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I AM NOT GOING THESE HIGH HOLY DAYS TO SHUL

Wednesday, 13 September, 2017 - 1:28 pm

 

I AM NOT GOING THESE  HIGH HOLY DAYS TO SHUL

By Mordechai Z. Hecht

 

This article is not one of those perfectly sized or perfectly placated ones. You’ve been warned.

This article is different.

I'm gonna ask a series of questions and then, well then the ending is in your hands. Like your life. Well atleast part of it!

Have you ever read the Rabbeinu HaRav Meiri on Teshuvah? The Rambam's Laws of Teshuvah? How about Shaarei Teshuvah of Rabbeinu Yonah? One more, Misechtas Yoma or the Avodas Yom HaKippurim Hamevuar?

 

WHO

If you answered yes to any of these questions, this article is not for you. At this point I'm going ask you kindly to please close your online-internet service provider and move on. Because you probably are all excited about the upcoming holidays. You probably reserved your exact seat in Shul already. You probably upgraded your Machzor to a leather bound one - with your name on it. Hah! You probably either got a new Kittel – the white robe many traditionaly wear, or you just took yours out of  the Dry Cleaners. You probably gave in to your “lust” and purchased that pricey shiny new buffed shofar – all just in case the Rabbi doesn't show up, or perhaps to blow for your family members who don't make it to Shul.

 

I would, but I can’t stop there. You probably went out and bought every fruit and veggie on the the New Year's "to have a sweet year eats these foods" round-table list. You are probably well on your way to a wise and meaningful, educationally packed, oh soo traditional Yomim Noraim- days of awe season.

Therfore, reading further into this article would possibly be considered Bittul Torah- wasting time, when you can actually be studying Torah or performing other acts of kindness.

 

YOU

I digress. Let's try this.

Have you ever read "The Jew in the Lotus"? "Towards a meaningful life"? "The 5 love languages"? "Struggling with the Divine"? "To pray as a Jew"? What about the "Tract on prayer"?

Tattileh, (term of endearment) I'm afraid, if you have, this article is also not for you. You my friend surely have another billion things you can now go on to read, but frankly, not this. (And we will “talk more about this later”). Frankly because you probably have all the print outs from all the great Jewish websites with all the inspiration you can get on the Holiday season. You probably called all 4 of your Rabbis to make sure you didn't miss anything. You've probably also been to at least 3 or 4 classes already prepping you and motivating you spiritually for these awesome days. In which case you've heard it all! Ambiguity is the doorway to monotony. I don’t want to be that usher.

LISTEN

Nitesche, Tolstoy and Tom Sawyer & Huckelberry Fin? Cinderella and Superman? Have a TV or Netflix?!

Wonderful! keep reading. You are the guy or gal, man or women I'm talking to. 

 

Let's talk ”Pinky and the Brain”.

Albeit not one of my childhood cartoons, like “Popeye the Sailor Mentch” and “Mendy and Mouse” or “The Golem”, but a show I came across later in my life and I was always intrigued by the sheer craziness of this cartoon. 

For those who forgot or unfamiliar, it's the wild n' wacky tale of  two Lab Mice (nice way of saying ‘rats’) characters, a big headed one who is called "Brain" and his most comical co-hort, a whimpy little mouse called Pinky. Together, they attempt, time and again in each episode, with all sorts of schemes, to take over the world. (I know what your thinking... I have no answer to that question). More often than not, due to their idiocy and arrogance they fail at taking over the world.(Although some of the ideas are quite genious and very innovative.)  

 

OUR STORY

Using this backdrop, ever wonder if maybe we are precisely this story. Always trying to take control of our lives and get smarter and be more successful and fill our life's aspirations and dreams, only to sadly come to realize that in fact all too often we are indeed - simply a mouse chasing our own tail. Following a leader that may need a better and wiser less arogant leader of it's own.

This time of year can be daunting for so many of us. Think about it! Literally! That's what this time of year is all about.

30 days of preparation in the month Elul - the month of returning, all leading up to Rosh Hashanah - the New Year. Then 2 days Rosh Hashanah, which this year runs straight into Shabbos – making it a trifecta “rest” period. Then a remaining 6 days of the 10 days of Teshuvah and then Yom Kippur, which falls out on Shabbos this year.

It can get heavy. Like a big fat pile of books on our back while walking up a mountain.

Maybe not all of us and maybe not always, but many of us and more often than not, like in the cartoon, “Brain” never really ever conquers the world, (not in my present cognizant knowledge atleast). Judaism is often the same for many of us. We all have all sorts of ideas of what Judaism means to us. We embark on all sorts of “trips” with great expectations and sadly often these expectations quite frankly are not met.

