Friday, September 22, 2006

Shana Tovah 5767

As we stand on the threshold of the New Year, may Hashem grant us all a year filled with blessing beyond our greatest expectations!

May it be a year of only good news, good health, peace of mind and enough money to keep us satisfied and not enough to make us crazy : )

May this be the year when Hashem unveils His ultimate purpose for the world- the coming of Moshiach!

Friday, September 15, 2006

How to know if you are ready for Rosh Hashanah

I’ve spent the last few days asking people: “Are you ready for Rosh Hashanah?” The answers have been varied and interesting.

One woman told me that she still had to attend to plenty of catering. Another person said that preparing for Yom Tov was his wife’s department. One or two people exclaimed “Oops, I forgot to tell you to book me a seat!” A particularly honest person admitted that, if it would be Pesach next week, he would be just as ill-prepared as he is for Rosh Hashanah.

Inviting guests, ordering food, organising shul seats and sending Shana Tovah cards are all integral parts of the preparation for this special time.

Even more important, is the internal preparation that we should do to ensure that we will maximise the opportunity Hashem offers us on the days that formulate the coming year.

So, how do you tell if you are spiritually ready for Rosh Hashanah?

Obviously, some extra davening, another shiur and some unplanned mitzvahs all help. But, how do you know if you’ve done enough? How can you tell if Hashem will look at you in a good light when He allocates the blessings for the New Year?

Our sages sum it up succinctly in “Pirkei Avos”: “One who is pleasing to his fellow men, is pleasing to G-d. But one who is not pleasing to his fellow men, is not pleasing to G-d.”

It’s that simple. If people like you, Hashem likes you. All the meditation, prayer and study that you do really becomes meaningful when it translates into treating people well.

As the Baal Shem Tov used to say: “Love of a fellow is the first gate leading into the palace of G-d.”

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Don't forget to get new clothes for Yom Tov!

There are only 13 shopping days left ‘till Rosh Hashanah!

That’s big news for us Jews, who all feel obliged to get new outfits in honour of the Rosh Hashanah. After all, we all want to step into the New Year in style.

If you’d like to know the truth, our annual fashion binge has a unique spiritual source. Jewish law considers it a mitzvah to buy new clothing for Yom Tov (good news for the ladies).

A little deeper than that: Jewish mysticism explains how your soul needs clothes. Just as you need to be dressed to go out and interact within society, your soul needs clothes to interface with the world.

In his magnum opus, Tanya, the Alter Rebbe (first Rebbe of Chabad) writes that the “garments” of the soul are thought, speech and action. Without these facilities, your soul is captive in an unresponsive human suit. Thinking, speaking and doing are the tools that a soul uses to affect the world.

Each Rosh Hashanah offers you an opportunity to become a new person. Not in the glib, clich├ęd sense, but in real terms. Rosh Hashanah is an opportunity to confront your personal weaknesses and internal struggles- and to beat them.

The first step in that direction is to get new clothes. You need to consider how you can upgrade the way you think, refine the way you talk and do a little more good. When you kit your soul out properly out, it feels refreshed and energized. Then you are ready to move forward in leaps and bounds.

Oh- and by the way, there’s a great sale on soul fashion at Chabad at the moment…

Wishing you a good Yom Tov and a blessed year!