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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 © 2009-2019 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


September 23, 2016  RSS feed
Rabbinically Speaking

Text: T T T

High Holidays 5777

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Jewish Press gave community rabbis the opportunity to submit their holiday messages. The following were received as of deadline: As we enter into the New Year of 5777, we are filled, as always, with a great sense of possibility and hope about all that the New Year can bring into our lives. Embracing the hope for blessing and goodness strengthens each of us to face the challenges and the difficulties that inevitably arise.

Our tradition offers us an approach to mindful living by stressing the value of hakarat hatov, acknowledging the good in others, in situations, in life experiences. It is so easy to slip into the opposite side of this “attitude of gratitude,” to be critical of others, to find fault and emphasize how someone has not measured up to our expectations. But to truly embrace the approach that begins with seeing the good, seeing the humanity in those we encounter, leads to a wholly (and holy) different approach to life, to community, to family, to self and soul. Imagine how different our personal and professional relationships would be if each time a new conversation, email or Facebook exchange began, we started with a word of gratitude toward the recipient.

In offering greetings to each of you as we begin the New Year, let me begin by thanking each of you, and all of you, for your contribution to your friends and families, to our community, and to our people. May we all seek the good in others in this year ahead, acknowledge that good with gratitude, and bring blessing and fulfilment into our lives. L’shanah Tovah u’metukah – Wishing you a Happy and Sweet New Year!

Rabbi Michael Torop
Temple Beth-El, St. Petersburg


Rosh Hashana, we need to wake up, be honest and objective about our lives. Who are we, where have we been, and in which direction we are headed? The Teruah sound – nine quick blasts in short succession – resembles an alarm clock, arousing us from our spiritual slumber. The shofar brings clarity, alertness and focus.

The Talmud says: “When there is judgment from below there is no need for judgment from above.” What this means is that if we take the time to construct a sincere, realistic model of how we have fallen short in the past, and what we expect to change in the future, then God does not need to “wake us up” to what we already know.

God wants us to make an honest effort to maximize the gifts He gave us. You are not expected to be anything you are not. But you cannot hoodwink God, either.

We lose touch and make mistakes because we do not take the time everyday to reconnect with our deepest desires and essence. The solution is to spend time alone everyday, asking: Am I on track? Am I focused? Am I pursuing goals, which will make the greatest overall difference in my life and in the world?

Make it a habit to keep in touch with yourself, and as Rosh Hashanah comes around, the alarm clock of the shofar will not be nearly as jarring!

My best wishes for a Shana Tova u’Metuka! Shalom.

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

We are currently in a very special time of the Jewish year – the month of Elul, which precedes the High Holidays. It’s a time of focus, renewal and strength.

I often hear: “We just drifted apart” or “we became different people who want different things” as a reason a couple gives for their marriage ending in divorce. Sadly, we sometimes take our marriages for granted. We ignore the signs of a relationship that is becoming stale and strained, and we continue our life as though the problems will solve themselves and the status quo will last eternally.

The truth is, that unless husband and wife work through their differences and make an effort to stay connected and interested in each other, the passion of love alone doesn’t keep the fire of marriage burning. It is necessary to set aside time to turn to one another, to focus on who one’s spouse truly is, and literally get to know him/her better by asking questions and showing genuine interest in what he/ she communicates.

Elul is the month of return. Like any serious relationship that you truly value, time must be taken out to return to each other, to cultivate the relationship and strengthen its bond. This is what we do in Elul with our relationship with G-d. During this month that precedes Rosh Hashanah, we do everything in our power to rectify our relationship with G-d. We read extra psalms, add prayers in the morning Shacharit service, learn more Torah and try to be more scrupulous with our actions.

During the year, we may have been careless in our relationships, or not been as focused as we know we should have been. Elul grants us the amazing opportunity to concentrate on our spouse, in this case our Divine spouse, G-d, the Creator of the universe. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are days when we celebrate this very special and precious bond, taking care that it is strengthened and able to sustain us through the upcoming year.

Wishing you and your loved ones a Ktiva V’Chatima tova – a very joyous and sweet new year!

