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TODAY in the Jewish World:

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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 24, 2018  RSS feed
Rabbinically Speaking

Text: T T T

High Holidays 5779

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Jewish Press gave community rabbis the opportunity to submit their holiday messages. The following were received as of deadline: This week I was visiting with a few seniors at a local

Assisted Living Facility and I asked each of the seniors to share some of their recollections and stories of the High Holidays.

There were plenty of great memories and stories that were shared, obviously most surrounded the holiday foods ... However, the most inspirational story was actually not directly High Holiday related.

One of the women shared that her husband as a child did not enjoy Hebrew School and so he left before he could get his Bar Mitzvah. Fast forward many years. They were expecting their first child and her husband was in the U.S. Army and he decided it was time to get his Bar Mitzvah. The Army chaplains at two different bases helped him study and he finally got his long-awaited Bar Mitzvah at the army base in Hawaii.

To me, this is what the High Holidays are all about. Every year as the shofar is blown at the end of Yom Kippur we leave the synagogue with great aspirations and ideas for the coming year. For one reason or another, like the young boy in Hebrew school, it doesn’t always work out.

Rosh Hashanah comes around every year and reminds us, it is never too late. It is a new year and a new beginning. Just as that young boy finally got his Bar Mitzvah some 15 years later, we too can commit to accomplishing something this year that we may have thought was too far gone.

L’Shanah Tovah and may we all be written and sealed in the book of life.

Rabbi Pinchas Adler

Young Israel Chabad of Pinellas County, Palm Harbor


Top 10 for 5779

During the High Holidays, we will go to shul to hear the shofar, enjoy the cantor’s melodies, and hopefully be inspired by the rabbi’s sermon. While we ask G-d to grant us a happy, healthy, sweet and prosperous new year, it would also be good to think about what we could do for Him.

A good resolution for the new year, to add in the performance of a Mitzvah, will certainly serve as a powerful vessel for all of G-d’s blessings in the year to come.

The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, often encouraged that special attention be given to the following Mitzvos that are central to Jewish living.

1. Shabbat Candles: Women, and girls (even as young as 3) should light candles (18 minutes before sunset) every Friday afternoon, and before Festivals.

2. Tefillin: Men (age 13 and up) should wear the Tefillin every weekday morning (excluding Shabbat and Festivals).

3. Mezuzah: Every Jewish home should have a mezuzah on its doorposts.

4. Torah: Study some Torah every day.

5. Tzedakah: Give some charity every day. Have a charity box in your home and place of work as a reminder for you and others to contribute.

6. Holy books: Furnish your home with Jewish books. Start with a Chumash (Bible), Psalms, and Prayer book.

7. Kashrut: For a healthy and sound soul, eat only kosher foods.

8. Love Your Fellow: As the sage Rabbi Akiva said, “Love your fellow as yourself,” is a most basic principle in the Torah.

9. Education: Every Jewish boy and girl should receive a Jewish education.

10. Family Purity: Observance of the Jewish marital laws brings unparalleled depth and sanctity to your marriage.

If you want more details, or other ideas, reach out to me, or your Rabbi today.

From my family to yours, best wishes for Shana Tova, may you be blessed with a good and sweet new year!

Rabi Levi Hodakov
Chabad Center of Clearwater

I shared a similar message at this time last year. I share it again because a number of tragic events that have befallen members of our community this year, remind me that this is a message we need to hear often.

My message is that the High Holy Days are significant primarily because they remind us that we can behave very differently than the way American society encourages us to behave. American society teaches us to be less compassionate toward the suffering of others than we ought to be. We live in a society where one of the mottos is, “keep a stiff upper lip,” and another is “God only gives us as much suffering as we can handle.” These sayings reflect an attitude in our society that encourages us to be more concerned with our own gratification than with others’ suffering.

Our Jewish ancestors, however, taught us a different approach. They observed that some suffering is more painful than any human being can endure. This view is reflected in the fact that in the Torah, the passage describing Isaac’s harrowing ordeal at the hand of his father, Abraham, is immediately followed by the passage that begins with the words, “And Sarah, Isaac’s mother, died.”

According to a Midrash, a work of Jewish sacred literature, that while not included in the Bible, answers a question that a thoughtful reading of the Bible might raise, the passage about Sarah’s death immediately follows the passage about Isaac’s ordeal, to teach us that when Sarah saw how severely Isaac’s psyche was scarred, she couldn’t endure her anguish.

