By Mayana Branigan
When I was just a little girl, I can remember sitting on the grass outside the synagogue listening to Rabbi Shlomo’s Carlebach stories. I feel like stories have a way of touching both mind and heart, and I would like to share one of these stories about the Rosh Hashana holiday, with you.
As Rabbi Shlomo often started one of his signature stories, everybody knows that the high holidays are a time of reckoning that are often accompanied by great seriousness and sadness. The great rabbi of the city of Lublin in Poland would spend the eve of every Rosh Hashana with his followers in joyful prayer and dancing. It is told that their prayers were full of such intent and joy that they literally opened the gates of heaven.
One year, a believer, who did not follow the ideology of the rabbi of Lublin, decides out of curiosity to spend Rosh Hashana with this community. He witnessed the rabbi and the community dancing and praying with such joy that he could not understand. He believed this was a time to be serious, a time to repent in sadness. He shared his feelings with the rabbi of Lublin and the rabbi replied by giving him a glimpse of what was going on in heaven.
In this vision he could see that all in the community who were dancing were written in the book of life. All of the sudden he understood what the rabbi and the community were doing. In this important, meaningful time in Jewish life, that is full of soul searching, they chose to look into their hearts and pray out of real gratitude and happiness.
I believe that what Rabbi Shlomo is trying to tell us with this tale is that life is not always easy. However, what is important is how we navigate our way through those hardships. The path we choose to take and the attitude we choose to adopt could be one of happiness and togetherness.
The community is the cornerstone of Jewish life. It serves as a compass for the individual and offers comfort and support during challenging times. Coming together in joyous prayer during the time of the high holidays can help usher in a new year full of appreciation and togetherness.
Shay and I both bless you with a year that is sweet as honey. We cannot wait to be part of your community family. May we all dance our way into the book of life! Happy holidays!