Like so many of us, I rush around during the year going through the motions and accepting the distractions but not always focusing on those things closest to my heart. Often, we don’t take the time to think things through but race through life, not fully understanding or appreciating what it takes to be present. As I prepare for the holiday and during this period of Elul, my focus is on how I can enhance my life to be more present for my family and loved ones.
Before the Chagim start I try to find time to examine my actions and how they have affected those that I love and care for, and the impact on my surroundings. Have I been kind to my husband, family and loved ones? Have I served my community and performed the mitzvot I promised to do when I was a Bar Mitzvah. I try to live my life focused on Gemilut Chasadim (acts of loving kindness) while practicing Tikun Olam (repairing the world). When I help others , I know that my impact expands beyond that moment. Is there such a thing as a half a mitzvah? Listening deeply to others while performing a mitzvah makes our giving a true gift.
So, as I reflect on the past year, I wonder if I have been present in everything I do with my heart and soul, or are there times when I just go through the motions? To be more present what do I have to do differently? Perhaps allow less distractions from events that don’t bring me satisfaction which would allow more focus on the task at hand.
One of the traditions during Elul is to visit a loved one’s grave and honor their memory. As I plan to visit my dad’s grave, I want to walk away remembering what he taught me and I how I can honor his life throughout the year ahead. My dad was dedicated to social action before we knew what it meant in the late 50’s, when he was one of the few white kids to share his high school locker with a black teen. My dad felt it was important to make a difference in everyone’s life with whom he had contact. Each of us needs to ask ourselves what we are doing to touch a friend or a stranger’s life to make the world better for all.
So, as we welcome 5783 let’s try to touch a few lives every week. May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life for a healthy and meaningful year full of purpose and joy.
Temple Chai President
Elul Reflection - 9.14.23 - Rabbi Koppell9/14/2023
We have blown the shofar. We have dwelled with Psalm 27. We have immersed ourselves in these Elul meditations. And now the journey culminates in the Yamim Noraim, in these Days of Awe, these awesome days, that are upon us.
Elul, the final month of the year, is often understood as an acronym:
אני לדודי ודודי לי
Ani L'Dodi v'Dodi Li - I am my beloved and my beloved is mine.
Who is this mysterious beloved to whom we feel such a deep connection?
My beloved could be God. This is the time of year when we feel a special closeness to the Holy One as we imagine God looking over our shoulder as we consider who we are and who we want to be.
Our beloved could be our family and friends, as we renew and repair the most meaningful relationships in our lives.
Our beloved could be our community. Seeing those about whom we care so deeply, whether in person or virtually, is one of the special joys of this season.
God, Relationships, Community- these are the things that create meaning in our lives. We belong to each other.
May this be a year of blessing in all of the relationships we hold most dear.
L'Shanah Tovah u'Metukah!
0 CommentsElul Reflection - 9.13.23 - David Weiner9/13/2023
Meetings, family, work, golf, volunteer work, rush here and rush there but what about me and where am I going in 5784? Now is the time for all of us to take a deep breath and look back on 5783 and define what we want out of the New Year. What do we all want to do differently?
I would probably be fooling myself if I asked for a slower pace because I don’t think that is realistic for me. However, I think about the 8 books stacked on my nightstand I have yet to read or how special an extra walk or bike ride would be with Robert. I know I would enjoy both of those including one extra round of golf every month. My dad would be thrilled if I would think about finding an extra 15 minutes for the elliptical! Is it possible? Of course, all of this is possible if I tell myself it is up to me and no one else. In order for me to have hope of spending extra time with my loved ones or some time exercising I must believe in change.
As I look back on the year, I count my blessings for being surrounded by a loved one and having the opportunity to help others while having the best friends one can wish for! As I reflect on what I want for the coming year there isn’t much I would change but rather ask myself, “Am I doing everything possible to live a healthy life so I can enjoy all the good fortunes I am blessed with?’. So, I guess that means a bit more exercise, a few less carbs and some time to reflect if I want to continue to enjoy life. Let’s all take charge of our own destiny and be our own change agent. We can do it in 5784!
0 CommentsElul Reflection - 9.12.23 - Betsy Zangara9/12/2023
I love the high holidays because they are a time to breathe, reflect, and set intentions. Yes, we can set resolutions on January 1st. But, for me, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are really the time to take stock. Sitting in the sanctuary and being moved by the beautiful melodies, the insightful sermons, and seeing so many of us together, leads me to think about the deep questions - do my priorities line up with how I have been spending my time? Have I been focusing on the right things? Is time passing by without me living the life I want? Of course, there are areas where I continue to fall short. I spend too much time on things with little impact, while sometimes giving less quality attention to those I love the most.
This year, I am working on giving myself a bit more grace. I’m not excusing bad behavior and I will keep trying to improve, but not every moment needs to be precious and being a human is hard – I will make mistakes. So, I am heading into 5784 with hopes that I will be more forgiving, patient, and kind with myself. And, if that strikes a chord with you, I hope the same for you too.
0 CommentsElul Reflection - 9.11.23 - Wendy Cohen9/11/2023
September 11 is a day of deep reflection and strong emotions for me. My mother was born on September 11. I was born and raised in New York and grew up with the World Trade Center as part of the skyline I knew well. The morning of September 11, 2001 was a clear and blue skied in Washington, DC, where my family lived….an ordinary day. Until, it wasn’t. When the second plane hit the towers, I knew it was not an accident. The news in DC reported a third plane was on its way to the nation’s capital and all I could think about was my husband working four blocks west of the White House and my son in daycare. Would they be safe? So many mixed messages that day, so much fear and horror and no way to communicate as no phones worked. When the dust began to clear, it was replaced by silence. No more sounds of planes above our heads for weeks, rocket launchers on the streets of DC and numbness and shock. My family was safe, but our friend, the co-pilot of the plane that hit the Pentagon, was not. His silence would last forever. My mother refused to ever celebrate her birthday on September 11 again.
