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Rabbi Aviva Fellman – Oceanside Jewish Center – Kol Nidrei 5774
Posted on September 15, 2013
Rabbi Aviva Fellman
Oceanside Jewish Center
Kol Nidrei 5774
Last night I had a mini meltdown. I am sure that many of you can commiserate. It was 8:30 pm. Both kids were wide awake and demanding my immediate and constant attention, Ari had not yet gotten home from work, my dinner was getting cold in the microwave, my phone was beeping on 1% battery, the sink was full of dishes, and the house was a mess. Between holding two kids and two bottles and anticipating all of the work left to do before tonight I kept thinking- if only there were a few more days until Yom Kippur and if only there were a few more hours in the day.
We often wish that we could control time. Phrases such as “oh my, where did the time go?” or “The holidays came so early this year!” and “are we there yet?” or “is it time to go?” come out of our mouths often.
We chronically try to rush time. We drive through yellow or newly red lights so as to not have to wait an extra two minutes. And we push the elevator buttons repeatedly hoping that it will make the elevator come a bit faster. The author Theodore Geisel, known to most of us as Dr. Seuss, asked: “How did it get so late so soon?”
We also try to slow time down. We tell others with small children not to blink because they grow up too fast. And we long for more time with those we love.
The mere notion that Rosh Hashana would fall on any other day of the year, but the first of the month of Tishrei is ludicrous. It is always on the same day of the same month. Just this week I heard someone say, “September 11th came so early this year.” For some reason, that seems so much more foreign to our ears than when we hear and say, “The Holidays are so early.”
We spend our time, killing time, making time, buying time, doing time, keeping time, losing time, finding time and wasting time.
In his book The Sabbath, Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote of how Judaism is a religion of time, not space or location. What makes Shabbat special and holy is the time that we designate for it, not the physical space in which it is observed. Jewish ritual through most of its observances–the Shabbat, the New Moon, the festivals, the Sabbatical and the Jubilee year–depends on a certain hour of the day or season of the year. There are no two hours alike. Every hour is unique and we only get each moment once.
But how can we remember to take time to make time special? How do we sanctify time?
On Rosh Hashana, we celebrate the day the world was created, Hayom Harat Olam. In the Torah, the word Kadosh, holy, first appears at the end of the story of creation. “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.” When history began, there was only one holiness, the holiness of time.
Holy, Kadosh. We recite the kiddush, from the same root as kadosh. Throughout the Jewish calendar, we sanctify time as we observe shabbat and the other holidays. We recite the Kaddish, from that same root, as we are sanctifying God’s role in our lives. And when we get married under the Chuppah, the wedding canopy, we celebrate Kiddushin, the sanctification of a new union, beginning a new time in the couples’ lives.
Even we, as a people, as a nation, are told to be Holy. A Mount Sinai, as the word of God was about to be voiced, a call for holiness in man was proclaimed: “Thou shalt be unto me a holy people.” (Exodus 19:6) Only after the people had succumbed to the temptation of worshipping a thing, a golden calf, that God ordered the building of a Tabernacle, to represent holiness of space. The sanctity of time came first, the sanctity of man came second, and the sanctity of space last.
Today, we take the time to sanctify our time and space. We are here together in synagogue to worship, reflect, introspect, repent, and praise. Today is both Shabbat and Yom Kippur, the Sabbath of Sabbaths.
The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space- of schedules, e-mails, office desks, carpools…we are always rushing from place to place. On the Sabbath, on Shabbat, we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation, from the world of creation to the creation of the world.
Tomorrow, in the Dorot service, we will be reciting a contemporary version of the Al Cheyt, the admission of sins that we have committed. In the Fellman home, despite our best efforts to have unplugged dinners, where we put the phones aside, there are plenty of other times when they still consume our lives. For the sin of neglecting conversation with my family, I repent.
So Hineni, here I am, this time, this Yom Kippur, this shabbat, before my community and before of God to confess my sins.
During the week, I spend way too much time on Facebook.
