Thursday, September 10, 2009

Counting Down to Rosh Hashanah

Just one week until the new year begins. But rather than watching a ball drop as we do at the time of the secular new year, before Rosh Hashanah, we like to toss some balls in the air. We toss around ideas and instructional passages and in the end, we try to see where they land and make sense of all of life's movable parts.

One way we do this is by studying passages from our tradition during this month of Elul. At services last week we focused on Maimonides' Hilchot De'ot, the Laws of Character Development. This week we'll look specifically of what Maimonides and others have felt are the greatest impediment to Teshuvah (return/repentance).

For the coming week, I recommend Rabbi Judith Abrams' collection of texts organized by theme. These take us on a daily journey from physical preparation, to emotional, intellectual and finally spiritual. It's sort of a "four worlds" approach based on Kabbalah and very similar to the way many look at the development of the morning prayers - from physically waking up, to the awakening of the emotions, the mind and, once all other preparations are complete, the spirit.

One quote she assigns to this coming week is:

Raba said, When one is led in for Judgment he is asked,

1. Did you deal faithfully [i.e., with integrity]?
2. Did you fix times for learning?
3. Did you engage in procreation?
4. Did you hope for salvation?
5. Did you engage in the dialectics of wisdom?
6. Did you understand one thing from another?(B. Shabbat 30b-31a)

This passage is a reminder that we need to plan our time wisely and prioritize our personal goals for the upcoming year.

Also, has some excellent material on Teshuvah. Check out these brief essays:

Completing Repentance
Severe Decree
Factors in Repentance
Types of Forgiveness
Attitudes Towards Repentance

L'shanah Tova!

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