DAY 451: Hakafot, Yizkor, and Anxiety

September 24, 2013
By bethmordecai
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DAY 451: Hakafot, Yizkor, and Anxiety

Dear Hevreh,

As I sit at my desk trying to think about how to describe our upcoming celebrations of the holidays of Sh’mini Atzeret and Simhat Torah, I’m struck by a particular thought. Judaism is a religion that thrives on anxiety. Now bear with me, for a moment — we just celebrated the High Holidays which is a period of serious reflection as we consider the aspects of our character that we’d like to work on for the following year. Yet Rosh Hashanah is supposed to be a joyous holiday, and Yom Kippur is considered to be a Shabbat Shabbaton, the greatest of all Sabbaths, and no one would mistake Shabbat for a sad occassion. The juxtaposition of the solemnity of reflection and the joy of celebration embedded within these holidays can be a recipe for serious emotional anxiety, where we don’t know if we’re meant to feel sober and contemplative or happy and carefree.

Now, even if this juxtaposition was not clearly seen during the High Holidays, it is made abundantly clear with the holidays of Sh’mini Atzeret and Simhat Torah especially this year when we will follow the Israeli custom of celebrating them in the same service! We will dance joyously with the Torahs (Hakafot) and give everyone who is interested an aliyah to the Torah; then we will recite Yizkor to remember our loved ones (less than two weeks after reciting it on Yom Kippur); and finally we will pray for life-giving rain to symbolize our anxiety for needing to rely on the forces of nature for sustenance.

All of these different experiences, all of these different emotions, we will have to process at the same time. And perhaps that’s the point — life is necessarily anxious because most of the time we are neither simply happy or sad, care-free or contemplative. Most of the time we live with tensions like these on a daily basis, and perhaps Judaism is teaching us that there is a lot of meaning to be found in understanding and experiencing that anxiety in our ritual. But don’t take my word for it, come check out our service on Thursday morning at 9:30 am and see for yourself!

Hag Sameah,

Rabbi Ari Saks

P.S. And if you can’t make the service on Thursday morning (or if you just want to spend some time dancing with the Torahs), check out our Rabbi’s Tisch event on Thursday night at 6:30 pm. It will be great fun for families of ALL ages (including young kids)!

Homepages: Rabbi, Holidays

Categories: Rabbi’s Journal, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sh’mini Atzeret, Simhat Torah

Category : Holidays Rabbi Rabbi's Journal Rosh Hashanah Sh'mini Atzeret Simhat Torah Yom Kippur
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