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High Holy Days message - MWU Dept. of Education - 2020

Dear Friends,

A story for these days of Soul-Searching, Improvement and spiritual preparation:

It was Yom Kippur. Marked by fasting, the faithful waited for their Rabbi, Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev[1], to begin the Mussaf Prayer[2]; Rabbi Levi Yitzchak waited also. An hour passed… two… and impatience became anguish: This time the Rabbi is really exaggerating. It's getting late! The Hasidim[3]asked one another: Why are we waiting to begin the tefillah, the prayer?

Finally, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak emerged from his meditation to say: “We have among us one who cannot read; it's not his fault. Very busy feeding his family, he attended no school, no course. But, he wants to sing: he needs to pray. Right now, inside, he's saying, 'You are God; I am just a man. You are the Almighty and You know everything. I am weak and ignorant. All I know is to decipher the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. I give them to you: You will make prayers of them. They will be more beautiful than mine.’ Then Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev raised his voice: "That is why we have waited for so long, my Children: God was writing."
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Yamim Noraim[4] 5781: an invitation to prayer. A call to reflect, to review our accounts, and truly repent.
Yom Kippur, and all the Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe) that begin on Rosh Hashanah give us the opportunity to write our own prayers, even if, like the man in the Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev story, we hardly know the Alef-Bet, the Hebrew alphabet. These are Great Days with the power to inspire us to want to pray, to request, at least once a year, Divine Goodness: His Mercy, His Light.

We live in societies that refuse to pray; who interpret prayer as esoteric expression disconnected from reality, external to us. From that perspective, prayer has only one direction: vertical, from us to Heaven.

To be complete, prayer should, however, be translated into improving society and "repairing the world" (Tikkun Olam), a vehicle that clarifies intentions. Rabbi Dr. Abraham Joshua Heschel, who worked arm in arm with Pastor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for the civil rights of black Americans, said “Prayer clarifies our hopes and intentions ... It gives us the opportunity to be honest, to say what we believe, and to stand for what we say… Prayer teaches us what to aspire for. So often we do not know what to cling to. Prayer implants in us the ideals we ought to cherish. Salvation, purity of mind and tongue, or willingness to help, may hover as ideas before our mind, but the idea becomes a concern, something to long for, a goal to be reached ...”

In these Days, when we open our hearts to prayer… we also expose them to the best of ourselves. In the reflection almost imposed by the spirit of the Yamim Noraim, we reconnect with our truest selves, and we ask ourselves: What are our goals? Where are our most significant aspirations - which are the most sublime? What is it that we most want, in our deepest selves, so much that we are willing to link it with our Creator?

The Holy Days that open with Rosh Hashanah are an opportunity to improve ourselves, transform dreams and desires into actions, recover our most beautiful intentions and direct them towards the North Star of our lives. Inspired by vertical prayer towards God and horizontal prayer towards the best of our hearts, we orient ourselves to embrace and maximize our giving, listening, loving, and creating.

In this year that opens at a time when all Humanity is still fighting a devastating pandemic, we pray God to guide scientists to find a treatment for the sick and a vaccine for all, and that all weakened by this calamity shall soon recover, that all will soon enjoy a better present and a promising future.

May our prayer be an authentic search for our best intentions.

May we be closer to our spouses, children, parents, friends and family, strengthening our bonds with those we love most and who need us so much.

May this New Year 5781 bring health and blessings to us and all Humankind.
And may God continue our joy in seeing the development, growth and strengthening of all we hold dear and value, the State and the People of Israel, and our Maccabim all over the world.

With best wishes,
LeShanah Tovah ticatevu vetechatemu!
May you and yours be inscribed for a Good Year!
CHAZAK VE'EMATZ!
Deputy Director-General & Director of Education
Maccabi World Union

[1] Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev – Levi Yitzchok Derbarmdiger (Yiddish: "The Compassionate") or Rosakov, 1740–1809, also known as the holy Berdichever, and the Kedushas Levi, a Hasidic master and Jewish leader. Was Rabbi of RyczywółŻelechówPinsk and Berdychiv, for which he is best known. Was a main disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch, and of his disciple, Rabbi Shmelke of Nikolsburg, whom he succeeded as Rabbi of Ryczywół.
[2] The second prayer on the morning of Yom Kippur, around noon.
[3] Rabbi Levi Yitzchak’s followers and students.
[4] The 10 'Days of Awe' that begin with the Jewish New Year and end on the Day of Atonement.
High Holy Days message - MWU Dept. of Education - 2020
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A story for these days of Soul-Searching, Improvement and spiritual preparation