A rabbi was walking down the street when suddenly a man runs up to him and starts to kiss and hug him and with love and excitement in his voice says, “Rabbi, Rabbi! I love you! I love you! You are the smartest, kindest man I know!” The Rabbi smiles with pleasure and reassurance of this show of affection as the stranger continues to kiss and hug him, a little. The Rabbi thanks him and says he is late for an appointment.
In March, 2012, the Haredi “Consul” Rabbi Matityahu Cheshin invited Ambassador Shapiro and his wife, Ms. Julie Fisher, for an insightful tour of the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Meah She’arim, one of the oldest Jewish communities in Jerusalem. Photo courtesy of the US Embassy, Tel Aviv
A week later the same man approaches the Rabbi with the same exuberance and can’t stop hugging and praising him with “Rabbi, Rabbi! I love you! I love you!” and while the Rabbi is grateful for the loving gestures starts to feel a bit annoyed and begs off that he must attend a luncheon. When the Rabbi sees the man the next Shabbos, he is prepared for the touchy/feely sentiment from this person but feels a discomfort and holds out his arms as the man approaches and stops the hugs. He says, “My dear man, though your kind affection is noted and dearly appreciated, I must ask you, how can you love me if you don’t know what hurts me?”
As the High Holidays are upon us, we are reminded to reflect upon ourselves and the past year of our deeds of righteousness and transgressions, our relationship to G-d and those we love and care about and how can we improve who we are in the eyes of G-d and the essence of our soul.
The essence of our soul? Who has time for that? Our days are busy with just surviving our responsibilities to family, jobs, community let alone having time for reflecting how we have acted wrongly, without truth, unlawfully or did we harm or hurt anyone, acted with scorn, injustice or malice. These are a lot of issues to contemplate and sometimes too painful to confront.
But how do we let each year go by without improving ourselves? We most likely take time to improve our surroundings, paint a room, purchase needed furniture, a new car. But where do we fit in the time and effort to bring transparency to our personal being? How important is it that we be true to ourselves on how we present ourselves to the outside world? Do we mask ourselves out of protection from our own pains? How many people do we know that when we ask, “How are you?” you know there is more to, “Oh! Just great!” Tough questions that we often tend to ignore.
Transparency of our soul to ourselves and others is telling the world what really hurts us. How many of us really can be that honest? Is it not easier to keep our most inner thoughts and fears hidden in the deepest parts of us? How easy is it to tell someone you are sorry or ask them to discuss an issue that has been bothering you all year?
And is the mask helping or hurting our personal relationships and our commitment to G-d to be the best we can be? We have one life, no do-overs, this is not a dress rehearsal! This is now, today and during the Days of Awe, a given opportunity to look into who we are, who we have been and who we want to be. We may need help in this task from someone close to us, a therapist, yoga, meditation or mindfulness training. Whatever road one journeys on to be honest and open with pain and hurt, lost dreams and visions, there is the opportunity to serendipitously travel a different and more transparent path. What could it hurt?
How fortunate we are that our Judaism gives us this opportunity to search our souls.
Part of our High Holiday service reads:
Return again, return again,
Return to the land of your soul.
Return to who you are, return to what you are,
Return to where you are, born and reborn again.
May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life! Good Yontif!
P.S: And to feed our soul and those we love with comfort food, here are two easy recipes for Break-the Fast! Enjoy!
Potato Latka Muffins: Chanukah at Rosh Hashanah!
This recipe is easy and beyond delicious! The best part is that you can make these latka muffins days/weeks in advance and after baking, then freeze them and pop them in the oven to bake when needed. You can use mini muffin pans or regular cup cake size.
-1 bag of frozen hash brown potatoes
-1 large onion, diced
-3/4 cup oil
-Salt and pepper to taste (garlic salt or powder adds an extra great flavor!)
-Preheat oven to 425 degrees
-Spray PAM generously on the muffin pans
-Beat the eggs, add seasonings, mix well and set aside
-Heat oil in a sauce pan till heated but not bubbly
-Mix potatoes and onions together, add egg mixture and heated oil and mix well
-Taste for right amount of seasonings
-Spoon ¾ full into muffins pans
-Bake for one hour or until the tops look crunchy and sides are golden brown
-Loosen edges with a knife
-Freeze when cooled off or serve immediately!
Honey Glazed Carrots—Might even add apple slices for an extra sweet year!
Delicious side dish and too easy to make!
-Baby carrots cut in half, put in a greased baking dish
-Add salt and pepper
-Drizzle with honey or maple syrup and mix
-Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until soft