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Waiting for Rain

Reflections at the Turning of the Year

Authored by Bryna Jocheved Levy

Publication Year: 2008

In Israel, the High Holiday cycle marks the transition from summer to the rainy season. In Waiting for Rain, the acclaimed teacher Bryna Levy offers a compelling collection of meditations that examine the biblical and liturgical readings associated with the High Holidays, from Rosh Hashanah to Simhat Torah. Based on a series of lectures given in Jerusalem at Matan – the Women's Institute for Torah Studies, and known as "The Hoshana Rabbah Lectures," Levy's readings of the traditional texts echo the natural and spiritual tenor of this season. Waiting for Rain joins the field of biblical interpretation known as parshanut ha-mikrah. It offers fresh insights into traditional rabbinic interpretation, together with the author's perspective as a modern Orthodox woman bible scholar. Levy explores the psyches of the biblical characters and addresses issues such as our connectedness to others, the tragedy of wasted opportunity, confronting evil, the denial of death, faith and doubt, personal and communal responsibility, universalism versus particularism, the challenge of leadership, sin and atonement, and the efficacy of prayer. The result is a highly personal approach to the meaning of the High Holidays that resonates with our own modern lives. Stories about heroes and heroines, love, faith, hope, and dreams make this book a moving and engaging source for study and reflection as well as an excellent companion to the traditional High Holiday prayer services.

Published by: Jewish Publication Society

Title page

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xvi

Waiting for Rain has been, and I aver to say that it will probably always be, a lifelong endeavor. The actual writing was undertaken over the course of the last five years, and so the multitude of students, teachers, family, and friends to whom I owe thanks is beyond...

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pp. xvii-xx

Moving beyond the all-encompassing embrace of thankfulness to a more familial note, I confront the unfathomable challenge of ,em>hakarat ha-tov, the recognition of goodness. How does one begin to...

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pp. xxi-xxiv

Surveying the parched earth at the end of a long, dry summer, the farmer waits for rain, as did his predecessors, who tilled the same fields before him. The cisterns are empty and the springs have ceased to flow; throats are dry and voices are muted. The season is replete...

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pp. xxv

Waiting for Rain: Reflections at the Turning of the Year, a collection of meditations on the Jewish High Holiday season, began as “The Hoshana Rabbah Lectures,” delivered annually at Matan—The Sadie Rennert Women’s Institute for Torah Studies in Jerusalem...

Part I On the Threshold of Majesty

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Chapter One Somewhere over the Rainbow

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pp. 3-24

The golden thread of memory is intricately woven into the fabric of Rosh Hashanah, the first Day of Awe. In the Bible, Rosh Hashanah is called Yom ha-Zikaron—the Day of Remembrance. All of our memories pass before us, impelling us to take stock of our merits...

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Chapter Two Tears from Heaven

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pp. 25-46

The story of the Akedah (the Binding of Isaac) is the most compelling scriptural reading of the Days of Awe. Its soul-stirring testimony to faith, devotion, courage, and love is a powerful message for Rosh Hashanah. On that Day of Judgment we contemplate the trials...

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Chapter Three A Voice on High

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pp. 47-70

As is the case on Sabbath and holidays, the scriptural readings for Rosh Hashanah consist of Torah passages, followed by selections from the Prophets. In the Torah portion for the first day of Rosh Hashanah, we read of the birth of Isaac, and on the second day we...

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Chapter Four The Symphony of Return

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pp. 71-96

The historical significance of Rosh Hashanah is shrouded in mystery. As opposed to the other Jewish festivals, it is not singled out in the Torah as a milestone date in the history of the Jewish people. The Rabbis offered a variety of suggestions as to what took place on...

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Chapter Five From the Fathomless Depths to the Windows of Heaven

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pp. 97-110

The well-known custom of Tashlikh is among the many rituals associated with Rosh Hashanah. Communities assemble near a body of water, symbolically casting away their sins and reciting biblical passages related to repentance. Although there are various biblical selections...

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Chapter Six The Last Psalm

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pp. 111-136

These days of close religious encounters are days of teshuvah— repentance. It is during this period that we seek God’s light, yearn for His shelter, and strive to realign our relationship with Him. The ten days of teshuvah culminating in Yom Kippur are filled with moments of retrospection. Teshuvah, the Hebrew word for repentance...

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Chapter Seven Shattered Tablets, Broken Hearts

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pp. 137-154

The cornerstone of our penitential liturgy, from the predawn Selihot of the month of Elul through Ne’ilah at the closing of the gates on Yom Kippur, is what is classically known as the Sh’losh Esreh Midot— the 13 Divine Attributes of Mercy. The repeated recitation of these attributes...

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Chapter Eight Eleh Ezkerah

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pp. 155-178

The fulcrum of the Yom Kippur liturgy, found in the Musaf prayer, is the avodah (literally, “the service”). It describes in great detail the Temple rituals of sacrifice and atonement performed by the High Priest in days of yore. In one of the rites, he was brought two he-goats...

Part Two

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Chapter Nine Pouring Out Our Hearts

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pp. 181-196

The High Holy Days are a spiritual odyssey. We travel from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, from Yom Kippur to Sukkot, and from Sukkot, we arrive at Hoshana Rabbah. Liturgical texts and readings from the Torah and the Prophets serve as signposts along the way....

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Chapter Ten Through Fire and Rain

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pp. 197-222

In the Bible, Sukkot is a time of celebration, a harvest festival when the people are instructed to rejoice before the Lord. When the word hag—festival—is used without further qualifiers, it refers specifically to Sukkot and not to the other holidays. The Rabbis, however, transformed...

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Chapter Eleven Standing on Holy Ground

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pp. 223-248

Simchat Torah marks the conclusion of the annual Torah reading cycle. As the final verses of Deuteronomy are read, a feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment spreads over the congregation. All rise and joyously sing: Hazak, hazak, ve-nit’hazek!—“May we be strong...

Works Cited

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pp. 249-252

E-ISBN-13: 9780827610309
Print-ISBN-13: 9780827608412

Publication Year: 2008

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