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Rabbi Mendy Herson's Blog

Thoughts from, and conversations with, Rabbi Herson

Carry It Forward




This past month was a Holiday whirlwind: On Rosh Hashana, we revisit individual responsibility.  On Yom Kippur, we dig deep into ourselves, resolving to align our behaviors with our priorities and personal potential. On Sukkot, we experience community, and on Simchas Torah we recognize the genuine joy of living a meaningful life.

Four consecutive Holidays.

Solemn moments. Festive meals. Meaningful rituals. A stream of inspiration.

All coming to a close this week.

Now what?

Every morning, we say a prayer which begins: “My G-d, the soul which You gave me is pure. You have created it, You have formed it, You have breathed it into me. And You preserve it within me….”

Chassidic thought tells us that this prayer traces our souls’ journey into the human condition. The various expressions chart how our existence  begins with G-d’s ‘choice’ of a specific soul to inhabit a particular baby, and continues with the soul’s descent through a succession of spiritual levels, ultimately finding expression in our bodily lives.

But then the prayer presents a final leg of the journey: “You preserve it within me.” What does that mean? To put the question in context: We wake up every morning and recognize that G-d has gifted us with a pristinely Divine soul, paring down its spiritual intensity – level by level – so that it can animate our physical human lives.  The consciousness we feel in the morning is the human tip of a Divine iceberg. But once we have our human lives, what does G-d need to preserve?

Our spiritual sensitivity.

Every morning, we thank G-d for giving us human lives capable of embracing mundanity, yet equally capable of genuine spiritual feeling. Every morning, we recognize natural, physical impulses, and simultaneously acknowledge our profoundly spiritual roots. We take note that our hearts, deep inside, are playing a sublimely Divine chord.

If we only pause to hear it.

A spirituality-filled Holiday season has guided us to the threshold of a wonderful new year. We need to take the inspiration with us.

In fact, G-d helps us to preserve its echo for the year ahead. It’s resonating within you.

Every morning, take a moment and listen. 



Going the Next Step

Does it feel like Rosh Hashana was ages ago?

Think again. Rosh Hashana – in a sense - continues. And the “Rosh Hashana Journey” is so central to our spiritual health, that we need a smooth transition forward, allowing us to feel its power in the year ahead.

You see, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur aren’t just independent holidays; they are part of a spiritual continuum:

During the High Holidays, we reach deeply into our psyches to explore our principles and values. What do I stand for? Am I mindful of my responsibilities to the world around me? Do I properly appreciate my relationship with G-d, my loving Creator?

At the close of Yom Kippur, we lock in (Neilah, the name of the closing prayer, actually means “to lock”) a deeper, more profound sense of connectedness with G-d and with life itself.

So we spend much of the High Holidays in a spiritual cocoon – in our minds and in the synagogue – focused on contemplation and internal growth.

But the High Holidays’ internal dynamics must then find their way into our “external” behavior; our internal commitment to values should show itself in a life lived meaningfully.

So, after Yom Kippur, we venture back into “real life” – eating, drinking, socializing, etc. But, because we’ve had our High Holiday experience, things are a bit different. Beginning Sunday evening, we will transition into the  Sukkah (the temporary hut in which we celebrate over the Sukkot Holiday), which Chassidism describes as “G-d’s hug.”

Think of it this way: Life in the Sukkah is an external expression of the Divine intimacy we felt during Neilah. We’re able to live “real life” – eating, drinking, etc.  – within “G-d’s embrace”.  

So Rosh Hashana’s peak is on Yom Kippur, and the power of both is manifested in the Sukkot experience.

So, stop into a Sukkah next week (ours is open), and bring your High Holidays to life. 


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