Huliya

Rabbinical Trends

Philanthropy is an age-old activity. It has much evolved over the centuries and today too it takes many forms depending on cultures and religions. In the past few years, the media and the universities have been the scene of a major debate on the philanthropic calling and on the various philanthropic trends. There are more and more chairs of Philanthropy, which is becoming the subject of an increasing number of studies and publications. With all that, as always, philanthropy is still driven by friendship between human beings and by their wish to relieve and encourage each other.
This blog is a forum about philanthropy. It welcomes the contributions of intellectuals, of researchers, of religious personalities, and of donors alike. It also aims at expressing the spirit that drives the founders and leaders of the Matanel Foundation.

KIPPOUR 5776 : de Kol Nidré à la Néïlla

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz is a teacher, philosopher, social critic and prolific author who has been hailed by Time magazine as a "once-in-a-millennium scholar." His lifelong work in Jewish education earned him the Israel Prize, his country's highest honor. Born in Jerusalem in 1937 to secular parents, Rabbi Steinsaltz studied physics and chemistry at the Hebrew University. He established several experimental schools and, at the age of 24, became Israel's youngest school principal. In 1965, he began his monumental Hebrew translation and commentary on the Talmud. To date, he has completed his monumental project and the last book was published in November, 2010. The Rabbi's classic work of Kabbalah, The Thirteen Petalled Rose, was first published in 1980 and now appears in eight languages. In all, Rabbi Steinsaltz has authored some 60 books and hundreds of articles on subjects ranging from zoology to theology to social commentary. Rabbi Steinsaltz lives in Jerusalem. He and his wife have three children and 15 grandchildren.

Kol Nidré

Le jour de Kippour constitue avant tout un jour d'expiation, de pardon de nos fautes et de nos péchés. En tant que tel, il s'agit essentiellement d'un acte provenant d'En-haut et qui, en principe, ne dépend même pas de notre téchouva, de notre repentir. Certes, la plupart des Sages considèrent que la clémence Divine repose sur un tel repentir. Il n'en demeure pas moins que c'est bien D-ieu Lui-même qui pardonne et purifie les enfants d'Israël de leurs transgressions une fois par an. Au cours de la fameuse confession Al 'Heth, nous récitons plusieurs fois au milieu des différentes prières de la journée et nous comptons toutes sortes de méfaits que nous avons pu commettre. Cette confession contient en vérité un message capital : montrer que, de notre point de vue, nous sommes intéressés par l'expiation et le pardon de D-ieu. Nous souhaitons qu'Il efface toutes nos fautes sans exception, y compris celles qu'au fond de nous, nous aimerions bien préserver et emporter avec nous l'an prochain…

Tout cela est vrai de l'ensemble des prières de Kippour. Celle de Kol Nidré, objet d'un impressionnant cérémonial au tout début de la veille au soir, contraste néanmoins par rapport aux autres, car a priori il n'y est point question de péchés. Assurément, selon nombre d'avis, Kol Nidré a pour but d'annuler plusieurs types de vœux que nous avons formulés et que nous n'avons peut-être pas réalisés : cela aussi est considéré comme une faute. Mais il semble bien que la formulation extrêmement détaillée de Kol Nidré, la répétition du texte à trois reprises, sous-entendent une idée supplémentaire. Tous nos vœux, tous nos serments et toutes les interdictions que nous nous sommes imposées n'ont pas forcément de rapport avec les mitsvot nous incombant. Ils ne correspondent pas non plus, en eux-mêmes, à des transgressions. Il s'agirait plutôt de tous ces engagements que nous avons pris vis-à-vis de nous-mêmes, d'une façon ou d'une autre alors que nous ressentons le besoin d'y renoncer. Et puisqu'il en est ainsi, pourquoi ne pas demander à D-ieu, en ce jour de Kippour, de reprendre à Lui ce fardeau au même titre que celui de tous nos péchés ?
Il existe bien sûr des vœux spécifiques traités sans aucune ambiguïté par la halakha, la loi juive. Mais la plupart des autres constituent en fait une liste sans fin de décisions qui enchaînent les êtres humains tout au long de l'année. Ces décisions touchent parfois aux rapports entre un homme et son prochain ; ailleurs,  elles touchent à la personne en seule à seule avec elle-même. Ainsi peut-il nous arriver de prendre l'engagement d'accomplir tel acte ou au contraire de s'en abstenir, de rompre toute relation avec certains individus ou au contraire de mener telle action dans le seul but de créer un lien avec d'autres.

En d'autres termes, Kol Nidré fait écho à toutes les promesses que nous effectuons pendant le cours ordinaire de notre vie, au gré du hasard ou d'un instant donné, d'un moment de tentation, voire d’une crise de colère envers autrui ou envers nous-mêmes. Plus encore - même si l'on s'éloigne ici de la définition exacte des vœux – Kol Nidré évoque aussi notre train de vie dans son ensemble, notre manière d'exister, tout ce que nous voulons, pour nous-mêmes ou pour les autres. Chaque individu s’est imposé à lui-même un certain nombre d'obligations, d'interdictions ou de restrictions même si elles ne correspondent qu'en partie à sa volonté, voire la contredisent. Mais quels que soit son désir profond, il se trouve emprisonné par la routine des actions que lui dictent ces engagements personnels.

