DAYS: A Spiritual Guide to the High Holidays
As we stand at the conclusion of the rich
holiday season, approaching Shabbat Bereishit, we bring
you two final excerpts from Simon Jacobson's new book,
60 DAYS: A Spiritual Guide to the High Holidays, which deciphers
and personalizes these potentially life altering days.
Each of the 60 Days -- which covers the two
months of Elul and Tishrei -- comes with a calendar, inspirational
quote, facts and historical events, laws and customs, a relevant
insight and a daily exercise. A special prayer section in
the book explains the elegant structure and powerful
relevance of the holiday prayers.
TURNING INSPIRATION INTO ACTION
If you want the inspiration of the High Holiday
season not to dissipate but to be turned into eternal moments
that you can draw on for the rest of the year and for the
rest of your life, you have to do something about it.
While meditation can be very beneficial, action
is more powerful than any meditation can be. Indeed, meditation
only lays the groundwork for action. Action changes human
beings, moves mountains, and ultimately changes the world.
How can action change the world? It melts the
tension between matter and spirit, fusing them into one.
Matter (our material, earthly realm) is temporary
but tangible. Spirit (our soul) is eternal but intangible.
Hence the tension between them. The Jewish solution is to
fuse the twoto spiritualize the material.
To do so, you must take your material life,
which is the antithesis of anything eternal, and you must
connect it to something eternal. Thats the key.
Many people interpret this to mean that they
should free up more moments in their life for eternal and
spiritual activitythat, for example, instead of working
fourteen hours a day, they should come home earlier and spend
more time with the family.
That is very good but there is another way.
When you go to work you should transform your
workplace into eternity. One suggestion, especially if your
work is about making money, is to put a charity box on your
desk. While it might seem like a token gesture, it becomes
a constant reminder in the midst of financial deal-making
that other things are more important.
Another suggestionsince so much attention
is paid to food consumptionis to take the time to always
make a blessing before and after eating. While it might seem
like another token gesture, a blessing is a powerful reminder
that the material world is not here for us to indulge in,
but to be refined and transformed.
Ask yourself: How do you plan to capture the
inspiration of the High Holidays? How can you turn it into
Exercise for the day:
~ Commit to one action that will fuse the material
with the spiritual in your life.
~ Do it.
verse in the Haftorah of Shemini Atzeret] On the eighth
day he (King Solomon) sent the people away, and they
to their tents joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness
that God had done is referring to the people returning
home after the holiday season. Why tents and not
homes? Because the spiritually rich Tishrei
season has imbued us with the feeling that the material world
is not our permanent abode; it is only like a tent,
temporal and impermanent in nature, and our true homes is
in our soul. (The Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak.)
Yahrzeits: Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev
(1740-1810). Rabbi Aaron Strasheler (?-1833). Rabbi Moshe
Sofer of Pressburg (1762-1839), the "Chatam Sofer.
Chassidic leader and advocate for the Jewish
people, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was a close disciple of the second
leader of the Chassidic movement, Rabbi DovBer, the Maggid
of Mezritch. He is best known for his unconditional love for
every Jew and his impassioned words on their behalf before
Rabbi Moshe was an outstanding Halachic authority
and community leader, and was at the forefront of the battle
to preserve the integrity of traditional Judaism in face of
the challenges of his time.
Rabbi Aaron was one of the greatest disciples
of Rabbi Schenur Zalman of Liadi. He is the author of many
profound Chassidic works.
LEADING A HOLY LIFE
All this week the Torah portion being read is
Bereishitthe opening of the Book of Genesiswhich
begins with the famous words: In the beginning, G-d
created the heavens and the earth.
In other words, this sentence states that G-d
created both spirit and matter, which clearly means that G-d
is neither spirit nor matter. This also means that the assumption
most people make that they have a choice of leading either
a materialistic life or a spiritual life is false. There
is a third choice: a G-dly lifea holy lifewhich
is another thing altogether.
G-dlinessor holinessis not the same
as spirituality. Spirituality can lead to holiness, but in
itself it is not holiness.
