To not be a wax figurine…

 

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R’ Kalonymus Kalmish Shapira, Piaseczno Rebbe (1889 – 1943)

On the occasion of his 40th birthday, the Piaseczno Rebbe reflected on who he was and what he needed in order to improve himself. For him, this came in the form of accepting something upon himself, seemingly an additional level of rigor in his personal religious world. After listing a few of the more obvious possibilities, the Rebbe reached the following conclusion:

ומה אקבל עלי…ומה חסר לי. פשוט להיות יהודי, חסר לי. דומה אני בעיני כצורת אדם מצוירת, שהכל בה, הגוונים הצורה וכו’, רק אחת חסירה, הנשמה חסרה.

What should I accept upon myself…what am I lacking? To simply be a Jew, that is what I lack. In my eyes, it’s as though I’m the figure a person with everything present – the colors, the shape, etc. Only one thing is missing – the soul.

Mail during Elul

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Special days often receive special greetings and the Yamim Noraim are certainly no exception. The Maharil (c.1360 – 1427, Germany) felt it an imperative that letter writers include a hint that they request a good new year for the recipient. He gives several options, including: You should be inscribed and sealed for a good year or The One who holds the world on nothingness should bestow upon you a good inscription and sealing. A more commonly known extension (1) of this idea is expressed by R. Moshe Isserles (1520 – 1572, Poland). R. Isserles writes (2) that, on the opening night of Rosh HaShanah, it is appropriate to greet others with a blessing for a good new year. Continue reading

Make like a farmer and prepare!

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The opening lines of Hilchos Yamim Noraim from the Maharil includes the following idea:

The Mahari Segal expounded upon the statement of Yirmiyahu (4:3), “Plow your fields, plant not amongst thorns.” Accordingly, a person must remove the negative traits and acts from within their hearts before the day of judging, Rosh HaShanah. One should accustom themselves to this during Elul in order that it should become habit by the Eseres Yamei Teshuvah (1). He also said that the Orchos Chaim writes that for the entirety of Elul a person should sit before eating or leaving their home and be astonished with themselves. He should analyze his actions in order to repent during the coming days.

Over time, I’ve come across a number of sources ranging from verses in Tanach to commentaries on the siddur that utilize agricultural themes and imagery to convey various ideas. I find them particularly interesting as well as helpful. This quote about repentance is no exception. Continue reading

The Watchman

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With Tisha B’Av behind us, I’ve started looking ahead to the Yamim Noraim. One of the first indications of the coming of these days will be the blowing of a shofar every morning after Shacharis. The Tur notes this minhag, sourcing it in a teaching from Pirkei D’Rebbe Eliezer 46 (1), where Rosh Chodesh Elul is pinpointed as the day that Moshe returned to the top of Har Sinai in order to receive the second set of tablets. As he ascended, a shofar was blown in the camp as a warning to everyone not to stray after idolatrous notions as they had previously done. Much has been written about the timeline of these events, as well as picking apart the exact wording of the Tur here. However, I would like to focus on the next idea that the Tur writes:

לכן התקינו חז”ל שיהו תוקעין בר”ח אלול בכל שנה ושנה וכל החדש כדי להזהיר ישראל שיעשו תשובה שנאמר (עמוס ג’) אם יתקע שופר בעיר וגו’ Continue reading