As is known in communities all around the world, there is a beautiful custom that Baal Shem Tov initiated of saying extra chapters of King David’s Book of Psalms, Tehillim, each day, from the beginning of the Hebrew month of Elul through Yom Kippur. Let’s take a closer look at one of today’s extra chapters:
Chapter 77 verse 4 says: “I remember G-d and I stir; I speak and my spirit becomes faint, forever”.
Rashi, the Torah’s foremost commentator, explains that the first part of the phrase : “I remember G-d” refers to The kindness that He used to do for me. And, the second part beginning: “I speak” is talking about the acts of kindness and the favors. The verse finishes with: “and my spirit becomes faint,” meaning to faint from extreme emotion.
The World is Catching Up
It’s interesting. In recent years, the world has spoken much about the concept of gratitude and how beneficial it is spiritually and even physically. On Google, there are nearly 300 million results for being grateful. Well, King David, the King of Israel, whose son King Solomon built the holy Temple in Jerusalem where it’s outer wall, the Western Wall, still stands today, already supplied us with this crucial information more than 2,000 years ago.
When we think back and remember all the good G-d has done for us, when we recall the many kindnesses He has done for us and for our ancestors, we can’t help but feel grateful.
The King Has Faith in You, So You Should Too
But, in these special days of introspection before Rosh Hashanah, when we take the time to look back on our past deeds and try to improve ourselves, we have to be careful. Yes, we must dedicate ourselves to sincere teshuva, to returning and strengthening our relationship with G-d by committing to improve ourselves and our lives, but we should not become dejected in the process. We can, and must, stay positive knowing that G-d has faith in us to be His partners in making the world a better place. And the proof is…… we are here! Like we say in the morning prayer Modeh Ani upon awakening, You G-d have returned my soul to me and have faith in me to use it in the best way possible today.
So my friends, stay strong, stay focused and make each day the best it can truly be.
Since we are now in the Hebrew month of Elul, the month before Rosh Hashanah, I’ve been talking and writing about the concept of the King is in the Field. We know that we can pray anywhere, anytime, in whatever language is comfortable for us. The basic idea of the King is in the Field is that even though G-d is always available to listen to us, He is closer than usual during this time.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains something very special in a chassidic discourse, a maamar. The first Hebrew letters of the beautiful phrase from King Solomon’s Song of Songs, Ani L’Dodi v’dodi li, I am my beloved’s and my Beloved is mine, spell out the name of the month Elul. This is not by chance, so we have to understand the connection between the two.
The Rebbe breaks down the phrase into two parts to teach us a lesson to elevate our spiritual endeavors during Elul, this unique time of year.
“I am my Beloved’s”
First we have: “I am my Beloved’s.” This refers to our spiritual service during the month of Elul. We call this an arousal from below. It refers to when we ourselves take initaitive to become closer to G-d.
In fact, we hear the blowing of the shofar each day of the month of Elul to awaken our soul, and to move us to focus on our past, so that we can better our future.
Then after Elul, Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur come along in the month of Tishrei. Now let’s look at the second part of King Solomon’s words. “My Beloved is Mine.”
Here, by contrast, the arousal begins from G-d. G‑dliness is drawn down from Above in the month of Tishrei in the days from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur. But what is actually happening here? Our relationship with G-d is so precious, that we actually can cause a closeness in our relationship with Him.
It’s not happening on it’s own. It’s a cause and effect.
What we do now to get close to G-d, causes G-d to reciprocate.
It’s Not Just What Happens in the Synagogue
The spirituality that we are infused with during the High Holidays actually comes about as a result of what we do, not only in the synagogue during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but with what we do as preparation during Elul. It means that we can get a head start right now.
Our preparations each and every day during Elul help us draw down those special feelings of attachment and closeness during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It’s not just by chance that we all feel such a deep connection during these holidays. It’s not just the familiar prayers and the beautiful singing of Avinu Malkeinu, our Father our King.
On Healthy Relationships
It is that special feeling one gets when they work on a relationship and see and feel that relationship growing and moving in a positive direction. It’s the strengthening of the bond, unlike anything else, that will continue to give us the needed spiritual nourishment throughout the year.
When we take care of our spirituality, we feel balanced and more secure. And this will undoubtedly have a direct affect on our physicality and our approach to our lives each day.
During a recent AMA (Ask Me Anything), I received a very heart-felt question.
“How can we make it feel like the High Holy days if we have to be alone during a quarantine?”
Sometimes it is nice to be alone……..to have some privacy and to use our time in any way we see fit. During these last few difficult months we have all faced, many people have had to live through incredible loneliness.
Now, a new challenge is presenting itself.
In less than a month, the high holidays will be upon us.
There is no doubt that being alone during a holiday is difficult. How can one feel joyous about beginning the new year in required isolation or without family due to travel restrictions to protect everyone’s health?