Unless spirituality is a path to holiness, it
can be as ego-centric as materialism. There are spiritual
people who are quite arrogantthey see themselves as
superior to everyone whos not as spiritual as they.
Holiness, on the other hand, demands humility.
Another distinction between spirituality and
holiness is action. Spirituality can take the shape of being
a completely meditative experience, apart from the material
world. Holiness means that you take on yourself the task of
living in the material world in order to transform it.
A story that aptly illustrates this point is
told about two Chassidim: a father and son who were absorbed
in studying Torah. Suddenly, a baby (the sons child
who was sleeping in the next room) fell out of its crib and
started crying. The son was concentrating so hard, he didnt
hear it. The father heard and went to tend to the baby.
When he returned, he said, If you dont hear the
desperate crying of a child, what value is there to your Torah
study? Torah study is meant to refine you, to teach you how
to help another person, to hear the cry of one in need!
Ask yourself: What kind of life are you leading:
a materialistic life, a spiritual life, or a G-dly life?
Exercise for the day:
~ Describe how you need to change your life
to make it G-dly.
~ Identify one G-dly act you can do today and do it.
As one establishes oneself on Shabbat
Bereishit, so goes the rest of the year. (Chassidic
The edicts that are written on Rosh Hashana,
sealed on Yom Kippur, finalized on Hoshana Rabba and sent
out on Shemini Atzeret, dont leave the Kings palace
until after Shabbat Bereishit. (The Rebbe Yosef
Laws and Customs:
The Shabbat following Simchat Torah is called
Shabbat Bereshit, named after the Torah reading of
this day: Bereishit (Genesis 1:1-6:8) This is the first
Shabbat of the annual Torah reading cycle.
The Haftorah for Shabbat Bereishit is from Isaiah (42:5-22;
some continue till 43:10), which discusses the creation of
heaven and earththe theme of the Torah portion read
When Shabbat Bereishit falls on Tishrei
29, the day directly preceding Rosh Chodesh, we read
a special Haftorah (reading from the Prophets), which begins
with the words Machar Chodesh meaning "Tomorrow
is the new month" (Samuel I chapter 20)
The story of our lifes struggles and achievements
reflects the manner in which G-d chose to create the world:
In the beginning
the earth was without form and
empty, with darkness on the face of the depths
There shall be light, and light came into existence.
We all enter life in the dark: confronting
a closed world, overcoming the ignorance of infancy
to uncover the hidden and illuminate the obscure.
The weekly Torah reading is what defines the
Jewish week, serving as the guide and point of reference for
the week's events, deeds and decisions. Rabbi Schneur Zalman
of Liadi called this "living with the times." Hence
the theme and tone of this week is one of beginning and renewal,
as we launch into yet another cycle of Torah life.
The Hebrew calendar is so arranged that the
last Shabbat of the month of Tishrei is always Shabbat
Bereishit. Thus, at the end of all the festivals of Tishrei
we come back to Bereishit, to the beginning. Here is
an indication that the beginning of all wisdom is to know
that G-d is the Creator and Master of the world. Coming back
to the beginning further indicates that we never "finish,"
nor "graduate," as far as the Torah is concerned.
Truly endless is the Torah, "longer than the earth, wider
than the ocean," for it is the wisdom of G-d, the Infinite.
It is on this note that Jews leave the month
of Tishrei and begin their daily life in the new year.
Inspired and enriched by the spiritual experiences of every
varietywith which the month of Tishrei is so
richthey can face every challenge in their daily life
with courage and fortitude, in the knowledge that they are
a link in the eternal chain which unites Israel with G-d,
through the Torah.
 Sichat Shemini Atzeret 5696 (Likkutei Dibburim vol.
2 pp. 409).
 Likkutei Dibburim vol. 4 p. 1421.
 Shabbat Bereishit can be either on Tishrei 24, 26,
27 or 29, depending whether Simchat Torah (Tishrei 23) is
on Friday, Wednesday, Tuesday or Sunday respectively.