Some Rabbis have suggested that Sarah’s death coming immediately upon seeing her son in his traumatized state, is to remind us that some people endure unbearable suffering and that the rest of us must do everything we can to open our hands and hearts to them. I pray that all of us, during the coming year, will find a way to be more compassionate to those who are suffering.

Gary Klein
Temple Ahavat Shalom, Palm Harbor

During our family summer vacation in the mountains of Georgia, we went to visit a gold mine. It was fascinating to learn about the way gold was discovered. First, it was discovered simply in the water, and on the banks of rushing streams. That was quickly collected. After the gold was panned from the surface, those searching for gold realized that there must be a source beneath the ground as well. After digging, and using dynamite, large amounts of gold were found beneath the mountain. The miners found an equivalent to a few million dollars’ worth of gold in just one day after some real searching! It struck me as a wonderful analogy to our lives.

Very often, we are blessed to feel close to Hashem, and we see Hashem’s goodness and kindness around us. We are able to tap into our connection easily, and smoothly, just as it is simple to pick up the nuggets of gold that are visible glinting and gleaming in the rushing stream. Then there are times that we must dig beneath the surface. There are times we may not feel His presence, nor see the purpose or meaning for events that transpire. We don’t feel the connection. At times like this, we need to excavate, sometimes using dynamite, to find the true gold, and to tap into the connection we have to Hashem, our father.

An often quoted verse (from Yeshayahu 55:6) comes to mind. “Seek Gd when He is readily to be found; call on Him when He is near.” The month of Elul – leading up to and including the High Holidays – is a time when He is close. Our connection and bond with Hashem can be felt easily and clearly. Just as the gold in the river is so easy to glean, our ability to come close to Hashem and connect on a deep level is simple too. Hashem is right at our side, sending sparks of light our way, and hoping that we will “strike it rich.” He is hoping we reach out, and hold onto this spirituality and inspiration!

Rabbi Alter Korf
Chabad of Greater St. Petersburg


Dov Peretz Elkins recounts the following story of the Buddha in his book Moments of Transcendence: Inspirational Readings for Rosh Hashanah:

The Buddha’s disciples turned to him one day and asked: “Are you a god?”

“No, I am not a god,” he answered.

“Then are you an angel?” they asked.

“No,” answered the Buddha, “I am not an angel.”

“Are you a prophet?”

“No, I am not a prophet.”

“Then,” they continue to press him, “Who are you?”

To this the Buddha replied, “I am awake.”

When we hear the sound of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, it is a moment that captivates our attention. As Maimonides taught, the shofar is the ancient Jewish wake-up call to heighten our awareness and engage in intense selfrefection.

This year as we hear the shofar, let us be inspired by Rabbi Naomi Levy’s prayer for self-renewal from her book Talking to God:

A Prayer for Living Up to the Best in Our Souls

You have blessed me with many gifts, God, but I know it is my task to realize them. May I never underestimate my potential; may I never lose hope. May I find the strength to strive for better, the courage to be different, the energy to give all that I have to offer.

Help me, God, to live up to all the goodness that resides within me. Fill me with the humility to learn from others and with the confidence to trust my own instincts.

Thank You, God, for the power to grow. Amen.

Shanah Tovah – This year may the sound of the shofar penetrate to the depth of your soul. May its sounds heighten your sense of awareness, purpose and meaning, so that you may inscribe yourself in the Book of Life through your inspired words and actions.

Rabbi Aaron M. Lever, BCC
Director of Spiritual Care
Menorah Manor, St. Petersburg

“May we and the entire House of Israel be remembered and recorded in the Book of life, blessing, sustenance and peace.”

According to our tradition, there are two books before

God: The book of life and the book of death. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that we be recorded into the book of life. We are taught that our fate is based on how we lived last year. We have until Yom Kippur, when the gates that allow the merit of our repentance and actions to reach God, and thus influence the edict are closed, and our fate is sealed.

We make many decisions: How do we choose to act? What do we choose to do with our anger, fear and hatred? What do we do with love and happiness? We have decisions before us right now. Do we decide to take these Holy Days as opportunities to examine our lives? Do we decide to try to change some aspect of ourselves that we know needs changing? Do we begin to find more ways to live responsively to the needs of those around us?

We rejoice as we begin the New Year 5779. We are empowered to decide our fate and our future. Do what you know you need to do in order to inscribe yourself in the book of life.

May we all be recorded and sealed for a life of blessing, sustenance and peace.

Shana Tova U’metuka!
Rabbi Jacob Luski
Rabbi Emeritus
Congregation B’nai Israel, St. Petersburg


Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Ashkenazi Chief

Rabbi of British Mandate Palestine, taught the following: “Hayashan titchadesh, v’hachadash titkadesh – The old shall be made new, and the new shall be made holy.” This insight often captures my imagination at this time of year as we prepare for the High Holy Days.

