A holy chutzpah – reflections on Yom Kippur and Sukkot

According to the Jewish tradition, the period of repentance continues after Yom Kippur until the end of Sukkot. These days may continue to be an opportunity for reflection, but these final days of the holidays are days of celebration. Though none of us know what our fates hold for us, we act as if the process of Yom Kippur granted us atonement. We can begin our year feeling refreshed and renewed. Though many disagreements and injuries take more than a holiday to make up for, the holidays are ideally, a time to successfully reflect on our goals for the year to help us face new challenges with confidence.

During the month of Tishrei, we bring together two seemingly contradictory emotions: humility and chutzpah. On the one hand we humble ourselves: throughout the season, we go through the long process of self-reflection that leads us to teshuvah—repentance. On Rosh Hashanah, we imagine God as the ruler of the universe and evoke a sense of awe as we stand before God. On Yom Kippur, we publicly confess our communal sins and afflict ourselves to show that we recognise our collective responsibility. And on Sukkot we make ourselves vulnerable to the elements by leaving our houses to dwell in the sukkah.

As hard as we try, though, these attempts at humility depend on a stronger sense of chutzpah. Throughout the festivals, we assume that we will receive forgiveness. Throughout the liturgy of the High Holidays, we constantly recite verses and invoke stories where God forgives Israel. We constantly remind God about the desire to see each and every person achieve a state of atonement, and the way that God’s nature is to be compassionate.

When we invoke this, we express the assumption that God will forgive us. Our Torah is a testament to God’s forgiving nature, but also teaches us that forgiveness must be active. A holy chutzpah backs our liturgy and prayers, but our acts and deeds must reflect them, otherwise our chutzpah is nothing else than cockiness.

Wishing you a meaningful Yom Kippur and a joyful Sukkot and Simchat Torah

Rabbi Adrian M Schell (Source: R’ Philip Gibbs)

Please remember that we will celebrate the Festival Morning Service of Sukkot (5 October) at Beit Emanuel (38 Oxford Rd., Parktown) at 09h30. All other services will be held in our new Shul.

Blessing over the Arba Minim (Four Species)
One of the commandments of Sukkot is to take the arba minim (four species) and wave them each day of the holiday (traditionally not on Shabbat). This is normally done during morning services in synagogue, before the Hallel prayers, but you can do it also at home anytime during the day . Both customs are common and acceptable. Stand facing the north (or whatever direction Jerusalem is from where you are).
Take the etrog in your left hand with the stem (green tip) up and the pitam (brown tip) down. Take the lulav (including the palm, myrtle and willow branches bound together) in your right hand. Bring your hands together and recite the blessing below.
After you recite the blessing, turn the etrog so the stem is down and the pitam is up. Be careful not to damage the pitam! With the lulav and etrog together, gently shake forward (north) three times, then pull the lulav and etrog back in front of your chest. Repeat this to the right (east), then over your right shoulder (south), then to the left (west), then up, then down.
Chag Sameach!
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melech ha-olam
Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe
asher kidishanu b’mitz’votav v’tzivanu
Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us
al n’tilat lulav (Amen)
to take up the lulav (Amen)

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