Friday, September 26, 2014
From Rabbi Peter Stein
Shana tova! It is exciting to begin this new year together, with all the hopes and dreams we have to make our congregational life joyful, accessible, and inclusive. Having celebrated Rosh HaShana, we come to this Shabbat called Shabbat Shuva: the Sabbath of Return or Repentance, falling in between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur.
The Torah reading, Haazinu, is the very last portion to be read as a weekly parasha (the final chapter of the Torah, Vzot HaBracha, is only read on the holiday of Simchat Torah). Haazinu is a magnificent poem, filled with images of God as Rock, Father, and Savior. Especially during these Days of Awe, we hold onto these images as sources of strength and comfort in the new year. There is so much unknown that lies ahead…an entire year of days that have yet to be created…and this Shabbat Shuva gives us an inspiring message that we are not alone as we travel through the year.
These God images carry through into several special changes made to the language of the prayers. For several of the prayers that are said during the Shabbat service (and in the weekday liturgy as well), we change the references to God. So, for example, in the Avot vImahot, the first prayer of the Amidah, we add Zachreinu: “Remember us unto life, for You are the King who delights in life, and inscribe us in the Book of Life, that Your will may prevail.” In the Kedusha and several other later prayers of the Amidah, we change the phrase “the Holy God” to “the Almighty God.” On this Shabbat Shuva and throughout the 10 Days of Awe, we remind ourselves over and over that we are not alone and we have Source of Strength to hold onto as we make decisions and confront life.
I pray that this will be a peaceful and restful Shabbat, and the beginning of a sweet, healthy, and happy new year.
Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova!