Today is December 14, 2019 -
by Hazzan Michael Krausman
A young student once asked a wise teacher during his morning prayers, “What does God look like?” The teacher smiled and replied, “Look in my Tallit bag and you will find the answer.” Opening the Tallit bag, the student only found a small mirror that the teacher used when adjusting the Tefillin box on his forehead. The student gazed quizzically into the mirror and said, “But teacher, all I see is my own face.” “Exactly,” replied the teacher. “We are all created in God’s image; if you look at yourself carefully, you can see God’s reflection.”
As we approach the High Holy Days season, it is precisely this task that we each must begin to undertake; to search our inner souls in the light of our thoughts, our behavior, our goals and aspirations in order to see how we personally reflect the Divine image.
This process of introspection is known as Teshuvah, or return. Our tradition mandates that beginning on the first day of the last month of the Hebrew calendar, the month of Elul, we must devote our energy to Teshuvah. We sound the shofar each morning as part of our prayer service, in order to awaken ourselves and begin our personal search.
On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we gather together as a community to support each other in our internal quest for the Divine light of God’s reflection. Through communal prayer, singing, meditation and study, we – like the young student in our story – gaze into the mirror of our souls to find God’s image deep within ourselves. We also seek guidance so that we may reflect the light of that Blessed Image through personal and spiritual growth, and in the way in which we interact with the world.
It is important to note that most of the prayers in the Machzor, the High Holy Days prayer book, are written in the plural. As a community, not only are we obligated to personal introspection, we must also examine the manner in which our synagogue family and community reflect God’s image. As we gaze into the mirror, it is possible that our vision could become clouded by negative energy. We must persist in our endeavor to find unity, to speak in the name of promoting Holiness and to strengthen our community, physically and spiritually.
Rosh Hashanah is a time for renewal and return. Let us embark on a mission to strengthen our inner Jewish souls and sharpen the Sacred Image which we reflect. To that end, we offer an entire calendar of educational
opportunities that are open to and appropriate for all, regardless of their religious background or upbringing. Additionally, interesting guest speakers from a variety of professions and areas of expertise will be joining us as scholars-in-residence on selected Shabbat mornings to share their knowledge and invite communal discussion and interactions – of course there will also be a great Kiddush! Our educational and youth departments continue to provide a fabulous course of study that will inspire all of our students, from tots, through Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Hebrew High and beyond. Moreover, we often dedicate a portion of our Shabbat services to exploring the meaning and purpose of prayer.
By taking advantage of these and other opportunities, we can facilitate our personal growth and spiritual awareness, as well as that of the entire congregational family.
As part of the High Holy Day Musaf (additional) service, we rise as a community and passionately recite the plaintive prayer of Rabbi Amon of Mainz, “U’Nitane Tokef Kidushat Ha Yom, Let us now recall the awesome power of the Holiness of this day.” Rabbi Amnon’s prayer continues, “U Va Shofar Gadol Yitaka V’Kol D’Mamadaka Yishama, A great Shofar blast is sounded and a still small voice is heard.” If we listen very carefully, we can hear that tiny voice within us, sustaining us in our holy quest; to look into the mirror of our inner selves, to find the reflection of God’s Divine light and to radiate that energy, both individually and communally, to the entire world.
On behalf of Laurel, Zev and Zach, may you and all of your dear ones be inscribed for a year of blessing, Shana Tovah U’Mtukaka – a good and sweet year.
Hazzan Michael S. Krausman