1. Religion and science are frequently set up as polar opposites; incompatible ways of thinking. The Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks begs to differ. For him, science and religion can, and should, work together. To mark Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, he puts his position to the test. He meets three non-believing scientists, each at the top of their field: neurologist Baroness Susan Greenfield, theoretical physicist Professor Jim Al-Khalili, and the person best known for leading the scientific attack on religion, Professor Richard Dawkins. Will the Chief Rabbi succeed in convincing the militant defender of atheism that science and religion need not be at war?

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  2. Kol nidrei. Was there ever a stranger prayer to capture the imagination of serious minds. It isn't poetry but prose. It isn't even a prayer. It's a dry legal formula for the annulment of vows. The first time we hear about it in the eighth century already great rabbis are against it. Can you annul vows that easily? Is this what we should be doing on the holiest night of the year? Yet it outlasted all its critics, defied its opponents, and remains one of the best known and most evocative of all the passages in the prayer book. Why?

    I suspect because it's what teshuvah is all about. Like rash vows, like thoughtless words, we do things we know we shouldn't. And on this night of nights, we look back at the mess we've sometimes made of our lives, the people we've hurt, the mistakes we've made, the deeds we should never have done, and say: God, Kulhon icharatna lehon. We regret them all. And if regret can undo a vow, let it undo a deed. Give us the strength to make amends and begin again, a little wiser this time, a little less brash, a little more understanding and patient and humble. Help me undo kol nidrei, ve-esarei, ushevu'ai, all the knots I have tied myself into, and let my life become simple and honest and kind again.

    "Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is a kind of clarion call, a summons to the Ten Days of Penitence which culminate in the Day of Atonement... Yom Kippur is the supreme moment of Jewish time, a day of fasting and prayer, introspection and self-judgement. At no other time are we so sharply conscious of standing before God, of being known."

    To help prepare for the New Year, the Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has recorded a series of ten thought-provoking videos, each reflecting on a particular idea associated with this time in the Jewish calendar or on an individual prayer said on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur.

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  3. Avinu malkenu. Our father our king. You know who composed that prayer? Rabbi Akiva. The Talmud says, that once no rain fell. There was a drought. People were suffering. The rabbis ordained a fast. Rabbi Eliezer, a very distinguished rabbi, prayed 24 prayers but nothing happened. Then Rabbi Akiva stepped forward and said: avinu malkenu, our father our king. Ein lanu melekh ela atah. We have no king but you. And the rain fell.

    Can you imagine this? Here is a simple Jew, Rabbi Akiva, who couldn't even read Hebrew until he was grown up. And he looks up to heaven and says: God, we are small and you are vast, we are nothing and you are everything, but tatele, abba, avinu, you are our father. Who else do we have in the whole universe but you? And I believe at that moment, God himself shed a tear and that was the rain that fell. Avinu malkenu. All we have is you.

    "Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is a kind of clarion call, a summons to the Ten Days of Penitence which culminate in the Day of Atonement... Yom Kippur is the supreme moment of Jewish time, a day of fasting and prayer, introspection and self-judgement. At no other time are we so sharply conscious of standing before God, of being known."

    To help prepare for the New Year, the Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has recorded a series of ten thought-provoking videos, each reflecting on a particular idea associated with this time in the Jewish calendar or on an individual prayer said on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur.

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  4. Bilvavi mishkan evneh. A lovely poem about prayer itself, written by Rabbi Eliezer Azikri, one of the mystics in Tzefat in the late sixteenth century. "In my heart I will build a temple to God's glory. In it I'll built an altar, lit by the fire of Abraham's love, and as a sacrifice, I offer to God my one and only soul."

    Prayer is the language of faith, and the prayer book is the map of the Jewish mind. The song we sing to God is the music of the Jewish soul, and somehow in time beyond time and space beyond space, our finitude meets God's infinity and we are brushed by the wings of the Divine presence, the Shekhinah.

    Don't expect it to happen every time, or all at once. For there is no human understanding without time and study. Yet it is there in our prayers, written by our ancestors as they strove to find the words that would reach out toward the unsayable like a message transmitted to some distant star.

    And there you will find the mystery of Jewish spirituality that turned our ancestors, a tiny and otherwise undistinguished people, into a nation that defied the laws of history and outlasted all the world's great empires. Prayer is the place where speaking meets God's listening, and in ways we will never understand, we are transformed.

    "Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is a kind of clarion call, a summons to the Ten Days of Penitence which culminate in the Day of Atonement... Yom Kippur is the supreme moment of Jewish time, a day of fasting and prayer, introspection and self-judgement. At no other time are we so sharply conscious of standing before God, of being known."

    To help prepare for the New Year, the Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has recorded a series of ten thought-provoking videos, each reflecting on a particular idea associated with this time in the Jewish calendar or on an individual prayer said on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur.

    Uploaded 86 Plays 0 Comments
  5. Have compassion on your works. Forgive. That's what we say on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and the days between. But it cuts both ways. We can't ask God to forgive us if we don't forgive others. We have to forgive those who've offended us, however hard it is, because life is too short to feel resentment. Lo tikom velo titor, says the Torah. Don't bear a grudge and don't take revenge.

    At the end of his life Moses said to the Israelites, Don't despise an Egyptian, because you were strangers in his land. Strangers in his land? They persecuted the Israelites, enslaved them, tried to kill half their children. Don't despise them? They were despicable. But what Moses was saying was: if you continue to hate, you will still be slaves: slaves to the past and your resentment. If you want to be free you have to let go of hate. And that's still true.

    Our energies are too precious to waste on a past we can't undo. No one can offend me without my permission, and I refuse to give bad people the victory of knowing I care about what they say or do. On these holy days, we have to let go of hate. We have to forgive. And we will then travel lighter through life, with less grief, more joy.

    "Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is a kind of clarion call, a summons to the Ten Days of Penitence which culminate in the Day of Atonement... Yom Kippur is the supreme moment of Jewish time, a day of fasting and prayer, introspection and self-judgement. At no other time are we so sharply conscious of standing before God, of being known."

    To help prepare for the New Year, the Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has recorded a series of ten thought-provoking videos, each reflecting on a particular idea associated with this time in the Jewish calendar or on an individual prayer said on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur.

    Uploaded 97 Plays 0 Comments

Rosh Hashanah

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