- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On September 23, 2016
- 0 Comments
Welcome again to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat.
To be able to express gratitude is a prayer in and of itself. As the Talmud teaches, “Words from the heart enter the heart.” (Berachot 6b) Appreciation is awareness of the riches of our lives, which most often have no monetary value but are precious nonetheless.
In this week’s Torah portion, a specific ritual is delineated which involved bringing the first fruits of the land as a sacred offering. The Torah provides the language that is to be said. It is an acknowledgement that this offering came from the land that the Israelites would settle. By presenting it before the ancient priests, they would be aware of their appreciation for what the land could produce. Then, they would retell the story of their journey from slavery in Egypt to deliverance into the land flowing with milk and honey (Deuteronomy 26). These words are also what we read in the Passover Haggadah each year as we retell our sacred story as if we personally went forth from Egypt.
Our ancestors embedded gratitude into their rituals. Perhaps it made them appreciate what they had even more. Such is the power of ritual that it summons a special kind of spiritual awareness.
We are about to embark on the magnificence of the High Holy Day season. The practice of Shabbat, of a sacred time of rest and reflection, leads us this Saturday night into the entryway of the holidays through the portal of Selichot, the special (near) midnight service. We come forward with an offering not of the first fruits but of ourselves on the altar of self -examination and contemplation. In the candlelit atrium of our synagogue, filled with the glow of flickering flames, we will acknowledge our humanity and fallibility as we seek forgiveness and remedy for our transgressions.
We are part of a glorious tradition of ritual and recognition, of appreciation and awareness. With Shabbat and Selichot upon us and Rosh Hashanah next week, we celebrate the ritual richness Judaism provides to all of us.
May you and your family enter the New Year showered in blessings.
Come celebrate Shabbat together and join us for Qabbalat Shabbat with plenty of singing, learning, praying and thinking. Information for the Selichot program and service is here.
Please feel free to connect with me here. I would be honored to learn of your own reflections and response. I’m grateful to the many people who have already shared their thoughts with me in this way.