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Rabbi Mendy Herson's Blog

Thoughts from, and conversations with, Rabbi Herson

Something to Celebrate

Several years ago, I spoke with a local friend as we were walking out of Yom Kippur services. Since he had expressed reluctance about attending services, I asked him how the day had gone.
He looked at me tentatively and asked "Am I allowed to say I enjoyed it?"
I can see why some people think of the High Holidays as tedious or even glum.
Spending hours in synagogue is only the beginning.
The days' theme focuses on acknowledging our responsibility to G-d and each other; there’s also an impossible-to-miss emphasis on "atonement", which entails a process of identifying and facing our mistakes.

How uplifting can all that be?

It’s interesting that Chabad tradition describes a joyous enthusiasm that needs to permeate this time of year, up to and including these self-reflective, internally-scrutinous, High Holiday experiences.

Because we matter to G-d. And our relationships, our personal relationships with G-d and the relationships between us human beings, are all important.

Judaism tells us that our actions, each and every behavioral choice throughout the day, are very precious to G-d.

They matter. Because WE matter.

Our daily thoughts, words and actions rank so high on G-d’s “priority scale” that they are, to use the Rebbe’s expression, “Higher, Higher, and even Higher, to the extent that nothing else is Higher.”

Think about it in terms of a parent’s connection to a child. When something is striking at the heart of their relationship, nothing is more important. Nothing.

That helps us appreciate how nothing is more important to G-d than you and your life.

Every move, every moment, is critically important; because every move and every moment speaks to the core of our special relationship.

So this time of year presents an exciting opportunity. It’s a time to re-visit and strengthen our unbreakable, intimate connection with the Divine.

And if it hurts to see that the relationship is in need of some repair, so what?

Isn’t fixing and strengthening a cherished relationship something to celebrate?

What a Smile...

Do you smile?

There are different types of smiles.

There's the raised-corners-of-the-mouth social smile, which is basically the deliberate flexing of facial muscles to telegraph polite positivity.

But there’s also the genuine, full-faced smile; the one that’s clearly proclaiming “welcome, I’m making room for you in my life.” That smile is larger than the simple movement of facial muscles and cordial interactions. That smile is a gesture that transcends simple facial expressions; it’s about offering yourself to another. A real smile means you’ve removed some of the walls between you and the world, that some ‘inner you’ is connecting with an ‘other.’

When you're on the phone, can you sometimes tell that the other person is smiling, even though you can’t see their face? When someone is genuinely smiling, his voice has a lilt of giving and openness, a flow of bonding, an embracing spirit that goes way beyond facial expressions.

Polite smiles don’t express that kind of depth, because they aren’t that deep. They don't come across the phone.

The Torah describes G-d as blessing us by '"shining His face" upon us, as though G-d is giving us a glowing, full-faced smile.  

There’s a friendly face, and then there’s a glowing face. There’s a smile, and then there’s a full-bodied smile. The difference may be difficult to describe, even intangible, but it's huge.

You know it when it happens.

This Jewish month of Elul, the lead-up to Rosh Hashana, is a time when we’re told that G-d is giving us a full-faced smile, an open welcome into a caring relationship.

How do you respond to an open smile?

Smile back.

Care enough to give someone a genuine smile today. Find the faith and connection to give G-d a genuine smile today.

Get into the Rosh Hashana rhythm. 

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