’Tis the Season…

October 5, 2016

Torah Thought

We are approaching the Jewish “holiday season.” As we get closer, all of us are busy making arrangements and making sure that everything is set just right for our meals, our guests and our holiday experiences. We teach our children that this is an important time of year. We pledge our year’s dues to our synagogues, ensure our seats for the services, and spend time looking up new recipes for old dishes. Children going to Jewish schools or Hebrew schools are coming home with paper or clay shofars, excited to show them to their parents and stores stock up on apples and honey to be sure that their Jewish customers will be stocked up for their meals.

Each and every year we go through this beautiful, pre-holiday routine. What about a post-holiday routine? After the holidays are over, after we have cooked for Rosh Hashanah, gathered together for Yom Kippur break-fast, sat in the succah with friends and family, what is the routine then? What has changed after the holidays as a result of putting in all that effort? We are all very busy people. We spend hours at work, diligently doing our jobs and when we complete a task something has been improved, the world is a slightly better place because of that effort. What changes in our lives after all the work put into this time of year?

Really, this question is not unique to this time of year and it is not unique to Judaism. We should be asking this question after everything we do. When I spend time doing something I should be able to see how that project has had an impact on someone, some place or some thing. If I cannot, then perhaps, I should evaluate how significant that action is in my life. Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot are days that should transform us. These days should impact us in a very tangible way. If they do not, then we have to ask ourselves how to make them more meaningful and more significant before we go through another year without a meaningful holiday season.

In today’s world there are many ways to gain knowledge of the deeper meaning behind the holidays. Go online to a Torah website, listen to an audio class, read an article or a book or ask a teacher to help you. Anybody can go through the motions of a holiday. It takes a really brave person to admit that assistance is needed in spiritual pursuits as they are in physical pursuits. We say multiple times throughout the year in the Hallel prayer, “How can I repay G-d for all His kindness to me?” (Psalms 116) Making G-d’s commandments more meaningful and transformative in our lives is one very powerful way. May all of us be blessed with a year of goodness, health, prosperity, and spiritual growth.

—Rabbi Gershon Litt, Norfolk Kollel, Adath Jeshurun Synagogue, Commodore Levy Chapel at Naval Station Norfolk and Hillels at William and Mary, Christopher Newport University and Old Dominion University.

Letter to the Editor