Rucheli's Writings

Readings, Ramblings, and Religious Rantings

What’s in the water? September 26, 2010

Filed under: My Blog — rucheli @ 1:22 am
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It seems that a lot of the Jewish holidays this time of year revolve around water… Not surprising since the Torah is compared to water, and both are considered the source of all life, spiritually and physically speaking. However the month of Tishrei has two separate instances where water plays a central role: Tashlich and Simchat Beit Hoshoeva.

Tashlich took place on the first day of Rosh Hashana. This old and meaningful Jewish ritual involves going to a body of water and performing tashlich “to cast away” our sins from the previous year. Standing next to a river, ocean, canal, stream, lake, or pond -preferably with fish in it- we recited prayers asking for Hashem to pardon our sins and forgive our iniquities. Why next to water? One reason (of many) is that the prophet Micah (7:19) says “and You shall cast into the depths of the sea all their sins.” Why with fish? Very interestingly, they are seen as good luck for Kabbalistic reasons…

Water with fish is optimal since fish are not subject to the “evil eye” and are also known to have many offspring. Fish do not have eyelids, so their eyes are always open. This is likened to G-d’s constant supervision over us, and we pray that He mercifully care for us. Also, just as fish may be caught in a fisherman’s net, so, too, we are caught in the net of judgment. This awareness helps awaken us to repent.  -AskMoses.com

So basically what happens in Tashlich? We go to a body of water and throw our sins into in order to cleanse our souls and get ready for teshuvah and Yom Kippur.

Then 14 days later we enter Sukkot, and what do we do? We sing and dance and are joyous and happy. It’s a commandment to be happy for 8 days! Why? Because of Simchat Beit Hashoeva, “the joy of the drawing”, talking about the historical drawing of the water that happened during Sukkot in the times of the Temple. The drawing of the water itself is an interesting act, because usually during Temple sacrifices there was a wine offering, but on Sukkot we drew water from Shiloach spring and offered that with our sacrifices. This was always accompanied with the simcha -happiness- and dancing long into the night.

So how is this related to tashlich? On Rosh Hashana we throw our sins into the water… and on Sukkot we draw the water back out. What kind of sense does it make to draw the water that we just cast our sins into?!

Chassidus teaches us that after tashlich come the 10 days of teshuvah, or return and repentance. If we do true teshuvah, if we regret and repent and know that we would never do it again in the same situation, then something amazing happens. The sins that we did are not only forgiven, but they are even turned into merits! After teshuvah, when we are being judged by Hashem, those old sins that we cast into the water count as mitzvot. Then along comes Sukkot, and all of the sudden, the water drawing makes more sense. We threw sins into the water, we turned them into mitzvot, and then we draw them back out of the water.

That is why Sukkot is such a time of happiness and joy, we are adding all of the sins of last year to our merits of this year, completing the cycle of teshuvah in a way that can only be celebrated by dancing, singing, and rejoicing for a week straight!

May we all collect our many merits this Sukkot and rejoice in the light of our new mitzvot! Chag sameach!!

 

A Game of Chess September 14, 2010

Filed under: My Blog — rucheli @ 12:16 am
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When you’re playing a game, there are certain rules you have to play by. Some games only have a few rules that are easy to learn, making the game simple to play and quick to master. Then there are games like chess… It’s arguably one of the most complicated games you can take the time to learn how to play; there are rules abound. Chess takes a while to learn and years to really become adept at. And if a game like chess can take so long to master, imagine how much longer it must take to master a game like this existence we call life… (more…)

 

Holidays in the Holy Land September 12, 2010

Filed under: My Blog — rucheli @ 5:37 pm
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There are absolutely no words to describe Rosh Hashanah in Jerusalem. The shofar, a ram’s horn used during High Holiday services as a call to G-d to hear our prayers, is sounded several times throughout services on both days of Rosh Hashanah. And in Jerusalem, if you happen to open your windows at about 11:30am on that very special holiday, you will hear blasts of the shofar coming from every direction, echoing off of the buildings made of two-thousand-year-old stone, resonating until it reaches the very heights of the Temple Mount and G-d’s own ears. As a Jew, there is nothing in the world more powerful than hearing that sound reverberate through your very soul not only when you’re in services, but even just walking around the street, sharing with the millions of Jews around you this holiday that remembers the 5771st anniversary of the beginning of humanity and our coronation of G-d as King. It gives me chills just thinking about it…

I’m sure you can already tell, Rosh Hoshanah this year was like nothing else I’ve ever experienced…

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Soul Accounting August 11, 2010

Filed under: My Blog — rucheli @ 11:27 pm
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The Profit and Loss Statement for Your SoulI just read an extremely interesting article on Chabad.org about Cheshbon HaNefesh, or the “account of the soul”. I’m a numbers and math kind of person, and obviously anything that ties my faith and beliefs back into the math and science I was raised on makes me extremely happy… two worlds collide and I find myself in a “comfort zone” on multiple levels. So this article basically turns the concept of Cheshbon HaNefesh into a logical step-by-step balance-sheet-ish analysis. For my Industrial Engineering friends out there… think “Cost Engineering” at it’s most spiritually moving level. Now anyone who knows me or knows anything about my work style knows that I am absolutely obsessed with Excel and making things easier by use of templates, programming, databases, etc. So in typical “me” fashion, feel free to download the following “Soul Accounting P&L” template. Template is © Cathleen (Rucheli) Manville 2010 (5770)… Enjoy!

Click here to download the Soul Accounting Profit & Loss Statement!

The entire 5-step process was introduced by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe. Chabad has always been great at breaking extremely spiritual and mystical concepts into easily applicable ideas, and this is no exception!! If you want to read the full article on Chabad.org you can find it here, but below is a basic summary:

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Rosh Chodesh Elul August 10, 2010

Filed under: My Blog — rucheli @ 10:09 pm
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Ahhh … Elul. That time for love and return and repentance and charity and begging for anything but severity for the coming year. What a spiritually intense time! My birthday is coming up… Ches Elul (8th of Elul). So on top of the spiritual responsibilities of Elul, I have the additional responsibilities of making my birthday the most productive day possible from an observance standpoint. Extra davening (praying), extra learning, and extra tzedakah (charity). Luckily I’ve been planning for the extra tzedakah for a while, and I have a great plan up my sleeve 🙂 More details on that later, I don’t want to ruin the surprise yet.

But in any case, the month of Elul is the beginning of the prep for the High Holy Days in Tishrei. Scripture teaches us that this is the month when “the King is in the field”, meaning that G-d makes it easier for us to return to Him because instead of having to search, He’s right here waiting for us to just turn around. Elul is also an acronym for “Ani L’Dodi V’Dodi Li”, but if you want to know more about that, you’ll have to read my post on the Teshuvah Network 😉