High Holy Days Are Coming
The sound of the shofar and the ordering of honey are signs that the High Holy Days are approaching. Yet, a little known but significant indication of this season is the daily recitation of Psalm 27, beginning this Shabbat of Rosh Chodesh Elul. We read, “One thing have I asked of the Lord, this I request, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze at the graciousness of God and to visit in his sanctuary.”
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains this is impossible! Even the Priests and Levites in the Temple did not dwell in the sanctuary forever! Rather, we must turn the Psalmist’s words around. It is not how we can dwell in God’s sanctuaries, but how we can make our lives a living sanctuary for God to dwell within. We ask God to hear our voices, and we ask God to provide us a shelter of peace. Yet, what does God ask of us to create a sacred life?
The Talmud asks, “Is study greater or is action greater?” Rabbi Tarfon answered, “Action is greater.” Rabbi Akiva answered, “Study is greater.” They all concluded that study is greater because study leads to action. During the High Holidays, we are great at action. Thousands of Jews pour into synagogues, say the words, and hear the message. Psalm 27 gives us a preparatory lesson before we enter God’s classroom.
Each one us has had a year unlike the next. Some of us have suffered great losses, while others have achieved their dreams. Each one of us has a different relationship with God than we had yesterday and a different relationship with God then we will have tomorrow. Yet, we can be certain that each one us has the same desire as the author of Psalm 27- to dwell in the house of God.
May this month leading to our sacred season be one of introspection, sanctity, soul searching, and, ultimately, peace.