THE TORAH READINGS FOR ROSH HASHANAH 1-2 TISHRI 5781 September 19-20, 2020
SHANA TOVAH UMETUKAH (a good and sweet year)
From PSALM 27 (Robert Alter translation)
9. Do not hide Your face from me,
do not turn Your servant away in wrath.
You are my help.
Abandon me not, nor forsake me,
O God of my rescue.
10. Though my father and mother forsook me,
the [Eternal One] would gather me in.
From ReformJudaism.org https://reformjudaism.org/learning/torah-study
Yom Rishon shel Rosh HaShanah
יוֹם רִאשׁוֹן שֶׁל רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה
1st Day of the New Year
Rosh Hashanah Morning, Day 1 (Genesis 21)
(Many Reform congregations omit this portion, and read Genesis 22 on Rosh Hashanah, Day 1.)
Sarah, who has longed for a child for many years, conceives a child with Abraham and gives birth to Isaac, meaning “one who laughs.” Isaac’s birth fulfills Gods promise that they will bear a son who will grow to be a generation. As Isaac grows into his boyhood, Sarah is conflicted by the presence of her servant Hagar and her son Ishmael that she conceived with Abraham and Hagar is banished from the home. God visits Hagar in the wilderness[,] promises that Ishmael will also grow into a great nation, and tenderly provides water for the mother and son. Ishmael grows to adulthood and is married. This portion is a reminder that God’s promises are kept, and God’s compassion extends beyond the tents of our people.
Rosh Hashanah Morning, Day 2 (Genesis 22)
(Many Reform congregations read this portion on Rosh Hashanah, Day 1.)
This portion is commonly known as The Akeidah, or “the binding.” In these terse and tense verses, the subject matter touches upon God, the nature of faith, and the demands faith may make of us. God calls upon Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac as a supreme test of faith. Abraham, God’s loyal servant, agrees. Just as Abraham is about to offer his son up as a sacrifice, an angel calls out to him, instructing him not to harm the boy, and Abraham sacrifices a ram in place of his son. For the ancient reader this may have served as a rejection of human sacrifice, a practice of ancient Israel’s neighbors. For the modern reader, perhaps one is called upon to consider one’s own tests and sacrifices.
The haftarah for Genesis 21 (1 Samuel 1:1-2:10):
Tells the story how Hannah prayed to God for a child, and how her prayer was answered with [the] subsequent birth of Samuel.
The haftarah for Genesis 22 (Jeremiah 31:2-20):
Focuses on many aspects of t’shuvah (repentance). The passage affirms that God hears the prayers of the repentant and welcomes them home.
MINHAG TEMPLE KOL HAMIDBAR
The local custom is to read Genesis 1:1-2:3 (At the Beginning). About this alternative Torah reading, Mishkan Hanefesh, the Reform Machzor for Rosh Hashanah, p.236, says:
“[It] recalls the Rabbinic view of the New Year as the anniversary of creation, and of human beings in particular. This story, too, affirms the value of life in this world, with its repeated refrain of ki tov (God saw that it was good) reminding us to protect nature and orient our lives toward goodness.”
For the haftarah, Isaiah 55 is read. About this reading, Mishkan Hanefesh, the Reform Machzor for Rosh Hashanah, p.336, states:
“This portion begins with the prophet’s impassioned call to ‘seek the Eternal while there is yet time’ – summoning people to repent and ‘return to the Eternal’…. The prophet’s emphasis on God’s forgiveness and responsiveness to t’shuvah (repentance and spiritual return) makes this passage an appropriate reading for the Days of Awe.”
B’rë’shit (בְּרֵאשִׁית — Hebrew for “in a beginning”/”at the beginning”.)
In [this] reading, God (Elohim) created the heaven and earth “in a beginning“, the earth was unformed and void, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God moved on the face of the water. (Genesis 1:1, Genesis 1:2) God spoke and created in six days:
- Day one: God spoke light [into] existence and separated light from darkness.
- Second day: God created a firmament in the midst of the waters and separated the waters from the firmament.
- Third day: God gathered the water below the sky, creating land and sea, and God caused vegetation to sprout from the land.
- Fourth day: God set lights in the sky to separate days and years, creating the sun, the moon, and the stars.
- Fifth day: God had the waters bring forth living creatures in [the] sea along with the birds of the air and blessed them to be fruitful and multiply.
