Inviting God In: Celebrating the Soul-Meaning of the Jewish Holy Daysby David Aaron
There are many books that discuss how to celebrate the holidays; Inviting God In explains why we should/i>/i>/i>
This warm, inspiring look at the Jewish holidays—by one of the most dynamic and accessible teachers of Jewish thought today—shows us how each holy day empowers us to recognize God's loving presence in our life every day.
There are many books that discuss how to celebrate the holidays; Inviting God In explains why we should celebrate. Using biblical references, anecdotes, and teaching tales, Rabbi David Aaron takes us through the Jewish calendar year and explains how each holiday—from the most joyous to the most somber—reveals God's ever-present love for us. Passover, for example, celebrates unconditional love; Shavuot reminds us of freedom and our power to take responsiblity; Rosh Hashanah is about the joy of accountability and Yom Kippur sanctifies compassion and forgiveness. Rabbi Aaron helps us to awaken our soulful connection to the dramatic events that occured on those days, and to experience the holidays as opportunities to revitalize our personal relationship with God.
Rabbi Aaron is an enthusiastic guide, and his fresh view of the holidays will enliven and enrich traditional celebration. Inviting God In will inspire both practicing Jews who want to reinvigorate their observance of the holidays and secular Jews searching for a meaningful way to reconnect with their Jewish roots.
"A spiritually rousing book. . . . In a warm, easy-to-read style, and radiating an enthusiasm that is contagious, Aaron explores the deeper meaning behind nine Jewish holidays."—Cleveland Jewish News
"This is a wonderfully inspiring book! Rabbi Aaron makes you fall in love with God and with the depth and wisdom of Judaism."—Dr. Miriam Adahan, author of You are a Jewel
"The Jewish holidays are not only profoundly deep but spiritually thrilling. If you are looking to discover the rich, inspirational tapestry of the holiday cycle, then Rabbi David Aaron is the teacher for you."—Shimon Apisdorf, cofounder of the Jewish Literacy Fund
"Contemporary, meaningful, and witty. Inviting God In is an excellent spiritual tour and guide through the Jewish year."—Rabbi Nissan Dovid Dubov, author of The Key to Kabbalah: Discovering Jewish Mysticism
"Inviting God In has a lot to teach all of us, about God and about ourselves."—Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
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Read an Excerpt
Introduction: It's a Holiday!
The comedian Henny
Youngman once said, ‘‘I tried being an atheist, but I gave it up. There were no holidays.’’ What is a holiday really about? Is it the same as a vacation? Decidedly not. A vacation is a time to vacate, but a holiday is a time to celebrate.
‘‘To vacate’’ means taking off,
getting away from the daily grind and its tensions and challenges. It means tanning on a beach, playing golf, or catching a good concert. A
holiday, however, is something else. It is not an escape from everyday life to paradise. Rather, it is a time to infuse paradise into everyday life. That is why it is called a holy day—it is a day that is whole in every way, and that is cause to celebrate. For me the word celebrate
evokes the word celestial. A Jewish holiday is a time to see the celestial within the terrestrial. It is a time to acknowledge how the divine enters our world and meets us in time.
A Jewish holiday is referred to in Hebrew as a moed. This actually means a ‘‘date’’ or a ‘‘meeting.’’ In other words, a holiday is a date with God.
But why would we need to make a date with God? Even though my wife and I
have been married for over twenty years, we regularly go out on dates.
Although we see each other daily, our profound connection often gets overshadowed by the hustle and bustle of life. We know that life sometimes gets in the way of love, and we can forget how deep is our love for each other. The same goes for other aspects of life that people take for granted. When was the last time you noticed your breath or your heartbeat? Unless you lose your breath or miss a beat, these miracles of life often go unnoticed and unappreciated. It is precisely because they are constant and consistent that you forget them and lose the wonder they should inspire.
God is with us every moment of our life. Therefore, it is easy for us to forget that His presence fills the present. The holidays, however, mark special times in Jewish history when God’s loving presence was dramatically obvious.
The Jewish Drama of Life
was once sitting and learning Torah with the Hollywood actor Kirk
Douglas when suddenly he turned to me and said, ‘‘You know, Rabbi, I
love being Jewish.’’
‘‘Oh, yeah? Why?’’ I asked. ‘‘Because being
Jewish is dramatic!’’ I was surprised by his unusual answer and thought to myself, ‘‘I guess for these big-time actors, everything is showbiz.’’ Instead, I said, ‘‘Dramatic? I am sorry, but I don’t get the connection.’’ ‘‘Rabbi, I know drama, and let me tell you, Jewish life and Jewish history are dramatic. In fact, there are several archetypal themes to all films, and they are all from the Bible. Here, let me show you what’s drama.’’
Kirk then jumped out of his chair and began to improvise a dramatic scene.
watch this. Let’s say we are shooting a scene and it’s about a guy named Jerry who is going to get some bad news about his mother. How do we make it dramatic? We would not have Jerry sitting at home reading a newspaper when suddenly the phone rings and someone breaks the news to him that his mother is fatally ill. No, that’s not interesting—that’s not dramatic. So, this is how it’s done: First, Jerry is at a party.
No, better yet, he’s at a party in his honor—it’s a big company event and he’s about to receive an important award. Now, imagine he’s wearing a tuxedo, he has a martini in his hand, and he’s socializing with his friends at the reception before the event. He cracks a joke and then,
in the middle of the laughter, someone hands him a note.’’
At this point, Kirk became Jerry, masterfully acting out the entire scene as Jerry casually glanced at the note, a pained look appeared on his smiling face, and he choked out in response to his friends’ inquiring looks, ‘‘It’s my mother.’’
After a few theatrical moments of silence, Kirk perked up and said with a big smile, ‘‘Now, that’s drama!
Get it, Rabbi?’’ ‘‘Kind of.’’ ‘‘Drama happens in the sharp contrasts of life—between happiness and sadness, failure and success, defeat and victory, darkness and light. And that is the story of the Jewish people. It’s dramatic.’’ Kirk was right. And, in fact, all the Jewish holidays connect us with the drama of Jewish history, the sharp turns and striking contrasts of which inspire powerful clarity. Remembering what was in the past awakens us to see what is in the present and what can be in the future. In fact, the holidays empower us to recognize how
God’s love is with us all the time. This is the soul-meaning of the
Jewish Holy Days. Each holiday celebrates a critical ingredient in the recipe for a loving relationship with God and our fellow human beings—freedom, responsibility, fallibility, accountability,
forgiveness, spontaneity, integrity, wholeness, intimacy, anticipation,
hope, and trust. Each holiday in the Jewish calendar is a date with
God. Each holiday is an opportunity to relive the dramatic events that occurred on those days—to remember and celebrate God’s timeless love for us. This is the soul-meaning of the Jewish Holy Days.
Meet the Author
Rabbi David Aaron, the son of a Holocaust survivor, has struggled since early youth to understand the world's potential for hatred and paradoxical yearning for meaning, love, and creativity. His own spiritual journey led him to Israel, where he studied Torah and Jewish mysticism under the tutelage of the great masters. He received his rabbinical ordination in 1979 from the Israel Torah Research Institute (Yeshivat ITRI). A popular lecturer in North America and a frequent guest on radio and TV, he is the founder and dean of Isralight (www.isralight.org), an international organization with programs throughout North America, South Africa, and Israel. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife, Chana, and their seven children and three grandchildren. For more information visit www.rabbidavidaaron.com.
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