Kol Nidrei Appeal 5781 - "all of Israel sitting together in a single sukkah?"
Dear congregants - members, family, friends and visitors,
We find ourselves in a most peculiar and traumatic year. It was also a year in which despite forced distances we have come closer than ever. We have taken care of one another, practised kindness, and thus have merited to come together now for our holiest of days.
Our ancient texts teach us that on Yom Kippur the whole world is judged and sealed for the coming year. We are one of very few jewish communities worldwide privileged to come together for services. With strict COVID-19 regulations in Israel and the United States, and thankfully less so in Auckland now, our own community has a great zechut (privilege) and achrayut (responsibility) to daven not only for ourselves, but for the world-entire.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks poses an incredibly powerful idea. In parashat Ha’azinu Moshe rebukes Israel saying do not blame God when things go wrong. Don’t believe, he says, that God is there to serve us. We are here to serve Him and through Him be a blessing to the world. God is straight; it is we who are complex and self-deceiving. God is not there to relieve us of responsibility. It is God who is calling us to responsibility. Responsibility is the legacy of Judaism.
It is with those words that Moses brought closure to the drama that began in Bereshit with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. When they sinned, Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent. So it was in the beginning and so it still is in the twenty-first century of the gregorian calendar.
The story of humanity has been for the most part a flight from responsibility. The culprits change. Only the sense of victimhood remains. It wasn’t us. It was the politicians. Or the media. Or the bankers. Or our genes. Or our parents. Or the system, be it capitalism, communism or anything between. Most of all, it is the fault of the others, the ones not like us, the infidels. The perpetrators of the greatest crime against humanity in all of history were convinced it wasn’t them. They were “only obeying orders.” When all else fails, blame God. And if you don’t believe in God, blame the people who do. To be human is to seek to escape from responsibility.
That is what makes Judaism different. It is what made some people admire Jews and others hate us. For Judaism is God’s call to human responsibility. From this call you can’t hide, as Adam and Eve discovered when they tried, and you can’t escape, as Jonah learnt in the belly of a fish.
Where other religions pose an original sin or an innate darkness in the human condition, Judaism poses an unyielding hope.
Jews developed a morality of guilt in place of the Greek’s morality of shame. A morality of guilt makes a sharp distinction between the person and the act, between the sinner and the sin. Because we are not wholly defined by what we do, there is a core within us that remains intact – “אלוהי נשמה שנתת בי טהורה היא...”, “My God, the soul you gave me is pure” – so that whatever wrong we may have done, we can repent and be forgiven. That creates a language of hope, the only force strong enough to defeat a culture of overwhelming despair. And so Yom Kippur gives us this incredible opportunity for Teshuva, Tefila and Tzedakkah. A chance to take responsibility - and subsequent action to correct our life, straighten our path, improve our environment.
The Talmud in Sukkah 27b makes a remarkable claim regarding the holiday of Sukkot:
“'For seven days ... all who belong to the people of Israel will live in sukkot’ (Lev. 23:42). This teaches that it is fitting for all of Israel to sit in one sukkah.” Obviously, no sukkah is large enough to hold the entire Jewish people. What is the meaning of this utopian vision — all of Israel sitting together in a single sukkah?
As long as we are plagued by pettiness and other character flaws, we cannot attain true collective unity. But after experiencing the unique holiness of Yom Kippur, this unfortunate state is repaired.
According to the Hasidic master Rabbi Nathan (1780-1844, chief disciple and scribe of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov), the sense of unity formed by this answer to the call of responsibility through teshuva, tefillah and tzedakah is the very essence of the mitzvah of the sukkah. Rabbi Nathan writes in Likutei Halachot that one should fulfill the mitzvah of sukkah with the following kavanah:
“One should concentrate on being part of the entire people of Israel, with intense love and peace, until it may be considered as if all of Israel dwells together in one sukkah.”
It is for this reason that it is appropriate to begin the construction of a Sukkah at the departure of Yom Kippur. The moment at which we are most pure is the moment we strive to house all of Israel under one roof - in a new sukkah.
This year's Kol Nidrei Appeal is towards a new Sukkah, which will be permanently positioned in the courtyard and will allow a year-round social space.
Outside of Sukkot, the permanent structure will be a new social space for our community, an added play area for Moriah kindergarten and an all-round asset for our community.
Please support us in creating a new, year-round, permanent outdoor space for our community to dwell in peace, enjoy in comfort and celebrate in style.
gmar chatima tova to each of you, to all of us and the world-over
Please consider donating towards this year's Kol Nidrei Appeal.
For Bank transfers please make donations to: 03-0558-0207852-00 and use reference YKA.
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