Dear friends, We are all very busy preparing for the holiday season. There is food to buy, meals to plan some of us are preparing to be hosts or guests. It is customary to buy new clothing and to spruce up our homes At the synagogue we are also very busy. The Cantor and the choir are practicing. I am busy with writing sermons. We are also thinking about building the Sukkah obtaining Esrogim and Lulavim and the celebration of Simchat Torah. While all of these preparations are important we sometimes forget the main point which is to prepare ourselves. The inner work is often more difficult than the outer work. Our spiritual lives as Jews have two aspects. The first one involves actions such as attending the synagogue, reciting the prayers, listening to the Shofar, spending time in the Sukkah and dancing with the Torah. The inner work requires reflecting on the meaning of the ritual actions and trying to internalize the message of the holiday. The Tishrei holidays have two different but related themes. Rosh Hashanah deals with personal change forgiving and seeking forgiveness and Sukkot and Simchat Torah are about joy and gratefulness. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur ask us to look into our lives and make changes. It is quite difficult for most of us to do. If we make a serious effort to make even one realistic change we have accomplished a lot. It involves lowering our defenses and not only trying to find our shortcomings but trying to discover the meaning of our lives. Sukkot and Simchat Torah ask us to find what we have to be grateful for and to be joyful about those very things. It is in contrast to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in that it asks us to concentrate on the positive and be fully conscious of all that is good and right in our lives and all of the blessings that even the most troubled of us has received. This holiday season let us celebrate with all of the rituals and customs but let us also prepare and experience the inward part of the holidays and thus be part of the personal journey and mood poem that is the Jewish Spiritual path. May we be blessed with sweet healthy and successful and peaceful year in in which we use the lessons of our tradition to live better lives.
Rabbi Gerald Sussman