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High Holidays

Monday, 23 March, 2020 - 11:25 am

 The High Holidays are in the air.

When you think Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, how do you feel?

 “Huh?” I hear you ask.

But yea, you heard me right. How do the HIGH HOLIDAYS make you feel?

“Hmm…Give me a minute”, you say.

After all, you’ll need a few minutes to pause and actually relive the High Holiday experience. To really feel what it feels like. Only then, will you be able to articulate the feelings they evoke.

By way of example from a far more physical and mundane scene; one we can all relate to:  It’s Sunday afternoon. The family is hanging out together and someone suggests ordering in from a local restaurant. “Great idea!”, Mom says. Turning to everyone, she asks whether to go with pizza or Chinese takeout. “Hmmm…Give me a minute” you say.

Why do you need a minute? You know what you like to eat. What is there to think about? What will you know after that minute that you hadn’t known before?


Simple. You KNOW what you like to eat. You don’t need a minute for that. But in order to decide what kind of food you’re in the mood for right now, you do need a little time to FEEL how pizza will taste and FEEL how Chinese food will taste. Only then, do you opt for the Chinese (if you’re a girl after my own heart😊)

Because there is knowing something and then there is actually feeling it.

Enter the holy month of Elul. The month preceding the High Holidays. A window in time gifted to us by G-d. A time to think about the approaching High Holidays. To learn and to know what those Holy Days mean to us as Jews. But much more than cognitive recognition and abstract knowledge, it is a time to work on the deepest form of knowledge: Truly feeling these ideas. Owning them. Allowing them to transform our paradigms and day to day living.

Because while pizza and Chinese food may only take a minute or two to feel, the High Holidays need a lot more time to be felt. A whole month.

A month to really feel the feeling of approaching G-d on Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur as         AVINU-our Parent and MALKEINU- our King.

MALKEINU-Our King. Master of the entire Universe. Creator of Heaven and Earth. Think about the bird’s eye view you have when flying. You look out the airplane window. You can’t discern a group of people, let alone an individual. Think about G-d’s view. The entire universe. The cosmos. The myriads of spiritual worlds and realms. And yet, to G-d you are His entire universe. The whole world was worth creating just for you. His deepest most essential desire is to connect with you through the Mitzvot you do.

Imagine a distinguished figure that you revere. They hardly know you, but boy, do you know them. You have read every book of theirs. Follow them in the news. Know every bit of advice they’ve ever given anyone. They are your ultimate role model. Imagine getting a call from that person one day. Asking for a favor. They need you for something that only you can do for them. Do you care what it is they are asking? Of course not! Little ME is needed by BIG him/her?!? I’m humbled and honored beyond words to connect with them in this way.

Yes. HaShem, Ruler and Master of the entire Universe put your soul into this world because He wants a relationship with You. He asks you to fulfill the Mitzvot. The ones that excite you and even the ones that don’t. Little ME is being asked to connect to Malkeinu-the ultimate and Infinite King of all Kings- HaShem Himself.

Feelings of awe fill us. Reverence. Humility. Yearning to connect.

AVINU- Our parent. No love can mirror the love of a parent to a child (assuming it is a healthy parent-child relationship of course). G-d is the Ultimate Parent. He created you. Has been there with you for every joy and every sorrow. Every triumph and every downfall. The celebrations and the challenges. As life meandered through the beautiful and the painful, He was right there with you. He knows you better than you know yourself. He knows your strengths. Your weaknesses. Your personality. Your potential. How hard you have tried. How badly you want to do good. Whether you always succeeded at it or not.

Our hearts are filled with a longing to fall into G-d’s loving embrace. To feel the comfort and security of knowing we are in G-d’s hands. Our loving parent. The G-d that knows me better than I know myself. I matter to Him on the deepest of levels. A yearning to return to Him fills me. To return to my roots.

As a child, as the month of Elul approached each year, my mom would read to us from the wonderfully vivid description written by the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe (Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, 1880-1950) of how this Elul season felt in the town of Lubavitch, where he was raised. The Previous Rebbe writes that “a breeze of Teshuva (re-balancing/re-prioritization/return) could be felt in the town”.

As a child, that imagery of a breeze resonated with me. To some extent, with the approach of Elul, I could feel that breeze in my own home. In my community. In my school.

The people around me seemed a little more focused on their spiritual Avodah. On helping others. On prayer. On their choice of words in conversation. Less frivolous talk and chatter. There really was a palpable Teshuva breeze in the air.

The people around me were pausing to think, reflect, and then feel. Really feel.

To feel the feeling of approaching G-d on the High Holidays as our parent and as our King.

To feel how life looks from that vantage point. My priorities. My relationships. My goals. My day to day living as a Jew.

After a month of this inner work, the High Holiday experience is a transformative one. Wisdom alone is not enough to transform. The power of change lies in the wisdom that bears fruit to feeling, experiencing, and owning.

So my friends, let’s get into Elul mode. For the next month, the wind of change is at our backs. It’s a time of inspiration. Sometimes it may be subtle as a faint breeze, but it’s always perceptible to the spiritually awake.

Feel it. Use the opportunity.

The weather’s right.

 Play the Avinu Malkeinu tune below as you take a few minutes to think, reflect, and then FEEL.

The tune is playing. You are thinking. You are feeling. AVINU. MALKEINU.

And now I ask you once again: “HIGH HOLIDAYS”. How do you feel?

And I have a feeling that your response is no longer “Huh?”


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