Rabbi Alter Korf
Chabad Jewish Center of St. Petersburg

As we approach a New Year, I am grateful that the governments of the United States and Israel have concluded a Memorandum of Understanding, which will ensure the continuation of the mutually beneficial alliance between our two nations. I hope that between this Rosh Hashanah and next, we will also see the government of the United States reauthorize the legislation to maintain its sanctions regimen in relation to Iran. That legislation is necessary, not only to ensure timely “Snap-Back” of sanctions should Iran fail to honor the commitments it made as part of the nuclear arms deal; but also to send a warning to Iran that the United States will not countenance Iran’s continued malign behavior around the world. I also hope that the United States government will continue its support of, and advocacy for, direct peace negotiations between Israel and the Arabs who live in the West Bank and Gaza; rather than allow a United Nations’ imposed settlement to be forced upon Israel. The concerns that I have just expressed reflect my view that a strong and secure Israel is essential to the well-being of the Jewish people around the world and to the well-being of all humankind.

I also hope that we Jews exhibit even more steadfast support for a strong Israel than we have in the past. I am concerned about the increasing popularity of J Street which attempts to get the United States government to force Israel to engage in conduct that the leaders of J Street believe is appropriate for the Jewish state. While surely done with good intentions, the activities of J Street can be detrimental to the cause of peace. I hope that more of us will, instead, turn our support to AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which never attempts to influence our government to force a change in Israel’s policies; but rather, educates our members of Congress about the history of the conflict, and about Israel’s many contributions to humanity. In so doing, AIPAC strengthens the relationship between Israel and the government of the United States.

Hopefully, the Memorandum of Understanding is only the first of what will be many positive steps this year. I pray that God will strengthen us so that we can join together as a community in overcoming these problems. Perhaps if we do this, then next year, we will be able to celebrate the beginning of an even better New Year.

Rabbi Gary Klein
Temple Ahavat Shalom, Palm Harbor

The new year brings new possibilities and fresh hope.

But is it really new? After all, every day is a new beginning – so what makes Rosh Hashanah so special?

Rosh Hashanah is not just a personal new year, it’s a cosmic New Year! The entire universe, all the planets, the solar system as well as the mystical spiritual angels and energies were all created so that humanity could exist.

And humanity was created on Rosh Hashanah and endowed with the greatest gift of all – the freedom to choose. We alone among all of the creatures have the ability to decide to be virtuous. Such awesome power has been given to us on the day of Rosh Hashanah. It’s the day G-d trusted us and we pledge not to let Him down. Such promise! Such great possibilities!

Shana Tova
Rabbi Shalom Adler
Chabad of Pinellas County, Palm Harbor

The story is told of a small mountain village in

Europe many years ago. In this village there was a nobleman with no children. He was concerned about the legacy he would leave behind. He spent a great deal of time contemplating his dilemma and, at last, decided to build the community a synagogue. As this was his gift to the community, he spent many hours and a great sum of money working with the contractors, the designers and the builders to create the most magnificent synagogue anyone had ever seen. However, he sought no one’s input or guidance. He determined that no one would see the plans for the building until it was completed.

The project took a long time, much longer than anyone had planned. At long last, the construction was finished. The townspeople were excited and curious about what they would find upon entering their new synagogue. When they came into the building for the first time, they marveled at the magnificence. There were rooms of every shape and size, suitable for worship services, classes, meetings, parties, gatherings, and every other conceivable function. And no one could ever remember so beautiful a sanctuary anywhere in the world!

As they looked around, however, someone noticed a seemingly obvious flaw in the design. One of the townspeople asked, “Where are the lamps?” Everyone looked around and, sure enough, nowhere in the entire building was a light or a lamp to be found.

The proud nobleman simply pointed out brackets that were strategically placed all along the walls throughout the synagogue. He then brought the people in close to him. He gave each family a lamp As he did so, he explained, “Whenever you come to the synagogue, I want you to bring your lamp, and light it. When we are all here together, our synagogue will shine brightly. But when you are not here, the lamp will remind you that some part of our building will be dark. I have built for you the structure, but YOU must bring the light.”

As we enter this New Year, may your light shine brightly throughout our community.

Rabbi Daniel Treiser
Temple B’nai Israel, Clearwater

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