This weekend, not only do we celebrate, but we also bring in the high holiday season as we mark the beginning of a new month, Elul. It is during this month when we begin our journey to return to God, as the famous parable states, during the month of Elul, God is in the fields (for a short review, check out the video below).
It is a time when we begin the process of Teshuvah. Within the word Teshuvah is the word, Shuv, which means, to return. As we begin Elul, we return to ourselves so we can be better people in the future. I also look at this season as a time for communal return and reflection. Over the coming weeks, I will be sharing our exciting plans for the year, returning to our purpose statement, and show how our plans for the future are in line with why we exist:
To ignite he Jewish spark within each individual, journeying together as a holy, Jewish community.
Our Sunshine Team will be calling our homebound seniors to make sure they have a hurricane plan, but if you are in need of any assistance, please call or text me at 561-865-6680.
Finally, I would like to share some Torah about hurricanes, my high holiday sermon from from 2017: Three Lessons from Hurricane Irma.
Shabbat Shalom and may we all be safe as we weather the storm together,
Rosh Hashanah (First Day) - 5778/2017
Rabbi David Baum, Congregation Shaarei Kodesh
Have you ever heard the term Hurricane babies? Hurricane babies are generally born 9 months after a major hurricane. A couple is hunkered down in their home, the power is out, the candles are burning, and well, you get the picture. I wanted to share something you may not know about me: I'm a hurricane baby.
On August 25th 1979, the same day I entered the world, the US National Hurricane Center reported that a tropical depression had developed and the storm was given the name, David. So I'm a hurricane baby, but not in the traditional sense - both Hurricane David and I were born on the same day. 1
My parents often tell me the story of Hurricane David- my parents and grandparents had moved to Florida just five years before from New York, and they knew little about hurricanes. Hurricane David was a category 5 storm before it hit the Dominican Republic, close to Florida. At that point, days before it was supposed to hit Miami, my mother, terrified just days after becoming a mother, told my father: "we are going back to New York with my parents." My father said, "No we aren't - we are staying here together as a family."
Should we stay or should we go? Sound familiar? How many of us had to make that same decision just two weeks ago?
They stayed, and Hurricane David was projected to hit us directly in Miami. For those who know history, and especially the 90% of you who lived in New York at the time, you know what happened. David brushed the coast of Florida, went up the eastern seaboard, and eventually, it became the sixth extratropical storm to hit, that's right, New York.
Looks like my dad was right, and my mom was wrong. According to my mother, this was the first time my father was ever right, and she was wrong. It was also the last time.
It has been a rough couple of weeks. We are beginning to discover the full effects of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma - thousands of homes and businesses destroyed here in the United States. The islands in the Caribbean have been decimated, and many lives lost all over.
With all that we've gone through in the last year, it has been inspirational seeing how people are helping each other in our great country. Strangers helping strangers, neighbors helping neighbors. As one reporter said, "When mother nature is at its worst, human nature tends to be at its best." David Suissa, a Los Angeles based writer, wrote soon after Hurricane Harvey, "In the middle of rescue missions, no one cares whether you voted for Trump or Clinton, whether you're antifa or nationalist, whether you're black or Hispanic or Jewish or Muslim, whether you're transgender or redneck. When Mother Nature attacks, we're all created equal. We're all neighbors."
When we are confronted with our mortality - things change, and more often than not, we become better people and a more united nation. It is this time of year when we also remember one of the greatest tragedies our country has ever faced - the terror attacks on 9/11. But do you remember September 12th? There was a greater sense in our country of our unifying values that next day. We transcended our differences. We weren't focused on the partisan divide. We hugged our children a little bit tighter.
But what happens months or years later? The question is, how do we bring these feelings and actions to the rest of the year after the hurricane?
This year, it feels like Rosh Hashanah was made for us Floridians. It is during this time when God wants us all to realize something: we are all in the cone of uncertainty, not just before a hurricane, but every day. Every day, we wake up not truly knowing what will come next. But, on Rosh Hashanah, our tradition forces us to have this experience all at the same time, as a holy community, just like a population about to go through a massive hurricane.
Today, I want to talk to you about the three lessons I learned about life from our hurricane experience. And these lessons are not just for an actual hurricane, but the hurricanes of life that we experience every year. Rosh Hashanah teaches us a valuable lesson, there are times when we cannot change the event- if the hurricane is coming, it is coming and we can't change its course, but we can avert the severity of the decree, through our actions - tesuvah, tefillah, and tzedakah, in other words, we can:
We can help others return to a secure place in their lives,
We can pray for each other, and
We can give our fellow human being what they desperately need - a much-needed charge