Sunday, September 27, 2009

Kol Nidre

If you can't tell from all my posts, I am really enjoying learning at Aish here in Minneapolis. I learn something new practically every day. Tonight is Kol Nidre, and while I recognize the fact that I am not supposed to be writing on this holy day, I am so filled with joy and hope and possibility and renewal that I can't keep it all inside. I am almost 40 and I feel as if I have had my eyes closed this whole time. All I write below is new to me this year.

Kol Nidre means "all vows." It is the time that we prepare for the true atonement of Yom Kippur, by saying (with the permission of G-d) all the vows and oaths we took this past year, all the promises we made are now null and void. It cleans the slate so we can atone, so we can begin anew. The cantor says it three times, because to do a thing three times means you "own" it, you have internalized it, are invested in it. If you (according to Jewish law, not civil law obviously) live on land for three years and no one throws you off, you are seen as owning it. If you do a mitzvah three times in a row, it is as if you have made a commitment to keep that mitzvah.

I never knew what Kol Nidre meant. I can hear the tune in my head, I can probably even sing a lot of it, but I never knew the translation. I am so lucky to be involved with a community where not only are you invited to ask any question, but all questions are treated with equal value and a search for a meaningful answer.

I hope that all my friends and family, and all the Jews both in the land of Israel and without, have an easy and meaningful fast. G'mar Chatima Tovah (literally "a good and final sealing" in the Book of Life). May I be forgiven for all my wrongs, intended or accidental, and may I do better this year, may I have more opportunities to live the vision that G-d has for me.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

New Year, New Me

I sat in on an amazing interactive webcast last night. Lori Palatnik was talking about the High Holidays, and gave us a framework for prayer this year, when we hear the shofar (ram's horn) being blown.

When you hear the Shofar, pray:

1. G-d, You have an incredible vision for all of humanity and for me. I want my life to be aligned with Your vision.
2. I want to recognize the blessings in my life and see the totality of the life You gave me, the pain and the joy, as an expression of Your love.
3. I want to transcend my greatest obstacles [my yetzer hara, my negative inclinations] to fulfill Your vision for me.
4. I want to be a walking expression of the divine values You created me to bring to the world in order to fulfill Your vision.
5. I want all my resources from the coming year to be dedicated to fulfill your vision for me.
6. G-d, I want to trust that You will take care of me. Always.
7. G-d, I want the world to discover the truth and beauty of living according to Your vision.
8. I want to make You King by living myself more according to Your plan.
9. I resolve that I want to be connected to you, G-d, as the source of life.
10. I resolve that this moment is the dawn of a new era in my life for the good.

The shofar is the alarm clock for the Jewish soul. I feel like this year is going to be a year of HUGE change for me, with some clarity (and even more questions) created by my trip to Israel. I think these 10 steps are a great framework for me to pray during these next two weeks. Even if you're not Jewish, I hope you find some meaning in them.

To all my Jewish friends: May you and all you love be inscribed in the Book of Life for the upcoming year, and as a good friend told me yesterday, "May G-d see fit to grant you what your heart desires."


Thursday, September 3, 2009

The month of Elul

I always find myself re-evaluating at this time of year. I guess more so than at the Gregorian New Year, I do it at the time of Rosh Hashanah. Ever since college, I have this prayer/poem that I read and contemplate (thanks, Stuart, I still have it). The first line is "Now is the time to take an accounting of my life." Am I doing what I want to do? Am I being the best person I can be? Am I the best wife, daughter, sister, niece, cousin, friend (last year was the first one where I didn't ask if I was the best granddaughter.... that was hard, and still is).

There is a new element this year, a new question I feel like asking myself. Is what I am doing showing my love for Hashem? Am I doing the best with the gifts He has given me? Am I moving forward on the tzaddik path? What aspects of myself should I be working on that will make me a better Jew, because from all I have been studying and learning, that makes me a better person.

We are in the Hebrew month of Elul, and some say that Elul (spelled with the Hebrew letters alef-lamed-vav-lamed) is an acronym for Ani L'dodi V'dodi Li (also alef-lamed-vav-lamed), which can translate to "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine." This really resonates with me-- in this case, the beloved is not my beloved Patrick, but Hashem. This month is about looking at that relationship in preparation for the New Year and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. I find myself unsettled-- have I done enough to show my love? Have I accepted His love? I like the thought of having an entire month to contemplate this and prepare for the high holydays, because when the time comes to ask Hashem for forgiveness and blessings, I will have a more complete understanding of who I am right now, what I've been doing and who I want to be.