In our tradition we are accustomed to seeing each festival as a separate moed (sacred time) and not connected to other festivals in any explicit way. Jewish mystics however saw the festivals as deeply interconnected mapping for us a journey from brokenness to a place of clarity and joy. The holiday
cycle we are in now that began on Tisha (9 th ) of Av, through the month of Elul, to Rosh Hashanah,Yom Kippur, Succot to the end of Shemini Atzeret is an example of a cluster of festivals that form agreater whole.
During Tisha b’Av we cry for the loss of our Temple and the destruction that followed. Our tears cleanse our souls and give us the ability to see more clearly. We can then continue our journeythrough the month of Elul where we ask for forgiveness in order to prepare ourselves for the High Holiday season.
In his likkutei Moharan— collection of wisdom teachings — Rabbi Nahman of Bratislav has a beautiful teaching that can help us journey from our brokenness to a place of clarity and joy. He teaches, kol roe’h yesh lo nigun meyuhad, every shepherd, every person, has his their own veryspecial nigun (melody) to sing in this world. Nigun here does not just refer to a wordless melody;
rather, it is a metaphor for something even deeper. Here Rabbi Nahman is describing something very beautiful and transformative.
When a person finds their special nigun to sing in the world, it refines that person. Rabbi Nahman teaches that the neshamah elohit, that aspect of our being that is in the image of God, then shines through and dwells in that person.
It is this singing of one’s unique nigun in a chorus of diverse nigunim that is paradoxically the greatest expression of ahdut, of unity. According to Rabbi Nahman, when all of us are singing our songs out loud in the world we connect with the Divine Nigun, the Divine Song and become an expression of it.
During the High Holidays through Succot and Shemini Atzeret we chant, “Adonai Adonai El Rahum v’ chanun erech apayim ve rav Chesed ve Emet, nose Chesed la alaphim, poked Avon va fesha vehata’ah ve nake.” Adonai, Adonai God who is compassionate and merciful, ever patient full of lovingkindness and truth, forgiving and pardoning transgression.
Now we may or may not believe in a God out there who is actively judging, moving things around like pawns on a chessboard but what definitely resonates for me is that by working on being compassionate, patient, forgiving, and by seeking truth instead of acting in an arrogant, unforgiving, manner we can change our way of being. By doing so we help change the world. By working to
personally embody all these divine attributes we can rewrite our stories.
This is what teshuvah and Days Of Awe are all about for it is indeed an Awe-Some moment whenever and wherever our anger is transformed into calm understanding, when jealousy is transformed into lovingkindness and when fear and hate is transformed into boundless love.
Shana Tova and Tizku L’shanim Rabot
May you all have a healthy year full of joy and deep insight.
Rabbi Cantor George Mordecai