First, I want to apologize for not responding to the various comments of late. As you can imagine, this time of year is an especially busy one for me. Preparing the myriad of derashosh, arranging for shofar for those who are unable to make it to shul, answering questions (although a three day Yom Tov is not that uncommon, it seems that many still require refresher courses as to what one is permitted to do in preparation for Shabbos), etc., etc. I hope to respond to some of the comments when I have a chance.
Second, I wanted to address something that was raised a while back, regarding ritual. The question was essentially, what meaning or purpose does an Orthoprax person find in Jewish ritual? For me at least, this time of year is illustrative of what I find meaningful. I love the various simanim, the apple and/or the bread in the honey, the various fruits and vegetables that many eat to symbolize a good year. The childlike enjoyment that we take from these things is thrilling. Sure, I don’t think that eating or foregoing these will truly affect my year, but so what – everyone sitting around waiting for the next item, relishing in the tastes is fun. The new fruit. Every year we try to eat something that we have never had before. Not for halakhic reasons but because it is truly new. When we make the Shechiyanu, we feel renewed but symbolically and materialistically. The shofar. It is our one attempt at including musical instruments in our services. The solemnity of the moment when are all standing, standing quietly, listening intently to hear the notes of the shofar is an amazing moment. The collective relief when the last shofar blast is sounded and everyone can relax a bit, we are released from the moment.
Tashlich, the act of throwing away our baggage, while simplistic is an important lesson is personal growth – to move on sometimes we have to let go. I especially enjoy my children’s reactions to these rituals. They really like them, they can relate to them in a way that others such as prayer and the like are harder to access. Everyone understands sweet foods make for a sweet year or, similarly new fruits are symbolic of newness, and, what a “new” year means. Who wouldn’t want to throw away their sins and start with a new slate (although there are other reasons for tashlich the most common reason is a purification process). Putting a talis or shaking a luluv are harder to related to. That is not to say easy access is the sole value of a ritual, indeed, too easy and one risks boredom and becoming clichéd. These rituals appear to strike a nice balance.
Additionally, I appreciate that during this time of introspection, we focus not only on methods of improving oneself spiritually, but there is an emphasis on interpersonal relationships. For me, that is especially meaningful. We don’t abandon our fellow-man to attain higher spiritual bliss, but instead, improving, fixing, reconciling with others is the mantra of these days. A very universalistic approach.
As I need to return to my regularly scheduled duties, I will sign off for now – to all, a happy and healthy New Year and enjoy those rituals.
chained jew on PURIM and What Comes Afte… Shira on PURIM and What Comes Afte… Chay Nobody on PURIM and What Comes Afte… Rabban Gamliel on My Yom Kippur Speech Only a Jew on My Yom Kippur Speech