I am reminded of all the lost souls this time of year as I reflect on the past, but I also try and contemplate a future for my children that is safe and good.
0 CommentsElul Reflection - 9.10.23 - Leah Lyndon9/10/2023
is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.
A hundred always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds
a hundred worlds
a hundred worlds
The child has
a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child:
to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Passover and Hanukkah.
They tell the child:
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.
They tell the child:
that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
that do not belong together.
And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says:
No way. The hundred is there.
(Poem adapted from Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the Reggio Emilia approach to learning which inspires the teaching and philosophy of the Temple Chai Early Childhood Center.)
0 CommentsElul Reflection - 9.9.23 - Cantor Wolman9/9/2023
High Holy Days 2023/5784
Every year we approach the High Holy Days anticipating the sounds of this season. We anticipate the blast of the shofar, the melodies for Avinu Malkeinu sung by our wonderful Adult & Youth Choirs, the sounds of crisp apples being chopped, and gleeful chatter of close friends reuniting after a long summer.
In our ונתנה תוקף (Un’taneh Tokef) prayer, we are called to be present and hear the contrasting sounds of the shofar and a קול דממה דקה, a still, small voice. Finding moments of contrast between immersion in sound and withdrawal to quiet places are part of the balance that gives our days meaning.
This year, I ask you to take an extra moment to seek out this contrast. Upon leaving an active space, take a moment to seek out and dwell in silence. Notice the break you give your brain when it is no longer analyzing every day sounds. What do you hear instead? Perhaps it will be the still, small voice.
0 CommentsElul Reflection - 9.8.23 - Rabbi Scott Segal9/8/2023
Hope can be dangerous.
Not all the time of course.
I hope that the Cincinnati Bengals win the Super Bowl.
I hope that we get enough rain.
I hope that I will live long enough to see flying cars become a real thing.
I have no control over these.
I have no role to play.
So I hope.
I do not hope that our nation becomes more just, compassionate, and kind.
I do not hope that the struggles people of color, the lgbtq+ community, and other long-persecuted groups can be addressed and alleviated in substantive and significant ways.
I do not hope to see a decrease in anti-Semitism.
I do not hope for these because to “hope” implies I have no control.
To “hope” implies I have no role to play.
So as we prepare to enter the New Year of 5784 I do not hope.
So I no longer need to hope.
Rabbi Scott Segal
0 CommentsElul Reflection - 9.7.23 - Cantor Feller9/7/2023
You're invited to someone’s house for dinner, brunch, a gathering and your mind swiftly jumps to who will be there? what’s the dress? and what should I bring? - flowers, wine, home baked goodies - my famous chocolate chip cookie bark? (Happy to share the recipe). The greater the event the more planning goes into the details. We’ve all been in these situations; we know how it works. So, we think ahead, we prepare. And now we’re going into the Yamim Nora’im, the Days of Awe, a time both ancient and new when we will gather in our Beit T'filah, our house of prayer. You’ll see new and familiar faces, hear melodies and liturgy that can move the soul and enter a space where one can tap into the invisible line which connects Jews all over the world. It’s time to prepare.
What gifts will you bring into these holy days? As a community we recite our communal list of sins, “Al cheyt shechatanu l’fanecha - For the sins we have committed before You” How wonderful it would be to also recite a litany of our gifts. I offer the gift of Tolerance, Patience, Understanding, Acceptance, An open heart, Open ears, Laughter, Love. We each bring our own unique gifts. May the gifts we bring come from the heart and lift us all higher.
0 CommentsElul Reflection - 9.6.23 - Amanda Campbell9/6/2023
Aryeh Ben David, author of Becoming a Soulful Educator, reminds us that Jewish education “isn’t about learning; it’s about becoming.” I can learn about love and not become a loving person. I can learn about jealousy and remain jealous.” I can learn about Shabbat, yet never experience the joy of lighting Shabbat candles in my home. I can learn to decode Hebrew letters but never understand the beauty and depth of the Hebrew language. At Temple Chai Religious School, we believe if learning in and of itself is the extent of our educational goals, we are failing our students.
As I think about who I was this past year and who I would like to be in the new one ahead, I am reminded that just as we encourage our students to go beyond the text in order to become the Jewish person they want to be, as adults we must strive not only to reflect upon and learn about who we are and who we want to be, but also to take the necessary and sometimes difficult steps required to actually become that person.
May your new year be filled with both learning and becoming.
0 CommentsElul Reflection - 9.5.23 - Lindsay Ackerman9/5/2023
Two quotes from my mother and Mother-in-Law, respectively:
"Begin anywhere" and "Perfection is the enemy of good."
As one contemplates the New Year, a new beginning of sorts, it is a time of reflection and anticipation, a time of thoughtfulness and new opportunity, a time to cleanse the slate and adorn it with the freshly sharpened instruments we are given to design, color, and create the future. I find these two quotes very meaningful in my life. They encourage me to not be afraid to try, to believe that just by the act of beginning I am principally putting my wheel in motion, and from that anything can, and something will, happen. It is then up to me to steer that something where I want it to go. As uncertain as that may seem, what is certain is that without the start, I know I will go nowhere and that is decisively not where I'm looking to journey.
High Holy Days
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