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Confession is the hardest act in the moral life, because humans have an infinite capacity for self-justification and self-deception. Only the knowledge that G-d loves, forgives and never gives up on us makes it possible…. One Friday afternoon the celebrated Heschel of Cracow….
על מצוות עשה,ועל מצוות לא תעשה
Mitzvah by Mitzvah Buddy (p. 76)
Too many Jews are hung up on all-or-nothing Jewish practice. But this is wrong. It is time to value each mitzvah independently… On this day when each of us is judged before G-d, what should our thoughts be? How shall we resolve to improve our lives and lifestyles, which after all is the essence of Teshuva?
עַד יום מותו תְּחַכֶּה לּו
Just one Turn (p. 158)
Throughout our lifetime G-d waits for us to turn to Him. No moment is too late. G-d is here, in this place, at this moment, and all we have to do for Him to turn to us, is to turn to Him. A charming Chassidic story illustrates how quick this turn can be.
לבי חרד עבודתך
At Boiling Point (p. 160)
Now, at what temperature does water boil? 212 degrees. But is 212 degrees really necessary? Wouldn’t water boil if subjected long enough to a temperature of 211 degrees? G-d wants people whose energy for goodness and kindness are always at the boiling point — the point where things get done. A Jewish business leader and presidential adviser, tells a story that that illuminates this idea.
Man is The Astronomer (pp.164-167)
“Say of G-d”, is a long poem on the theme of G-d, the Creator and the majesty of His creation. Pondering their vastness, an astronomer and a philosopher fell into conversation…
שִׂמְחָה לְאַרְצָךְ. ושָׂשׂון לְעִירָךְ
Israel’s Hope Reborn (p.173)
“שִׂמְחָה לְאַרְצָךְ. ושָׂשׂון לְעִירָךְ”—“May G-d grant joy to the Land of Israel.” We ask G-d that Israel may be granted joy and dignity, security and peace. This year, we gather to celebrate Yom Kippur with more anxiety than we’ve had for a long time. I don’t have to tell you what a difficult summer this has been for the Jewish people. Hamas set off a terror-war against Israel, firing thousands of rockets at Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities…
Today is the holiest day of the year. The question that poses itself for us in the face of all these challenges is, from where shall hope come? As always, we turn to the Torah to find guidance and inspiration…The summer of 5774 ended on a note of anxiety, but the New Year 5775 must begin on a note of hope. For we are reminded by Isaiah: הָאֹמֵר לִירוּשָׁלִַם תּוּשָׁב וּלְעָרֵי יְהוּדָה תִּבָּנֶינָה! G-d will stand with Israel and G-d will bless its inhabitants!...
Do Not Be Afraid (p.196)
For forty days before Yom Kippur and for ten days afterward, we add a psalm to our daily prayers every morning and afternoon. It begins: G -d is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? G-d is the source of my strength; of what shall I be afraid?” The psalmist goes on to tell us three times in the first three lines that he's not afraid. The message we hear is that he has good reason to be afraid, but he is working to overcome his fears and so he turns to G-d to help him do that…But how?
י"ג מידות הרחמים
A History: Thirteen Attributes of Mercy (p.198)
One of the most powerful Jewish prayers is also one of the shortest. Known as the “Thirteen Attributes of G-d’s Mercy,” it is at the heart of our prayers on Yom Kippur. Here is the fascinating history behind this prayer…
Four Books, Four Lessons
The ancient Yom Kippur service at the Temple in Jerusalem was exceptional. On that holiest day, the holiest person, the High Priest, would enter the holiest place, the Holy of Holies, and atone for the sins of the Jewish people. It was a supremely moving moment, an entire nation together confronting its faults, confessing its sins, and turning to G-d for forgiveness and blessing. The nation focused on the service of one man, the Kohen Gadol, who prayed and confessed on everyone’s behalf.
How did the High Priest prepare for such a tremendous responsibility?...
וּפָשַׁט בְּבִגְדֵי לָבָן
A New Year, a New Person (p.255)
Today we ask G-d to help us find a fresh start so that we can be different this year. Let us seek out that which is hidden and wonderful, that was invisible to us before. Let us cherish and revel in the energy that new discoveries in familiar places bring to our lives. In doing so, let us re-awaken our spirits, bringing renewal to ourselves and to the world…