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2015-08-28 digital edition

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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


August 28, 2015  RSS feed
Rabbinically Speaking

Text: T T T

High Holidays 5776

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Jewish Press gave the Pinellas County Board of Rabbis the opportunity to submit their holiday messages to the community. The following were received as of deadline: I can still hear my childhood rabbi telling the story in our youth machzor every Yom Kippur. In the story, a farmer brings his young son to services on Yom Kippur in the shul of Rabbi Israel ben Eleazar, also known as the Baal Shem Tov, the Chasidic master.

The boy, unable to read the prayers, asked his father if he can play his small shepherd’s flute so he too could pray to God.

“No,” his father replied, “it is forbidden to play a flute on Yom Kippur.” The boy sat sadly next to his father throughout the day. Every so often he would turn to his father and ask, “Please, Papa, may I play my flute,” and his father would refuse.

The boy shifted and wiggled in his seat all day long. Finally, as the Ne’ilah prayers were coming to a close, the boy could take it no longer. He reached into his pocket and dug out his flute. Before his father could stop him, the flute flew to the boy’s lips, and he blew one long, clear beautiful note.

The entire congregation gasped. His father, red with embarrassment, grabbed the flute from his son’s hands. The rabbi quickly concluded his prayers. Immediately after the service, the father ran to beg forgiveness for his son’s ruining the holiest day of the year.

“There is nothing to forgive,” the Baal Shem Tov replied. “All throughout the day, I felt as if our prayers were scattered like dirt on the floor. We read the words, chanted the melodies, but it was as if God would not receive them. But then, your son expressed the longings of his heart with his flute in a simple, clear note. That note was the most beautiful prayer all day. Your son’s prayer moved God so much, that the very gates of heaven were opened, and all our prayers were received.” (Chasidic folk tale, retold in many instances, including Gates of Repentance, Chaim Stern ed. 1978 and Every Person’s Guide to the High Holidays by Ronald Isaacs, 1998)

The High Holy Days are filled with so many beautiful rituals that we find in the synagogue as well as the customs of our homes and families. While each one serves a specific purpose to make these days holy, it is easy to become preoccupied with ensuring they are done correctly without ensuring they are done for the right reasons. Indeed, there is tremendous value in doing so, for it is these same rituals and customs that have kept our people alive throughout the centuries. But the story of the little boy and his flute remind us that it is our kavannah, our intention, our purpose and the direction of our hearts behind these prayers and rituals that is essential, that is sacred, that matters most to God.

May the prayers and customs of these Yamim Noraim inspire us to experience a Holy Day season of inspiration and reflection, of joy and renewal. My family joins me in wishing you and your family a Shanah Tovah u’Metukah – A Happy, Healthy, Safe and Happy New Year.

Rabbi Daniel Treiser
Temple B’nai Israel, Clearwater


A s we approach a New Year, I find my heart heavy with concerns for the wellbeing of the Jewish people, and with concerns for the Jewish people’s continued positive influence upon the world.

The concerns for our survival are the result of increased anti-Semitism that we are seeing around the world, the de-legitimization of Israel and most significantly, the Obama administration’s proposed arms deal with Iran, which will surely endanger Israel, and perhaps also endanger America. All of these things make me feel far less secure than I have ever felt during my adult life. As a result, I plan to devote even more energy than I have in previous years to fighting to protect our people, especially our brethren in Israel.

I also hope to be able to continue the fight for social justice in this country that has long been a hallmark of the American Jewish community. I fear that the fight for Jewish survival during these troubled times may overshadow this other very important commitment. I pray that God will strengthen me and all of you so that we can join together as a community in pursuing both of these important tasks. Perhaps if we do this, then next year, we will be able to celebrate the beginning of a very good New Year.

Rabbi Gary Klein
Temple Ahavat Shalom, Palm Harbor


W hen we think about the year gone by, we know deep down that we failed to live up to our full potential. In the coming year, we yearn not to waste that opportunity ever again. The Kabbalists say that Shevarim – three medium, wailing blasts of the shofar – is the sobbing cry of a Jewish heart, yearning to connect, to grow, to achieve.

Every person has the ability to change and be great. This can be accomplished much faster than you ever dreamed of. The key is to pray from the bottom of your heart and ask God for the ability to become great. Do not let yourself be constrained by the past. You know you have enormous potential. At the moment the shofar is sounded, we cry out to God from the depths of our soul. This is the moment, when our souls stand before God without any barriers, that we can truly let go.

May the New Year 5776 bring us a year of happiness, fulfillment and peace.

Rabbi Jacob Luski
Congregation B’nai Israel,
St. Petersburg


R osh Hashanah is more than a two-day holiday – it is a seasonal event that begins in the month of Elul. During this entire period, through Sukkot, we are invited to pay closer attention to who we have become. There is great value in looking at our lives from a “Google Earth” perspective at this time of year. From a satellite outside of ourselves, we pan over our activities. As we bring the lens closer, we monitor our inner infrastructures.

In soul searching, we notice what needs to change. But equally as important, we savor the opportunity to celebrate our growth. Reflecting on the positive, we give honor to our friendships, time well spent, explorations we have made, and goals we have reached.

Primarily, soul searching is the work of “Teshuvah.” While commonly understood as “repentance” or “atonement,” it is literally the process of “return.” One of my favorite Reb Shlomo Carlebach songs says it all:

“Return again, Return again,

Return to the land of your soul.

Return to who you are,

Return to what you are,

Return to where you are born and reborn again”.

How do we get back there? On one level, we can just take a look at our computers. Our “searches,” “bookmarks” and “favorites” lists are good indicators of where we have been. Our texts, posts, likes and tweets tell us a lot too. What about our appointments off-line? Who did we sit with for fun and friendship? What great performances did we catch? What special visits did we go out of our way to make? By scanning our calendars, we can learn much about where we have and have not been and how we might alter our course in the year ahead.

May each of us find inspiration and enrichment on our Elul journey back home – celebrating the good and tending to what isn’t working. Shanah Tovah U’metukah – May this be a sweet, engaged, and healthy year of renewal.

Rabbi Danielle Upbin
Congregation Beth Shalom


R osh Hashanah is approaching and we hear, once again, the call of the shoemaker, “Soles to mend? Anyone have soles to mend?” I have at least, put my shoes in a bag, now I have to get them over to the shoemaker. Take a look in your closet, you know He needs to stay in business too.

The Rebbe of Piacezna, R’ Klonymous Kalman Shapiro, otherwise known as The Warsaw Ghetto Rabbi, was approaching his birthday:

“My heart pounds from my impending 40th birthday, my entire body shakes from my oncoming declining years. Still, I will try to muster all my strength to commit myself and my life to G-d. Perhaps, perhaps, something will remain. But to what shall I commit myself? To learn more? I think that as far as possible, I don’t waste any time. To abstain from physical pleasures? If my own desires are not fooling me, thank G-d, I am not so attached to them. So what am I missing? Simply to be a Jew. I see myself as a self-portrait that shows all colors and features real to life. Just one thing is missing: the soul.” (Tzav V’ziruz, To Heal the Soul, page 45)

Wishing you a meaningful holiday season,

Rabbi David Weizman
Congregation Beth Shalom, Clearwater

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