DAY 787: From Bonfires to Emails

August 26, 2014
By bethmordecai
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DAY 787: From Bonfires to Emails

Dear Hevreh,

It’s amazing what a few phone calls and emails can do. Last Friday morning, I emailed and called some members of our community to let them know about a special minhah service we were having before our regular Friday night service so that one of our members could recite Kaddish on the day of his father’s yahrtzeit. It just took a few emails and phone calls and before you know it…we had a full house in our chapel at 7:45 pm! It’s incredible how technology can make it so much easier to get in contact with people and how we can rally people together in such a short period of time.

The type of fast communication we take for granted today is certainly a modern innovation. But it’s not like the ancients did not think of creative ways when they needed to quickly spread the word in a day’s time.

Today we celebrate Rosh Hodesh Elul, arguably the holiest month of the Jewish year. In ancient times, the only way for people to know the correct beginning of the month was through the announcement of the month by the Sanhedrin (Jewish Tribunal) in Jerusalem. They would interrogate witnesses who claimed they saw the New Moon and once their testimony was accepted, the Sanhedrin would send out messengers to announce to the people that Rosh Hodesh had arrived. Yet the ancients only had a day or so to spread the word — if not, the Jewish calendar for that month would be messed up. So how did they spread the word quickly? Through lighting bonfires at the top of mountains! When one community saw a bonfire, they not only knew that it was the beginning of the month but they would pass on the message by lighting their own bonfire until news of the new month spread throughout the Jewish world.

Whether it’s through bonfires, emails, phone calls, texts, Facebook posts, tweets, or even word of mouth(!), we know that despite some of our best attempts we only have a short amount of time to get out the word. So when we are in moments like that, such as right now with Shabbat by the Sea THIS Friday at 6:30 pm or Sunday September 7th’s Israeli-Palestinian Speakers Event called “Painful Hope” (at 2:30), don’t let the lack of lead-in time worry you. If the ancients can do it so can we.

Let’s light our bonfires.

Kol Tuv,

Rabbi Ari Saks

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Category : Holidays Rabbi Rabbi's Journal
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