There was a beautiful story by Rabbi YY Jacobson that went around this year before Passover, when many were concerned about spending the Passover Seder alone. Each year, the Lubavitcher Rebbe and his wife had their Passover seder privately, just the two of them. The year of the Rebbetzin’s passing, the Rebbe had the seder by himself. He received an invitation from a local family to join their seder. He had ensured that tens of thousands of Jews had Passover seders at Chabad Houses all over the world. Yet, for his own reasons, he had the seder that year by himself.
“Maase Avot Siman l’Banim”
“The actions of our fathers are a sign (a lesson) for the children.” One can’t help but think that the Rebbe’s actions showed us something special and gave strength to those who would need it. If someone finds themselves in the difficult situation of being alone for a holiday, not only wil they get through it, but it can be a very meaningful and complete holiday nonetheless.
Everyone knows that the Passover seder is a participatory event. We read the Haggadah aloud together and we ask and answer the Four Questions. But interestingly, the Talmud teaches that if one is by himself at the seder, he asks and answers the questions himself. If the Talmud is telling us this, it means that even according to Jewish law, one can have a complete seder even if he finds himself alone.
With this knowledge, how can we apply it to the upcoming High Holidays?
What can one do to have a complete holiday? Here are some ideas and feel free to leave other helpful ideas in the comments.
1. 30 days before the holiday, we learn about it.
It is customary to re-learn about an upcoming holiday. This insures that we do everything necessary for the holiday, inspires us and gets us in a festive mood.
2. Biur Tefillah
Prior to the onset of the holiday, learn the deeper meaning of the prayers (in whichever language you are comfortable). Listening to recordings of the prayers and their special tunes helps too!
3. It’s All Commentary
Study the commentaries of the Torah and Haftorah portions of the holiday. Everything is available nowdays online. These can be printed out for convenience to be read on the holiday itself.
4. Get a Great Guide
Print an in-depth online holiday guide and commit to doing as much as you can.
5. Get the Cameras Rolling……
…….the video camera, that is. Before the holiday begins, have a video call with family or friends. Sing the holiday songs together and share something you learned during your pre-holiday studying. Follow it up with a video call after the holiday too.
6. Your Order Will Be Right Up!
Order a special book online to enjoy during the holidays.
7. The Way to One’s Heart is through the Stomach
Prepare or buy some of your favorite holiday foods. Although it’s not the way you anticipated spending your holiday, it can still be filled with things that bring you joy. Eating a good meal and staying hydrated will give you the much needed nutrients to feel good, sleep well and help you stay positive.
8. Get In Touch with Nature
If possible, try to go for a walk outdoors during the holiday. If this isn’t possible, sit by an open window to get some fresh air, feel the sun shining and take in the sounds from outside.
9. ‘Head’-ing in the Right Direction
Although Rosh Hashanah begins the new year, the name of the holiday itself holds within it a great teaching. “Rosh” in Hebrew means head. And, just as the head holds within it the life force and the power to control the entire body, the special holiday of Rosh Hashanah holds within it the potential to affect the entire year. And what we do with that potential depends on us. More specifically, it depends on our thoughts and our actions.
Being on our own during a holiday can be challenging and difficult.
But we can make the most of this time, by recognizing the opportunity to focus on ourselves during this holiday of great introspection. We can endeavor to make a gameplan for the year ahead. And it may help to remember that this year’s holiday(s) is just one out of hopefully many more years to come. With a little planning, you’ll be surprised how the two days will pass when filled with good things to do.
We must also keep in mind one of the important highlights of the day.
We are once again crowning God as the King of the world. The fact that we have this incredible potential reminds us of our unbreakable bond we have with God. After all, as Chassidus teaches, each and every one of us has an actual part of Godliness within us. This connection is so strong and is an essential part of who we are. And hence, we are never truly alone. Contemplating this important concept can bring great comfort, especially when we feel on our own.
Even with challenges, it can still be a meaningful holiday. I wish each of you a healthy, happy New Year, l’Shanah Tova uMetuka. We are connected to each other, and to the the many before us, through our special prayers, beautiful songs and everlasting teachings.
Easy Unforgettable Honey Chicken for Rosh Hashanah
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Prep Time 10minutes
Cook Time 40minutes
Total Time 50minutes
This delicious recipe brings me right back to my childhood dining room table. Three generations sat around a table whose length seemed to grow with each passing year. The younger generation listened intently to the wisdom of the older generation, and the grandparents kvelled (Yiddish for feeling happy & prideful) at the site of the children excitement of life and dreams of what was yet to come.I distinctly remember that during each and every holiday, I would look around the dinner table and say my own little prayer: “Please G-d, please let all whom are with us tonight around the holiday table, be with us next year too.” What an opportune time to mention my little childhood prayer, as it is on the holiday of Rosh Hashana itself, the Day of Judgement, that all is decided by the One Above. “On Rosh Hashanah it is inscribed, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed”. This awe-inspiring phrase comes from the iconic High Holiday prayer “Unesaneh Tokef” in the Machzor, the special prayer book used during the Yomim Noraim, the 10 Days from Rosh Hashana until Yom Kippur.In the synagogue, we pray that we will be judged favorably and in the kitchen, we hope the same. There is no doubt that this classic honey chicken dish will be judged favorably and will garner the highest accolades. Your prize will be the empty dinner dishes when everyone is done enjoying this holiday main course. It’s so delicious, you’ll hope there will be leftovers for a snack the next day.