As we reflect back on the “old year,” the year that is drawing to a close, we assess what we can renew, what strengths and qualities though old may warrant renewal, and what of the past we must change or let go. And then we enter into the new year at Rosh Hashanah, and we are given a chance to create a sense of the Holy in this new year.

Each day, each action, each relationship, everything we are or hope to become, present an opportunity to bring the presence of the Holy One of Blessing into our lives. If we grab hold of what can be, we will surely discover the countless possibilities that the year 5779 will offer.

On behalf of our entire community at Temple Beth-El, I wish you a Shanah Tovah, a Year of Goodness – to make the old new again, and to transform the new year into a year of sacred opportunities.

Rabbi Michael Torop
Temple Beth-El
St. Petersburg

After the Shofar is blown, during the Rosh Hashanah

Musaf service, we recite the prayer: Hayom Harat Olam. Many prayer books translate this as “Today the world is born.” Our tradition reiterates in many ways that Rosh Hashanah is the birthday of the world, or more specifically, the birthday of Adam.

A closer look at the word “Harat” and “olam” however, yield a different interpretation. Harat is better translated as “pregnant.” Olam, which does indeed mean “world” has another meaning – “eternity.” So, a re-reading would suggest: “Today is pregnant with eternity.” What an incredible notion. Instead of looking backwards at Rosh Hashanah as a finite pseudo-historical moment, we are invited to see Today, the present moment, as a gift to us, pregnant with endless possibility.

As we enter into the New Year, beckoned by the sound of the Shofar, may we merit to lift our eyes and see the potential of a new year, a lifetime, or even an eternity of blessings for us, our families and the whole world.

Rabbi Danielle Upbin
Congregation Beth Shalom, Clearwater

In decades of high holiday greetings at the Jewish

Press, many words have been shared about tshuvah, about renewal, about repentance, about starting anew. As the new rabbi of Congregation B’nai Israel, I am starting anew in a congregation preparing for its centennial, after recently celebrating over 40 years with the same rabbi, now rabbi emeritus, Jacob Luski.

The lessons in following in big footsteps are much the same as celebrating a new year. Look back carefully, take stock, and keep your eye in the direction you want to go – the future. As we approach a new year, we have much to be thankful for. Many of us are fortunate to have enough to eat, a place to find shelter, friends and family to share love, and a connection to the Holy One. Yet, as we look to the future, we know that not all have those gifts. We cannot truly celebrate knowing that so many of our brothers and sisters are in pain, are suffering, are lacking basic needs.

In order for us to build our relationships with G-d, we must build our relationships with one another. We must look one another in the eye and see the holiness that dwells within. Building and rebuilding relationships takes time and energy – two things that are often at a premium.

In the year to come, my goals are to meet everyone I can. I want to hear your stories. I want to know what inspires you. I want to know what is missing from our incredible Jewish community. Where can we build networks of support? How can we make all of our communities better? How can we ensure all our children get great Jewish educations and have amazing youth programs? We have a lot of work to do together. I look forward to celebrating with the entire community. Together, our spirits will be lifted, our neshamas (souls) touched, and we will increase the kedushah (holiness) of this world.

Rabbi Philip Weintraub
Congregation B’nai Israel,
St. Petersburg


The Holy Temple was standing in Jerusalem, the Israelites would make pilgrimage on the harvest festivals. It is difficult to imagine what that must have been like, unless you have been to the Kotel in the early morning hours of Shavuot, as streams of people empty into the sea of worshippers on the Plaza. Or if you’ve been to that spot during Sukkot, where from above you can see a field of waving palm fronds, like ripening wheat in the field, swaying in unison with the breeze.

This is the time of our annual pilgrimage, The High Holy Days, as we gather to offer our thanksgiving, and to pray for one simple thing: to be inscribed in the Book of Life. No matter how old or young we are, this is the harvest time of our lives. We try to remember what has happened to us in the past year, what we have accomplished, how we have grown. Some of us have declined in the cycle of life while others are ascending. But each of us has a will and a prayer for the year to come.

And as God looks into our souls, we look in there too, with a certain knowing of what our potential really is. With that, we make a pact with our Holy Guide, to make this year the best that we can, with the hand that we are dealt, and the hands we were given, to write a new chapter in that Book of Life. May it be one of blessings.

L’shanah tova tikateavu,

Rabbi David Weizman
Congregation Beth Shalom,

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