At Simchat Torah, death and life are linked by just two beats of the heart. Our Torah reading cycle reaches its final episode, the death of Moses. A single heartbeat later, we are once again “In the beginning”, as we restart the cycle, affirming life through Bereshit, the Creation of the world.
What is the relationship between Succot and the Days of Awe? The common perception is that while Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are spiritual festivals that remind us of our mortality (“Who will live and who will die?”) Succot is a physical festival full of vitality.
To those who fully open themselves to it, Yom Kippur is a life-transforming experience. It tells us that God, who created the universe in love and forgiveness, reaches out to us in love and forgiveness, asking us to love and forgive others.
It’s the season of forgiveness, are we ready to forgive? It’s not always easy to let go of our resentment and bitterness towards those who have hurt us. Sometimes the scars are permanent. Can those who have suffered loss and injury in war and terrorism ever find it in their hearts to forgive? Should they even try?
It is not always easy to get in the mood for Rosh Hashanah. The sound of the shofar piercing the hush of the congregation may stir something deep within us: or we may be roused by a haunting melody from the choir. But the liturgy can seem long and difficult and ultimately leave us struggling to find the high in the High Holy Days.
Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue is a byword for genteel respectability, zealously guarded by its inhabitants. The kind of neighbourhood where every bush is trim and no brick out of place. So the local United Synagogue, too, you might imagine would be a bastion of conservatism, the eptiome of the decorous traditions of Minhag Anglia.
Rav Kook, the Chief Rabbi of pre-state Isarel, once wrote “If we together with the entire world were to be destroyed due to unfounded hatred, then we must reconstruct ourselves and the entire world with unfounded love”.