Waiting for Rain
Reflections at the Turning of the Year
Publication Year: 2008
Published by: Jewish Publication Society
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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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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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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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Part I On the Threshold of Majesty
Chapter One Somewhere over the Rainbow
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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...
Chapter Two Tears from Heaven
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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...
Chapter Three A Voice on High
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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...
Chapter Four The Symphony of Return
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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...
Chapter Five From the Fathomless Depths to the Windows of Heaven
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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...
Chapter Six The Last Psalm
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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...
Chapter Seven Shattered Tablets, Broken Hearts
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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...
Chapter Eight Eleh Ezkerah
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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...
Chapter Nine Pouring Out Our Hearts
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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....
Chapter Ten Through Fire and Rain
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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...
Chapter Eleven Standing on Holy Ground
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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...
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Publication Year: 2008