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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sukkot Thoughts... building a sukkah


Join us for a Sukkot Hike this Saturday at 10 am - 12 noon on Flagstaff Mountain. Co-led by Reb Tirzah Firestone and Rabbi Jamie Korngold.

Sukkot is a great holiday with one major flaw. Timing.

The minute Yom Kippur is over we are literally supposed to grab hammer and nails and start building a sukkah. The moment Yom Kippur is over, all I want to do is go to sleep for about a week, preferably in a very comfortable bed.

Now for those of you who have already built your sukkah and are enjoying dinners under the full moon, I applaud you. Feel free to skip to the end.

For the rest, perhaps one of the following rings true?

* I am too busy to build a sukkah

* A pre-fab sukkah costs how much?

* Why would I own a hammer and nails?

Fortunately, there are many magnificent ways to celebrate Sukkot without a sukkah.

The main intentions of the holiday are to:

1. Reunite us with the ancient Israelites wilderness experience

2. Remind us of our agrarian roots.

During the week of Sukkot, try to do an outdoor activity each day and consciously link it to Sukkot.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Take a Sukkot hike. (I`m leading one this Saturday)

2. Ready your garden for winter

3. Invite a friend to an autumn picnic at a local park.

4. Light Shabbat candles on your porch.

5. Visit a pumpkin farm.

6. Go camping.

7. Snuggle up under the covers with my book, God in the Wilderness, which is full of Jewish lessons we can learn from nature.
Wishing you and yours a joyous Sukkot.

See you on the trail,


Third Step of Repentance

On our Rosh Hashanah retreat, I was asked how to prepare for the third step of repentance.

The steps are:

1) Acknowledge the sin and apologize.

2) Repair the damage or compensate the victim.

3) Don't repeat the offense in the same or similar situation.

Rabbi Tellushkin offers some advice to help us retrain ourselves. Based on the medieval Gates of Repentance (1:35) he writes, whatever faculty you used to sin, use it now to do good.

For example, "If your tongue lied, be exceeding careful to be truthful and use your mouth to speak words of loving-kindness. If you used your brain to deceive others, apply it now to find ways to help others." (You Shall Be Holy, p. 169)

See you on the trail!


Rosh Hashanah Thoughts


Perhaps, like me, you struggle with the concept of Kol Nidre. What's this business about annulment of vows?

Admittedly, the ancient words and the plaintive chant speak to us an a deeply spiritual level. Jews who never go to synagogue any other time of the year, flock to the Kol Nidre service on Yom Kippur.

Together as a community, we stand shoulder to shoulder and listen to the haunting sounds of the cello or viola, then the solemn chant of the cantor, and then we read the words:

"All solemn vows, all promises..."

But what do the words mean?

Let me share with you a teaching that I learned from my colleague Reb Nadya Gross, that she learned from her teacher, Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi.

Reb Nadya and Reb Zalman invite us to look at the nederim (the vows) as those commitments we have made unconsciously during our lives. Things we are holding onto that no longer serve us, but rather constrain us. These are the vows from which we seek release.

So for example, an older woman came to see me last month. She was having a terrible time sleeping. She said she woke up in the middle of the night so angry that she just could not sleep. Drawing on Reb Nadya`s teaching I offered, "Perhaps you have made a commitment to yourself not to let go of your anger." "No," she corrected me, "I have made a commitment to be nice to everyone and get along with everyone so I am holding onto my rage."

During this time of introspection leading up to the High Holidays, I invite you to have a look inside yourself and ask:

* What vows and commitments have
* I unconsciously or consciously made
from which it is time to seek release?

On behalf of the Adventure Rabbi Leadership Council and my family, Jeff, Sadie and Ori, I wish you and yours a meaning-filled and inspirational Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

See you on the trail,

Rabbi Jamie Korngold

Adventure Rabbi