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“The Mirror” Rabbi Zecher’s Shabbat Awakenings

September 30, 2022 | 5 Tishrei 5783

Welcome again to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat and Yom Kippur. You can listen to it as a podcast here.

These High Holy days help to redefine who, what, and how we really are. Shabbat is like this, too.

During the week and throughout the rest of the year, our professions, our associations, our neighborhood, and even our age may define us. Our emotions run rampant from stress, lack of sleep, and overwhelming responsibilities. Relationships, too, challenge us even as they nourish us.

And then Shabbat arrives as do these Days of Awe and we gaze into the mirror. Unlike the image of the mythological Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection and could not differentiate himself from what he saw, we know we don’t really look like what we see in the mirror. We have capacity to see into it beyond the outer layer of our own façade.

We need Shabbat and these days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to ensure that the realities that outline our lives do not come to define or exhaust the deeper meaning of our true selves. How do we do this?

This week’s Torah portion is just chapter 31 in the book of Deuteronomy. It focuses on the transition of leadership and the role of Torah as the people prepare to enter the land. Up to this point, Moses has spoken the words of the teaching. Now he writes it down so that it becomes accessible in a new way. He instructs Joshua who will take the mantle of leadership to be “strong and resolute.” These are “tools” provided to our ancestors and given to us as well.

Torah lies at the heart of Judaism. We learn how to see beyond the surface through our engagement with it. We probe, examine, and delve into its implications for the way we understand the world and our lives. We do so with strength and resolve to discover what is beneath the surface.

This is what these High Holy days ask of us. We have learned how to respond. May these days uncover and reveal our true selves and may we enter the New Year with the blessing of new discoveries.

As we join together for Shabbat and then for Yom Kippur, I wish you and your family hope, optimism, and perseverance for goodness and justice.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and reactions. Please feel free to connect with me here. I’m grateful for the many responses and comments you have sent to me.

Shabbat Shalom

  • If you are in town, come join us for Qabbalat Shabbat outdoors with plenty of singing, learning, praying, thinking, and some treats to eat and drink. If you’re unable to join onsite, please join on Zoom, on Facebook Live, or stream on our website. Let’s celebrate together.
  • Tot Rock Shabbat gathers online at 5:00 p.m.
  • A delightful Torah Study begins at 9:00 a.m. We begin with a short service and Torah reading and then jump into a provocative discussion. To join the conversation interactively, access Zoom. You can also watch on Temple Israel’s website or Facebook page.
  • Join Rabbi Dan Slipakoff and Tikkun Central for a Reverse Tashlich at 2:00 p.m. to clean up trash around the nearby Muddy River. All ages welcome! Registration required. 
  • Gather online for Havdalah at 8:00 p.m. Our weekly Havdalah ritual is a lay-led experience. Stop by, say hello, catch up from the week, and say goodbye to Shabbat together. Join on Zoom.
  • We observe Kol Nidre on Tuesday, October 4. Yom Kippur services will be held throughout the day on October 5. Please visit our High Holy Day page for a complete list of service tmes.

Rabbi Elaine Zecher