hoping only for the best.

בְּראשׁ הַשָּׁנָה יִכָּתֵבוּן וּבְיום צום כִּפּוּר יֵחָתֵמוּן כַּמָּה יַעַבְרוּן וְכַמָּה יִבָּרֵאוּן מִי יִחְיֶה וּמִי יָמוּת. מִי בְקִצּו וּמִי לא בְקִצּו מִי בַמַּיִם. וּמִי בָאֵשׁ מִי בַחֶרֶב. וּמִי בַחַיָּה מִי בָרָעָב. וּמִי בַצָּמָא מִי בָרַעַשׁ. וּמִי בַמַּגֵּפָה מִי בַחֲנִיקָה וּמִי בַסְּקִילָה מִי יָנוּחַ וּמִי יָנוּעַ מִי יִשָּׁקֵט וּמִי יִטָּרֵף מִי יִשָּׁלֵו. וּמִי יִתְיַסָּר מִי יֵעָנִי. וּמִי יֵעָשֵׁר מִי יִשָּׁפֵל. וּמִי יָרוּם וּתְשׁוּבָה וּתְפִלָּה וּצְדָקָה מַעֲבִירִין אֶת רעַ הַגְּזֵרָה

On Rosh Hashanah it is inscribed and on Yom Kippur it is sealed how many will pass from the earth and how many will be born into it; who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time and who before his time; who by water and who by fire, who by sword, who by beast, who by famine, who by thirst, who by storm, who by plague, who by strangulation, and who by stoning. Who will rest and who will wander, who will live in harmony and who will be harried, who will enjoy tranquility and who will suffer, who will be impoverished and who will be enriched, who will be degraded and who will be exalted. But repentance, prayer, and good deeds can remove the severity of the Decree!”

Gemar Chatimah Tovah!  May we all be sealed in the Book of Life for good!  Have an easy fast!

Some Thoughts On The New Year And Asking For Forgiveness

It is now 5771 — Happy New Year!

I was not ready for Rosh HaShanah to be here this year.  It seemed to be too early – school had not yet even started!  How could it be Rosh HaShanah?  Shortly after Labor Day, it seemed to confirm that summer is over and fall has begun.  Yet, I am not ready for fall to be here.  Slowly though, I realized that I am not in control of such things.

As I attended services, I became more and more aware that it really was Rosh HaShanah.  The readings, poems, prayers, and sermons all make it so real.  It may even be that the timing is perfect for me, as though Someone is looking out for me.  While I had to miss part of orientation to attend services, I did not need to miss school this year.  I definitely prefer this schedule.

I have so much to be thankful for.  I have so much I need to do better.  I have been told by some that I am a “good person” and that I must not have much for which I need to ask forgiveness.  I am glad that is the opinion those people have of me.  Nevertheless, I know that I have done things that I should not have done, not done things that I should have done, not performed my best, ignored people, hurt people, and not always done what I could (e.g. in relation to my understanding of others and trying to make the world a better place) during the past year.

I know that it is impossible to be perfect — but, I know I can do better.  And I will.

As the New Year begins, I am making a commitment to myself, to God, and to everyone with whom I will interact to improve and become a better person.  I want to use my influence for good.  I want to be less judgmental (non-judgmental would be ideal).  I want to not speak ill of others (or at least make significant strides in this area).  I want to be more understanding.  I am sure I will need reminders of each of these commitments throughout the year.  I appreciate those of you who will help ensure that I fulfill my commitments.

As is customary during the Ten Days of Repentance, I ask your forgiveness for anything I may have done against you this past year, any sins I may have committed.  I ask your forgiveness for anything I may have done to/against you whether in person or without your knowledge/behind your back, knowingly or unknowingly.  I apologize for any pain I may have caused you.  If there is something I have done that I have not proactively addressed, please let me know as I would be amiss in not doing so.

Thank you for being a part of my life, however large or small.  As we continue towards Yom Kippur I extend wishes of a sweet, happy new year full of health, peace, and prosperity.

May we all be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life.

שנה טובה ומתוקה

Eicha – Tisha B’Av

Tonight and tomorrow is Tisha B’Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar.  It is a fast day, a day of mourning for the destruction of the two temples in Jerusalem, the Bar Kochba revolt failing, the siege of Jerusalem, and more.

Two years ago when I was studying in Israel, I spent the eve of Tisha B’Av in Israel.  I went with a friend to Jerusalem and we visited the Kotel (Western Wall) before going to the City of David, the site of the original founding of Jerusalem by King David, to hear the Book of Lamentations, Megillat Eichah, read.  It was a deeply moving and spiritual experience.

Sitting on the ground by custom, thousands of Jews recited the Book of Lamentations in Jerusalem's Old City on Tisha B'Av to commemorate the destruction of the two Holy Temples in ancient Jerusalem, July 19, 2010. (Abir Sultan / Flash90 / JTA)

Tonight I went to Tisha B’Av services at my synagogue.  I was reflecting on the powerful and meaningful words and the thoughts shared by my rabbi.  I enjoyed thinking about some of the older members of my congregation and how they have shared with me as well as my friends and family.  I thought about how lucky I am not to be living through the horrors described by Jeremiah.

The short article below is from the JTA about Tisha B’Av and modern issues in Israel:

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israelis flocked to Jerusalem’s Old City to observe Tisha B’Av, the fast day that commemorates the destruction of the Holy Temple.

A new poll released before Tisha B’Av showed that some 22 percent of Israelis would fast on the day and another 52 percent would refrain from going out with friends.

Israeli law requires that recreational spots be closed on Tisha B’Av; 18 percent of poll respondents called that “religious coercion.”

The Ynet-Gesher poll surveyed 505 Hebrew-speaking Jewish Israelis. It has a margin of error of 4.4 percent.

Jewish tradition says that the Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred; the poll asked which groups are the most hated in Israeli society. Fifty-four percent of respondents answered Arabs, 37 percent named the haredi Orthodox, 8 percent religious and 1 percent Tel Avivians.

Some 42 percent of respondents said they believed that the religious-secular issue is the worst source of tension in Israeli society, while 41 percent said it was the Jewish-Arab situation. Another 9 percent said the worst source of tension is between settlers and the rest of the country, while 8 percent said it was the tension between rich and poor.

“May it be Thy will that the Temple be speedily rebuilt in our days”.  Jews say this three times a day in prayers.  TIME offers some interesting thoughts on what it means with the modern State of Israel.

אני מתגעגע לישראל