We are told that at the very creation of the world, humanity was made in God’s image. Ever since, sceptics have wondered to what extent God has been made in the image of humanity.
Rabbi Hoshiah said, “When the Holy One created Adam, the ministering angels erred in wanting to proclaim before him ‘Kadosh!’ (‘Holy’). There is a parable: A king and a governor were traveling in a state carriage and the citizens of the
province wanted to hail the king, but didn’t know which one he was. What did the king do? He pushed and expelled the governor from the carriage, and all knew that he was only just a governor.” (Bereshit Rabbah 8:10)
Why were the first human beings tossed out of the Garden of Eden? According to R. Hoshiah, God exiled us out of concern that with us in the Garden, the angels would remain unable to tell us apart from God and, in their confusion, think we are all gods. So we are out of the Garden and into the real world. That is why the real world can be so hard and frustrating; it reminds us that part of us is indistinguishable from God, and another part is not like God at all.
Rabbi Mitch Levine
The rabbis of the Talmud speculate that on judgment day at the end time, the nations of the world will protest that the Jewish people will receive preferential treatment from God. God will reply that the Jewish people deserve the perks because we kept the Torah. The nations will argue that they were unfairly denied an opportunity to also keep the Torah. God will then, according to the rabbis, grant them the mitzvah of sitting in a sukkah. At first things will go smoothly, but gradually God will cause it to grow hotter and hotter (Talmudic proof that climate change is associated with the end time). It will get so hot that staying in the sukkah becomes impossible. The Jews will conclude that sitting in the sukkah is just not in the cards and retreat indoors, but the nations will become very angry at the situation. Legend has it that they will not only exit the sukkah, but that they will kick the sukkah on their way out.
After two days of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and all the days in between, it is little wonder that we would feel entitled to brag just a bit about how good we are at performing mitzvot, and perhaps we can forgive the rabbis for chauvinistically lording it over the nations. Even if they don’t admit it, I suspect that the rabbis realized that Jews are not immune to the human predicament of taking out our frustrations on inanimate objects (and others) rather than grapple more appropriately with the fact of our human limitations. There are occasions in life when we desire a certain outcome very much, but are powerless to determine that outcome. We can only try our best. Sometimes that is enough, but sometimes it simply isn’t. When the latter befalls us, a little humility may be more dignified than “kicking the sukkah.”
Rabbi Mitch Levine
A provocative yet often overlooked passage of our Rosh Hashanah prayers is when we remind God to “Remember the kindness of [our] youth… when we followed God in the [Sinai] wilderness.” What?! According to the Torah, our time in the wilderness consisted of complaint, rebellion, a golden calf, and a disastrous spy mission. Out of all this strife, what “kindness” are we praying God will remember?
Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev taught a parable: Once there was a king who was lost in the woods. Lonely and anxious, he started to blow loudly on his hunter’s horn. A woodsman heard the sound, set aside whatever he was doing, and kindly came to the king’s rescue.
This lends a fresh and surprising perspective to the story of our relationship with God. Once upon a time, God was lost in the Sinai wilderness. By sounding the horn (the Torah tells us that the Sinai theophany was accompanied by heavenly blasts of the shofar), God managed to get our attention. We responded, and have been together ever since.
A relationship may face the occasional bump in the road, but acts of kindness (and remembering them) can help it endure. The sound of the shofar is a reminder of this to God. It is also a reminder to us: People say, “God helps those who help themselves.” Rosh Hashanah reminds us that God helps those who help God.
Rabbi Mitch Levine
Wednesday, October 11 at 6:45 am
Hoshanah Rabbah is the 7th day of Sukkot, on which 7 circuits are made around the synagogue reciting a prayer with the refrain, “Hosha na!” (“please save us!”). Traditional beating of the willows at morning minyan, followed by a festive breakfast. Questions? Contact Ron Rudolph in the shul office.
“Dancing with the Torah Live!”
Special Simchat Torah episode
Thursday night, October 12 at 5:30 pm
Hakafot, followed by Maariv and a FREE dairy Yom Tov dinner.
Tuesday, October 10 from 5:15 – 6:45 pm
Sponsored by the Agudas Achim Brotherhood.
Rain or shine! FREE!
Even though it’s free, RSVPs are required to Naomi at email@example.com (firstname.lastname@example.org) or 614-237-2747 x17 no later than Oct. 3rd!
Saturday, October 7 from 4:00 – 6:00 pm
Alyssa Russell from PJ Library will be joining us!
Good Friends * Good Food * Good Times
Asher & Angela Abenaim (Edin & Sivan)
Josh Feinberg & Stefanie Zelkind (Ari)
Rabbi Mitch Levine & Ari Goldberg (AA Sukkah)
Contact Naomi at email@example.com (firstname.lastname@example.org) or 614-237-2747 x17 to get a map with addresses.
Friday, October 2 – Dinner at 5:30 pm; Services to follow.
$10/adult; $5/child (10 & under); Family cap/$25
RSVP by September 25 to email@example.com (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call 614-237-2747.
After 9/25, all costs increase by $5, no exceptions!
Sunday, September 24 at 10:30 am at New Agudas Achim Cemetery
Kever Avot is a brief, dignified service held at Jewish cemeteries between Rosh Hashanah
and Yom Kippur in order to fulfill the custom of paying homage to one’s ancestors at this holy time of the year.
Following the service, Rabbi Levine will be available to recite graveside prayers at the request of those attending.
Twice in this week’s parasha, Moses utters the encouraging words, “Be strong and courageous.” This Biblical expression, which appears several times in scripture, is also to be found at the end of Psalm 27, the special psalm added to our services during the season of repentance. The context of these passages indicates that this expression was used to encourage those who were facing the challenge posed by external foes. In contrast, the Talmudic rabbis use this phrase to explain that four human endeavors require strength and courage. They are: Torah study, prayer, good deeds, and the pursuit of one’s worldly occupation (Brachot 32b). The challenges to these endeavors would seem to be primarily internal. It is largely up to me, and not some external foe, if I study or not, pray, commit to good deeds, work hard, and so forth. Why would the rabbis apply this phrase to internal challenges, rather than to explicitly external ones? In Pirke Avot, Ben Zoma advises, “Who is strong? One who rules over himself.” Our rabbis realized that, as formidable as external foes might be, the real challenge in life is to overcome ourselves. Study, prayer, good deeds, and a job don’t happen by themselves. These activities take thought, commitment and discipline. And these traits require strength and courage. May we be blessed with “strength and courage” for the New Year!
Rabbi Mitch Levine