Now mind you, I am not saying that Facebook is the sin, just the things that I find myself neglecting because of the amount of time that I spend on it is. This is time that I could spend making me a more informed Rabbi by reading a newspaper or studying Jewish texts. This is time that I could spend switching a load of laundry or emptying the dishwasher. This is time that I could spend on the phone checking in with or wishing shabbat shalom to any of you. This is time that I could spend with my children, playing or singing songs.
There it is, I confessed; Too much time on Facebook.
I think that My “need” to be connected is one reason that I cherish the sacred time of Shabbat so much. For 25 hours, our family shuts off electronics and goes offline. For 25 hours, we are present for each other. We come here to shul, we take walks, we read books and sing songs, we host (and are also occasionally hosted) for relaxed meals, and sometimes we also get to nap. It makes the time of Shabbat sacred and something that I look forward to all week.
This week I came across an article from the NYTimes parenting blog (yes via facebook) that stressed the importance of recognizing the sacred and making the time for spiritual and prayerful growth and experience. Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, wrote about parenting as a Spiritual Practice;
When I was a rabbinical student and then a new rabbi, I wrote and spoke often about the importance of regular spiritual practice. Fixed discipline, I said, could hold you in your attempts to connect with the sacred.
Then I became a mother, and my prayer life tanked. The liturgy just wasn’t the same solace it used to be, and I couldn’t figure out how to force myself back into the old practice. I felt like a failure, a fraud with a dirty secret: the rabbi who couldn’t figure out how to pray.
Now, as a parent, I find plenty of space for prayer. Sometimes my practice is traditional: singing with my children, saying words of liturgy to them and to God, as well as prayer in the conventional sense.
But just as often, my prayer — offered up with intentionality to the divine — involves deep contemplation of my 1-year-old’s ear. Radical amazement, if you will, or a hallelujah. Sometimes it can be found in just being present with my children, in snuggles or smiles or games or fielding questions from my older son. Sometimes I manifest it in a tiny cry — “help!” — barely perceptible even to me, when my kids’ needs are too big and overwhelming, or even just when they are being normally rambunctious despite the fact that Mommy didn’t sleep so well last night.
I think that Rabbi Ruttenberg is spot on. What we experience and who we are can affect our connection to the sacred. It can affect how we relate to time. I think about my melt-down last night, and quite a few other nights too. It was 8:30 and both kids were awake. I was disappointed when I realized that I had missed minyan. It has been way too long since I was really able to pray during services, or even get to services on time, or was able to don my Tallit and Tefillin for a whole service. But maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. Maybe I should be proud. Proud that we managed to get out of the house at all, proud that both kids had pants AND socks on, and proud that we made it to minyan, even if it was 10 minutes late…
Rabbi Ruttenberg continues with a message of encouragement;
There is enough room in our spiritual expressions not only for all of the love we feel for our families, but also for the hectic, distracted chaos that so often defines parenting small children — if we are willing to expand our understanding of what religious expression is, and can be.
Likewise, if we expand our idea of time, we can create, sanctify, and cherish the sacred periods in our lives. Last night I didn’t really want more hours in the day- those hours might have been sucked up by my wide awake children or wasted on Facebook. If the holidays had come later, it would have just meant that I would have been even busier, more stressed, and had more time to procrastinate.
When a woman is pregnant, we wish her “B’shaah Tova”- a blessing that the baby come at the right time, whenever that is. We can appreciate both the certainty and uncertainty of time. We can sanctify periods of time in our lives. For this Yom Kippur, for the next 25 hours, try to unplug- at least during services. Leave your cell phone in the car. Sign off of e-mail and Facebook. Shut the door of the laundry area and don’t peek. Turn the ringer off on the home phone. Instead, spend the time with your family, friends, and community. Come to services and work on your relationship with God. Introduce yourself and start a conversation with a new face or an old one. Read. Sing. Take a walk and a nap. Try not to think about how much time until the fast is over but rather enjoy the present. Take the time to reflect on this past year, to envision the coming year and to live in the present. Use this time to reconnect with ourselves and others. Make this Sabbath of Sabbaths, and every Shabbat day, Zman Kadosh, holy sacred time.
Shana Tova and G’mar Chatima Tova. May we all have a great New Year and may we be inscribed in the Book of Life.