Yom Kippur leads us to realize life itself is a gift and that gifts confer obligations. The more we receive, the more we become obligated to respond adequately.
The blowing of the shofar proves that we can surpass ourselves. On our own, using only our vocal cords, we are unable to produce this sound—a terrifying, awesome, penetrating resonance. This is a sound that can cause us to break down, pick ourselves up again, and transform ourselves into new individuals.
The people of Israel, according to Jewish tradition, are not the authors of the Torah. Rather, the Torah is the author of the people. As a covenant between God and humankind, the Torah is what brought the people into being. Moreover, despite the fact that the people have often violated the commanding voice of this text, it created the specific and unique identity of the Jewish nation.
A poem for Yom Yerushalayim.
The day after Yom Kippur, the synagogue service really should be a completely different experience from what people are used to. Yom Kippur should still be in the bones of all synagogue participants. Its spirit should still be felt with every prayer. It should be completely impossible for synagogue services to return to their old ways, in which prayers are said as if “nothing happened.”
Two new podcasts, plus an essay for Yom Kippur.
A parable for Rosh Hashana, plus, two new podcasts: On music as religious experience, and on the importance of bringing children into the world.
The blowing of the shofar proves that we can surpass ourselves. On our own, using our vocal cords, we are unable to produce this sound – a terrifying penetrating resonance. Alone, we cannot produce a sound that comes close to the piercing and penetrating heavenly voice of the shofar, which can cause human beings to break down, pick themselves up again, and transform into new individuals.
In the wake of the destruction of Jerusalem the leaders of the Jewish people despaired. But the ordinary Jews did not. Despite the total collapse of Jewish life, they opted for the impossible. They not to listen to their leaders, but continued building the nation of Israel, as they had previously been taught by the very sages who now despaired. Sometimes, the simple man has more faith in the Jewish future than the greatest Talmudic scholar.
A flame grows or diminishes depending on the combustibility of the material it comes in contact with. So it is with human openness to the divine. Their receptivity to the divinity of Torah is proportionate to the condition of their soul.