I want to wish you a sweet new year — so sweet that you can feel and taste and see for yourself the goodness that you experience.
Sweet with passion. Sweet with love. Sweet with connections that matter.
Let me tell you three sweet stories.
A Story With Passion
Strong and wise, a woman of great beauty that radiated from within, Chana was a leader in Israel’s pre-Temple era. A mentor to many and wife to a loving husband, Chana tried to hide her pain, but an empty pit welled inside her.
Empty because she was unable to bear a child of her own.
And so on her next journey to the Mishkan in Shiloh (the temporary temple before the Temple in Jerusalem was built), she went heavy with emotion. Alone, she entered the holy space and began to cry, and whispered prayers escaped her lips.
She stood there awhile, salty tears mixed with heartfelt requests for a child.
Eli the kohen gadol (high priest) noticed her and couldn’t help but wonder about her strange behavior. Praying in silence? Prayer was said aloud! Tears and such emotion? What was this?
Thinking her drunk, Eli approached Chana and asked her to leave.
“Please, my master,” Chana said, “I am only drunk with emotion, praying for a child, a gift from my Creator. And I promise that if G-d grants me a child of my own, his life will be a godly one, solely dedicated to a greater cause.”
“May you be blessed with a great and holy child,” Eli said, calming her.
And so it was that Chana bore a son named Shmuel, a great leader to his people.
And so it is until today that prayer is to be said with a full heart, with great passion and with personal whispers to our Creator.
A Story With Love
Hundreds had gathered in the great synagogue of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi. Yom Kippur was minutes away, and they stood ready, watching their holy rebbe prepare for Kol Nidrei.
In an instant, the rebbe removed his tallit and left, hurrying out the door.
A young student followed with curiosity as the rebbe made his way to the outskirts of town and entered a small shack. A new mother lay there with a newborn baby; no one else was home.
The rebbe chopped wood for a fire, prepared a soup and carefully fed the mother. After she and her baby were taken care of, he turned to leave, returning to a confused and waiting congregation.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman donned his tallit and began Kol Nidrei.
With tears, this story was shared by my Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson of Chabad. “Never think it below your dignity to help a fellow. With love and care, tend to others before yourself.”
A Story With Connection
“Do you not tremble in fear of the great High Holidays that approach us?” questioned the visiting speaker.
The traveling rabbi had shaken the local congregation with words of fear.
“G-d judges us all — who will live, who will die,” he had bellowed.
Yet this one learned man was unmoved. Not really, he replied. “True, it is a great day of judgment. But the judge is my father.”
You have your own connection to the Creator. Rely not on the rabbi, the cantor or your super Jewish friend next door. This year own that personal connection. The judge is your father too.
Shana tova! May the year be sweet with passion, love and connection.
Shifra Sharfstein is co-director of Chabad at Georgia Tech & Georgia State (www.chabaddtu.com).