1chicken(3-4 pounds cut into 8 pieces)
1/4cupextra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 375F
Rinse chicken and pat completely dry.
Line a shallow baking dish with aluminum foil or parchment paper for easy clean up.
Peel and cut carrots into quarters.
Peel and cut onion into eights.
Add them to the baking dish.
Add chicken on the vegetables.
Peel and cut garlic cloves in half.
In a large bowl, whisk together garlic cloves, extra virgin olive oil, honey, soy sauce, water, salt and pepper.
Pour honey mixture over the chicken.
Cook around 40 minutes. The inside temperature of the chicken should be 165F. Here is a great thermometer.
Halfway through cooking, baste the chicken and then continue cooking.
Optional: When the chicken is completely cooked, pour any remaining liquid into a saucepan. Reduce to thicken and pour over chicken.
When it comes to cooking chicken quarters, the recipe possiblities are endless. Come up with your own chicken recipes using seasonings that you love. And cooking the chicken with bones helps retain its moisture making it juicy and delicious. It is also less expensive than deboned chicken, making it a more frugal dinner recipe and better for those who want to budget food costs.
Everybody loves new beginnings, a chance to make a fresh start.
For sure, all new things also mean some kind of change, an element of surprise and perhaps even a bit of healthy stress at what the unknown will hold. But all in all, you are beginning the year with a white artist’s canvas and you can create any design your heart desires, your imagination inspires and your will drives you.
Here’s what you need to know to celebrate Rosh Hashana:
Step 1: When?
Rosh Hashanah this year begins on Monday night September 6 and the two day holiday ends Wednesday night September 8.
Step 2: What?
Rosh Hashana celebrates the head of the Jewish year and is also the day that Adam and Eve were created.
Step 3: No FOMO here!
Hear the blowing of the Shofar on both mornings of the holiday. Some years, Rosh Hashana begins on Shabbat, when the shofar is not blown. No need for any Fear-Of-Missing-Out because it is taught that we achieve an even higher level of holiness when Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat, even more than we achieve when blowing the shofar during a weekday.
Step 4: Light Up Your World
Women and girls have the special honor of lighting holiday candles to bring in the holiday.
Step 5: You’ve Got the Power!
You’ve got the power to bless. Both nights, we say two blessings. The first blessing is for the holiday. The second is for thanking G-d that we arrived at this point in our lives to celebrate.
*Since Rosh Hashana falls on Shabbat, we acknowledge this by adding these words in the first blessing over the candles.
Step 6: Make That Connection!
Pray your heart out! Faster than wifi, your prayer connection puts you in direct contact with The One Above. There’s no connection like it! Whether you pray in the synagogue or at home, rest assured that your prayers will be received by The World’s CEO. Although sometimes we don’t recevie the answers right away, (and sometimes not really the answers we want), no one’s prayers end up in the junk folder.
Step 7: Feast Like Royalty
Enjoy a special meal with someone special. In these challenging times, if one finds themselves without company, just know that although it is a difficult situation, you are never truly alone!
Step 8: Make it delicious and family-friendly
No need to ask, “What should I cook for Rosh Hashanah this year”. Check out rebbetzinunplugged.com for the best Rosh Hashanah recipes and menu ideas to celebrate the New Year and all the Jewish Holidays all throughout the year. Sign in and save your favorite recipes to add something special to your holiday!
Step 9: Know the Symbolic Foods for Rosh Hashanah
Enjoy the traditional Rosh Hashanah foods and the significance behind them, like round challahs, apples dipped in honey and other delicacies.
On Rosh Hashanah, we eat round challahs instead of the long challahs traditionally baked for Shabbat. We eat round challah in the fervent hope that our lives will be filled with goodness without end. Round Rosh Hashanah challah also symbolizes that we are once again crowning G-d the King of the World. And we dip juicy apples in honey in our anticipation of a sweet new year.
Step 10: Have an Truly Awesome Holiday!
The days from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur are known as The Days of Awe. Rosh Hashanah has a few names expressing various aspects of the holiday. It is know as Yom Hazicharon, the Day of Rememberance and Yom HaDin, the Day of Judgement, because during Rosh Hashanah, Jews pray that G-d will judge them favorable and remember them in the Book of Life.
Now that you’ve read this 2021 quick guide to celebrating Rosh Hashanah, if you want to know more about how you make a memorable Rosh Hashanah gathering, what to make for Rosh Hashanah dinner and what you need to know for one of the most important Jewish holidays of the year, enjoy the other articles, recipes and lessons. Shana Tovah! Wishing you a sweet new year!