May I ask, which Shul- synagogue can guarantee that just because there's a Brain that we can guarantee you the world - when we can not. I can easily further conclude, (as a Rabbi and Cantor) that just because their is an awesome cantor who can sure inspire some – can gracefully put to sleep many others, only waiting for this long drawn out, foreign-langauge opera to end.

 

THIS YEAR

So this year I emphatically say with no regret, I am not going to Shul.  I'm not going to read some ancient "brain"- book aka. the Machzor. I'm not even going to give sermons this holiday season to “tell” anyone what to do. I am desperatley going to try not to bore you (Ideas welcome).

I am however going to go to my (our) community-center, my (our) Chabad home, where I am humbly privileged to be a spiritual-leader and take these few days to try to lead by example, this holiday season and to reflect. I'm going to do this precisely because I too am not sure that "I'm running to Shul". Which Jew can honestly say they "always" want go to do "every mitzvah" they're obligated to do "all the time"?! And this too is ok - and is absolutely normal for every single human being who has both a Pinky and Brain. 

PAUSE

My writing coaches would say, well said, now stop. But like Brain, I am slighly arrogant, and my mind and heart is still full with much thought, and I will ooze them out right here, and only you can decide to read on or go back to whatever other very important thing you have to do.

EIGHT

I continue! It is precisely for this reason I'm going to take some valuable time afforded to me to think about my life and I am going take some time to ask myself  precisely 8 questions:

1)      Where do I find myself in the “Brain” of the prayer service - the Machzor. Am I going to be a lab mouse or am I going to get real?! Where do I find myself in connecting to my soul’s calling?! I will search the pages of the machzor for meaning and purpose in my own personal life and daily grind. 

2)      Where is my brain going? What dreams do I have and are they realistic? What am I in need of? What exactly and precisely do I want this coming year and why?

3)      When will I call it quits on something I’m attempting? When do I need to work hard in my life and when do I need to keep trying - even harder?

4)      Who will I do it with. My life. With whom will I attempt to perfect my life this year? With whom will I read books, and study? With whom will I learn from how to be a better leader? With whom will I spend my free time (lol. Time is not free. Time is priceless)?! With whom will I trudge through the tough days of my life? With whom will I sit in shul with this whole year (curiosty killed the mouse…or the cat) Man was never meant to do it alone, life is much more enjoyable with help from a “loyal” friend.(ask Joe Cocker)

5)      Where will my arrogance begin and where will it end this year? When will I apply it and when will I wisely set it aside and open my heart and mind to things that are even perhaps beyond me, but known to be good and healthy and profitable things?!

6)      Mission! What in the world is my mission? Iwill definitely revist this one this year and in depth.

7)      Doubt! No doubt I will allow it to navigate my steps and at times I will erdicate this little raw “Pinky” in my life and ask myself honsetly, why so doubtful?! I will explore and try to explain the doubt.  

8)      Idiot proof my life. Life needs to be Pinky proof. Our decisions and our actions need to stand the test of time. So this year I will ask myself, how can I execute my life without botching it up? And reconsider all of the above.

PRECIOUS

I hope, and with no expectations what-so-ever, that I will find some meaning and inspiration this Holiday season. 

I would like to believe that this time will be time well spent, in helping me gain clarity and get closer to my essence.

At worst, I will have spent precious time with students, collegues, family and friends, and that is priceless and for this alone I am so grateful that we have these holy days to bring us all together.

VALUE

And hey! wheather you’re a “Brain” or a “Pinky” or just agood ole’ human being, let us not forget, and let us not throw this awesome opportunity away. Think about all those who can't go to Shul and put it in to your life perspective. Appreciate the awesome opportunity at our doorstep.  How many people do you know that are Hospital bound and can't make it Shul or a  community center, even if they wanted to?! Be it because of a recent accident or injury or a chronic illness or medical procedure. Sitting all alone in a hospital room bound to the adjustable bed, with a  plastic sheet, commode in tow and green Jello left over from the Reagan era Cold-war bunker survival tests.

Or perhaps your have a friend or have heard of someone connected to someone you know who may be in jail, whatever the reason.Who may be locked behind bars unable to freely practice their God given right. How many Jews can you think of that live in remote places of the world too far from the Shul or community?! Or how many Jews do you know crushed by a Hurricane or earthquake stricken, physically, mentally, morally and monetarily this year?!

Also, let's not forget all those who couldn't find a baby sitter to enable us to come to Shul and connect. ( If you need an excuse I just started your list). I think I’m just about done here. We all know all to well, life is not a cartoon. We have a life to live and a real personal,psyical and spirtual world to conquer. We need this time together. I need you, my friend. Because unlike Brain and Pinky, you and I, CAN actually make a difference in our own lives. To accomplish and finish anything you need to begin, and the High Holy days is a good place to start.

 

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