Sunday, September 19, 2004

Rosh Hashannah Reflections

Musings #69
September 19, 2004
The 4th of Tishrei, Tzom Gedalia

Rosh Hashannah Reflections

Using all our senses…
V’karev pizurainu mebain hagoyim… And (G-d,) gather our scattered remnants from (Exile) the nations…” This is one of the lines that’s repeated a number of times in the Rosh Hashannah prayers. To paraphrase and interpret, we are commanding G-d to return Jews, scattered all over the world, Home from the galut, exile. This Rosh Hashannah, as I heard and sang those familiar words, it hit me how easy it is to sense the progress of the return.

Let’s start with the sense of hearing. Just listening to the various accents leading the dovening, Birkat Kohanim and making the brachot during the Torah reading in our little shul, it was clear that in Shiloh we have immigrants from North America, North Africa, Europe and further. Smell and taste are sensed from the foods cooked and served for the holidays, and everyday. There was lots more than gefilte fish coming out of the local kitchens here. Culinary delicacies from Yemen, Morocco, Russia, France, New Zealand and more vied with modern Israeli specialties. Seeing all of my neighbors of various colors and features is an easy way of remembering that Shiloh is a magnet for “pizurainu,” “our scattered remnants.” And as for touch, it’s real, not an illusion; as my friends and greeted each other, we could feel the moshiach getting closer.

You and Us
This year, while I was dovening, I found myself noticing something in the language of the prayers. We pray directly to G-d, using the second person, as if we’re talking directly to a friend. It’s unlike many languages that dictate that when speaking to someone distinguished, one speaks in third person. This has me confused, as it is considered proper nowadays to use third person when speaking to a rabbi. I wonder when this third person to a rabbi talk began. It doesn’t seem Jewish. If we can speak directly to G-d, then we should speak directly to other men, even distinguished rabbis.

Judaism is klal, community. We doven in the plural linguistically and literally, as we’re supposed to doven in a minyon. In our prayers we ask G-d to help us, in the plural, not singular. The focus of Rosh Hashannah prayers is the People, the Nation, not the individual. We beseech Elokeinu, Avinu, Malkeinu, Our G-d, Our Father, Our King.

“Zachrainu l’chaim, Melech chafaitz b’chaim..” “Remember us for life, the King who desires life.” During the Ten Days of Repentance, from Rosh Hashannah to Yom Kippur, we add extra requests to the “Amidah—Shmoneh Esreh,” the “Prayer of the Eighteen Blessings” said three times a day on weekdays and a fourth on Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh and holidays. As the prayer opens we ask for Zachrainu l’chaim from the “Melech chafaitz b’chaim” Remember to give us, as a People, life, because You, G-d, are a King who desires life.

Towards the end of the prayer we add a strong request that summarizes the theme of the season, the theme of all of our Yomim Nora’im, Days of Awe prayers:
B’Sefer Chaim, In The Book of Life, bracha v’shalom, blessing and peace, u’parnasah tovah, and good livelihood, n’zachair, v’n’kataiv l’fanecha, may we be remembered and inscribed before/by you, Anachnu v’chal Amcha Beit Yisrael, We, All of Us, All of Your People, Family of Israel, l’chaim tovim, ul’shalom, for a good life and for peace.

We are praying not for ourselves, not for our private, personal desires, not even just for our family and close friends. We are praying for all of G-d’s people, all of the Jewish people. All are included in our prayers, even if they themselves aren’t praying. Anachnu amcha, we are your people G-d, and our prayers are joint prayers as a family, Beit Yisrael. L’chaim tovim, in Hebrew the word “chaim,” life is in the plural. Life is complicated and consists of many different aspects; they should all be good. Ul’shalom, peace, the true peace, not a false, artificial one, that isn’t peace at all.

For all this we pray directly to G-d.

Batya Medad, Shiloh

No comments: