Monday, September 9, 2013

The Greatest Return

Words spoken at my first Shabbat Dinner at the JCC Krakow, Shabbat Shuva 5774

This Shabbat is special in that its title reminds us of the unique theme of the month—Teshuva. The prophet exhorts the nation, “return!” We generally translate the word Teshuva as repentance, though an additional interpretation is widespread—return. Rav Soloveitchik made it popular when quoting the Biblical source of Samuel who would travel throughout the kingdom but always find his way home—ותשובתו הרמתה, he would return to the Rama.

Many types of returns abound in the application to Teshuva: From sin, from a wayward path, from ‘not being me’… I believe that the truest form of the word applies to us here at this vital moment in the history of Jewish Poland.

Yesterday a man who watched his family persecuted in the Krakow Ghetto came to Tashlich for the first time in over seventy years; a young woman told me about how she found out she was Jewish a few years ago and has been pursuing her Jewish roots ever since; a young man struggling with his Jewish roots comes to hear the Shofar and learn about the Jewish New Year—this is the true definition of RETURN!

This re-emergence is, in my mind, one of the most exciting things going on in the Jewish world today. Helping facilitate these ‘individual returns’ and this communal revitalization is a privilege and a great responsibility which I know will bring with it complex issues and necessitate creative approaches.

Let us pray that this year brings us great fortune, new friendships, much knowledge and the fulfillment of our quest to return to ourselves, each other, and to God’s grand path.
Shana Tova!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

From Krakow with Love

שהחיינו וקיימנו והגיענו לזמן הזה. “God gave me life, gave it meaning and brought me on this journey to this moment”.

Everybody has a journey. The journey is part of the threefold blessing of physical life and spiritual meaning. Often for that journey to be meaningful it requires sacrifices along the way. Sometimes after we sacrifice we realize what we thought was a necessity was simply a luxury. Other times, we understand that while our sacrifice is great and makes our life more complicated, we ultimately reach a higher meaningful sense of ourselves and are able to serve God in a greater capacity.

May it be His will that our journeys are safe, physically and spiritually and that we truly find a way to fulfill the essence of this special blessing.

Shana tova.

Rav Avi Baumol