- Sixth day: God had the earth bring forth living creatures from the land, and made [humanity] in [God’s] image, male and female, giving [humans] dominion over the animals and the earth, and blessed [human beings] to be fruitful and multiply. God gave vegetation to [humankind] and to the animals for food and declared all creation ‘very good.’
- Seventh day: God ceased work and blessed the seventh day, declaring it holy.
STRUGGLING WITH TORAH
During this week’s Tuesday Morning Minyan with members of Temple Sinai in Oakland, regarding the usual Rosh Hashanah readings, the Darshan asked why these readings in particular and why Rosh Hashanah is on the first day of Tishri.
One of members of the group provided some information on the second question which is too long to include here. However, you may want to read “Why Does the Year Begin in the Seventh Month?” by Rav Amichai Gordin, translated by Alexander Tsykin found at https://www.etzion.org.il/en/why-does-year-begin-seventh-month
Regarding the usual readings for Rosh Hashanah, this same member provided the following:
“[T]he reasons why we read about the birth of [Isaac] and the Akeidah [the binding of Isaac] on Rosh Hashanah match the Gemara in Tractate Megillah (31a). The Gemara explains that a major theme of Rosh Hashanah is remembrance and this theme is in the Torah and Haftorah reading of the days. On the first day we read about how Sarah was ‘remembered’ by God and conceived [Isaac]. On the second day we read the Akeidah story as a way of asking God to be mindful of the merit of the Akeidah when He judges us.”
We have arrived at the Yamim Nora’im (Days of Awe). All the preparation, our self-examination, apologizing to and asking for pardon from those we have wronged living and dead, forgiving all that we can, assessing the work that remains to be done: the “time of transformation and self-refinement” is now upon us. Indeed, we are “in a beginning”.
HIGH HOLY DAYS
Generally, the Reform Movement observes one day for Rosh Hashanah although some congregations observe two days as do other Jewish denominations. As previously explained, for the safety and wellbeing of our members, Temple Kol Hamidbar has decided this year to forego providing either in person or online Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Services.
As regularly announced, we will have a Shazoom Service for Shabbat Shuvah on Friday, September 25, 2020, and a special Zoom gathering after Yom Kippur to Break-the-Fast at 6 PM on Monday, September 28, 2020. The Break-the-Fast online event will include sounding a Shofar recently donated in memory of Samuel Klein, a Havdalah service, and a chance to schmooze and nosh virtually with members of our community.
To help make the High Holy Days as meaningful as possible, the Union for Reform Judaism and various congregations within the Reform Movement are providing free online services and resources during the month of Elul and the High Holy Days to anyone interested in participating. As a result, Temple Kol Hamidbar is providing the following websites for individuals to access. Please visit their websites for their latest information.
Temple Emanu-El in Tucson, AZ https://www.tetucson.org/
Temple Sinai in Oakland, CA [High Holy Days info] https://www.oaklandsinai-hhd.org/
The Union for Reform Judaism https://urj.org/
We recite MI SHEBËRACH for the victims of brutality, abuse, fear, natural disasters, pandemics, violence, and war; for all those at home alone; for all those in need of physical, emotional, and mental healing. “R’fuah sh’lëmah” – a complete recovery!
We say KADDISH YATOM for those of our friends and families who have died and been buried this last week; those in the period of Sh’loshim (30 days since burial); those who have died in the last year; and those whose Yahrzeits/Anyos occur at this time; as well as the victims of brutality, disease, natural disasters, war and violence. We remember, too, those victims of the Shoah (Holocaust) who died at this time of year and have us to say “Kaddish” for them. “Zichronam liv’rachah” – May their memories be for blessing.
For the New Year – Our God and God of our ancestors, Eternal God of all generations: May Your Presence in our lives this New Year renew our spirits and renew our strength. May it be a good year. May it be a sweet year.
L’shana tovah tikateivu – v’teichateimu!
May you be inscribed – and sealed – for a good year!
We will NOT meet for Torah Study or Shazoom this Friday, September 18, 2020, Erev Rosh Hashanah. We will resume both on Friday, September 25, 2020, Shabbat Shuvah.
Zoom continues being updated for security and performance features. Making sure you have the latest version of Zoom, please join us online next Friday evening a week from today:
Topic: Torah Study
Time: Sep 25, 2020 06:00 PM Arizona
Shazoom – Erev Shabbat Service
Time: Sep 25, 2020 07:30 PM Arizona
Tizku l’shanim rabot – n’imot v’tovot (may you merit many pleasant and good years),
Shabbat Shalom v’Chag Sameach!