What Are You Top Five Virtues?

This letter was sent out to my congregation today in response to my Rosh HaShanah sermon that will be posted here in a few days. In my sermon, I challenged everyone to use this list to pick their top five virtues and send them to me before Yom Kippur. Below, I summarize the responses that I received.

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Thank you to all who did your Rosh HaShanah homework and sent in your top five virtues. You can still download the list of virtues here. I shared our top virtues on Yom Kippur, but wanted to share them again with you today.

As I mentioned, I was overwhelmed by the response. After compiling your answers, I had an extremely long list! I have attempted to group your responses into virtue categories. They are presented here in alphabetical-ish order.

TOP 10 VIRTUE CATEGORIES

Acceptance
Balance
Compassion (Includes Caring, Empathy, Helping Others, Thoughtfulness)
Family
Gratitude (Includes Appreciation, Thankfulness)
Happiness (Includes Fun, Humor, Joy)
Integrity (Includes Honesty, Honor, Truthfulness)
Love (includes Kindness)
Optimism
Perseverance (Includes Problem Solving, Stick-to-it-iveness and Tenacity)

VIRTUES THAT ALMOST MADE THE TOP 10

Allowing for Failure
Appreciation
Confidence/Self-confidence
Courage
Creativity
Dependability/Reliability
Dignity
Energy
Failure (Allowing for it)
Fairness
Friendliness/Friendship
Health
Learning
Logic
Organization
Patience
Pragmatism
Tolerance

Many of you have asked for copies of my High Holiday sermons. I am in the process of getting them ready to upload to my blog. I hope to have them posted by next week.

Spending the High Holidays with so many of you was truly special. I hope Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur were transformative for you and your family. Thank you to our teens who led us in prayer, read Torah/Haftarah and even chanted Kol Nidrei. Thank you to Daniel and Carly Tokar and all of you who joined them in supporting our community. Thank you to Barry Sanders and all of you who brought food to support those in need. Thank you to Cantor Debbie, our choir and Harold. Thank you to Beth Michell for leading our children’s programming. Thank you to Craig Mayer and our Board members for ushering all of our services. Thank you to our Executive Director, Leslie Goldman, for all that she does behind the scenes. And thank you to all of you for filling our sanctuary with your voices and your spirit. Now, it’s time for Sukkot!

Finding Ourselves In The Sea

In preparation for Yom Kippur, many immerse themselves in the Mikvah. The Mikvah empowers people to spiritually release what needs to be released, allowing folks to begin the new year with a clean slate. Here in South Florida, many of us plan to use the Atlantic Ocean as our Mikvah. E. E. Cummings’ poem, “maggie and millie and molly and may” (which you can find below), is the perfect blessing for any of us who are fortunate enough to use the sea as our Mikvah this new year. May we all find ourselves in the sea!

Shanah Tovah/Happy New Year and may you all have a meaningful Yom Kippur and fast.

maggie and milly and molly and may
e. e. cummings

SN5WUFOO0Rmaggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles, and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles: and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

The Sad Tzadik (A Happy Story)

sad tzadik1 copy

Rosh HaShanah begins Sunday night. I am looking forward to welcoming the new Jewish year, 5776, with all of you. As we do so, we will be focusing on our ability to transform our lives, making the changes needed to make this new year one in which we flourish.

To get us thinking about our ability to transform ourselves, I wanted to share this beautiful story told by the great Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810).

The Sad Tzadik
(From Sippurei Maasiot, adapted from a translation by Rabbi Avraham Greenberg)

It is told that a certain tzadik (a righteous person) was overcome with a terrible sense of sadness. This tzadik fell into such a mood of deep discouragement that he found it literally impossible to move. He sat in his home, in his chair, wanting to lift himself up, but nothing could make him happy. Whenever he tried to be happy about something, he found in it something to make him depressed.

Finally he started trying to make himself happy by focusing on the fact that God had made him a good, decent person. This is certainly a reason to feel immeasurable joy since the vast gulf between the holiness of a good, decent person and the impurity of those who are evil is beyond all measure. As the tzadik sat in his chair, his right arm resting on the arm of the chair, his left arm resting in his lap, his head resting in the exact center of the back of the chair, he focused intently on how fortunate he was to have been created as a good, decent person and this did the trick! It made him feel happy. He started rejoicing and he was able to move ever so slightly. He felt himself rising little by little from his chair.

As the tzadik’s happiness lifted him higher, he literally flew out of his home and into the heavens where he traveled diagonally for thousands of miles. Suddenly, he noticed that he was very far away from his home. He began to worry that he might fall somewhere and the people in his town would be very surprised that he had suddenly disappeared. This worry, coupled with the fact that the tzadik believed that enjoying too much happiness was gluttonous, caused the tzadik’s happiness to subside little by little, and he began to descend very slowly.

As he descended from the place where he had flown in his ecstasy, he noticed that he was not returning to earth using the same diagonal path that he traveled as he ascended into the heavens. Instead, he descended straight down from where he was. Therefore, he was very surprised to discover that when his descent was over, he had returned to his chair in his home! Now, however, he was happy, content – no longer depressed.

He looked around and he saw that not only was he in his chair, he was almost in the exact position he was in before he began to ascend – his right arm resting on the arm of the chair, his left arm resting in his lap – but his head was now resting a slight hairsbreadth to the right of where it was before his ascent. The tzadik found it amazing that he had flown so far through the heavens, yet here on earth he had moved ever so slightly from his place. He was amazed that even the tiniest movement one makes to lift himself up in this world, even just a tiny tilt of the head, is equivalent to a tremendous heavenly journey.

Rabbi Nachman explains that what happened to the tzadik is best understood when we view our world as the center point of God’s universe. From this view, our world is but a tiny point. From this point you can draw as many straight lines as you wish in any direction. Where the lines start at the point, they are all very close to each another. But the further they extend from the point, the further apart they become. When the lines are very far away from the point, the lines are very far apart from one another. Given this, when the tzadik pushed himself to feel happy, he caused his body to move slightly here on earth but great distances in the heavenly realms. Even though in this world we might feel like we have hardly moved at all – the slightest change is tremendous.

As we seek to transform our lives during these High Holidays, please rem
ember the spiritual journey of the tzadik. It was his determination to change his life – his desire to be happy – that empowered him to begin moving physically and spiritually. While we might have trouble relating to his journey through the heavens, what we must take from this story is that it takes just the slightest movement to radically transform our lives. For the tzadik, the slightest movement lifted him from a terrible depression.

Now it’s your turn. What aspect of your life do you want to radically transform this new Jewish year? Now is the time to make a move – even the slightest of moves – toward real transformation.

May we all ascend to great and incredible heights together over these High Holidays. And may we return renewed, refreshed and changed for the better. Cheryl, Abigail and Jonah join me in wishing you all a Shanah Tovah – A Sweet, Meaningful, Transformative New Year.

Thank You!

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Last year, during Rosh HaShanah, we spent a lot of time talking about gratitude. Many of us still wear our “Grateful” bracelets as a reminder that a life of gratitude is a life filled with meaning. I hope that the Jewish year 5775 has been a year filled with tremendous meaning for each of you.

Living gratefully requires that we express our thanks to the people that make a difference in our lives. This being said, please click here for a special note of appreciation for all that you have given to us.

I encourage you to think about the people who have made a difference in your life and send them a special note today. It is simple and free! Just visit Punch Bowl by clicking here. Express your gratitude!

Thank you and Shabbat Shalom!