Avant d’entamer la journée de Kippour, avant de se plonger dans un bilan sévère de nos égarements et des actions auxquelles nous avons failli malgré notre devoir de les accomplir, vient  la prière de Kol Nidré : là, il est question de choses qui n’entrent pas dans la catégorie d’une mitsva ou d’une transgression, mais plutôt de tous ces éléments qui bâtissent notre vie en général. Ces derniers éléments nous ligotent dans un certain cadre car ils ont pris en quelque sorte un caractère de vœux. Les « chaînes » qui nous attachent ne peuvent se comparer à des transgressions mais ce sont elles qui enfreignent notre liberté et nous empêchent d’agir comme nous le devrions vraiment.

Le jour de Kippour, où nous devons complètement nous affranchir de la cargaison  de tous les péchés et de tous les problèmes qui pèsent sur nos têtes, il nous faut d’abord nous libérer de tous ces fardeaux personnels : à nous de déclarer en général et en public que nous souhaitons renoncer à tous ces « engagements » qui n’ont fait aucun caractère d’obligation, à tous ces désirs facultatifs, à tout ce que notre vie routinière nous impose. Ainsi, avant de pénétrer notre être dans l’essence de cette journée sacrée, nous avons le devoir de « nettoyer » l’air autour de nous afin que nous puissions aborder ce processus de purification, d’expiation et de téchouva, libérés de toutes les entraves que nous nous sommes nous-mêmes fabriquées. C’est seulement alors, après nous être rétractés de « toute interdiction ou sentence d'anathème que nous avons pu prononcer contre nous-mêmes, toute privation ou renonciation que, par simple parole, par vœu ou par serment nous avons pu nous imposer », qu’il nous est donné d’entrer dans la quintessence du jour de Kippour et de purifier plus sérieusement notre âme.

La prière de la Néïlla

L’heure de la Néïlla, la prière de clôture, affiche deux aspects. D’un côté, malgré les hauts et les bas que nous avons pu connaître au cours de toute la journée, nous ressentons le caractère essentiel de Kippour : c’est ce jour en soi qui apporte l’expiation. Une telle sensation se renforce en nous au fur et à mesure que l’on s’approche de la clôture. Dès lors, nous avons le sentiment de surpasser les détails de telle prière ou demande particulière ; c’est bien de l’essence même de la journée dont il s’agit et nous désirons de toute notre âme aboutir à son accomplissement. D’un autre côté, nous souhaitons terminer cette prière de la Néïlla,  non pas en état d’affaissement ou de de somnolence mais au travers d’un grand cri et d’un grand appel.

Nous ne prions pas seulement la Néïlla parce que les portes de Ciel sont sur le point de se refermer. Nous souhaitons en fait exprimer le désir profond de notre cœur, un désir qui, cette fois, n’est plus celui de se faire pardonner. Certes le texte de la prière précise que « D-ieu tend la main à ceux qui transgressent Sa parole », peut-être avec encore plus d’emphase que dans les prières précédentes. Mais cette main tendue par D-ieu signifie qu’Il nous donne la possibilité de sortir de l’abîme dans lequel nous sommes descendus et nous nous sommes enfoncés, des eaux tumultueuses dans lesquelles nous sommes tombés ou de la boue dans laquelle nous nous sommes empêtrés, pour prendre alors un nouveau départ.

Au-delà de tout cela, nous souhaitons prononcer des mots que nous n’avons pas encore énoncés pleinement et en toute vigueur, des mots qui expriment notre véritable volonté. Lors d’un tel moment, nous mettons de côté nos problèmes personnels, nos propres méfaits ou manquements. Puisque « D-ieu a dissipé nos méfaits comme un brouillard et nos péchés comme un nuage » (Isaïe 44 :22), il est temps de passer à la fin du verset : Reviens à Moi, je suis ton libérateur. Nous devons – en fait, nous désirons – exprimer notre volonté de revenir à D-ieu, de ramener D-ieu non pas au travers de tel acte particulier mais au travers d’une déclaration affirmant à quel point nous sommes attachés à D-ieu et nous voulons être proche de Lui.

C’est pourquoi, tous ensemble, d’une seule et même voix, pour conclure la Néïlla nous crions Chéma Israël ainsi que, par sept fois, Hachem Hou Ha-Élokim (« L’Eternel est seul D-ieu »). Ce dernier appel évoque tous les aspects au travers desquels « L’Eternel seul est D-ieu » : la rigueur de D-ieu et Sa miséricorde, la révélation et le voilement, la dimension divine au sein de la nature tout comme au-dessus, enfin notre relation avec D-ieu au plan collectif comme au plan personnel. C’est tout cela qui résume la prière de la Néïlla. D-ieu a pardonné et expié nos fautes, et, pour un jour, nous avons été plus ou moins purs. C’est donc le moment de pousser ce cri de l’enfant, dans une parfaite unité et de toutes nos forces, en révélant ce qu’en vérité, nous n’avons pas encore dit : « Papa, nous voulons revenir à Toi ! ».

Traduit de l’hébreu par Michel Allouche, Jérusalem

ליום הכיפורים התשע"ו

כל נדרי
יום הכיפורים הוא, בתמציתו ובעיקרו, יום של כפרה, יום סליחת העוון, יום מחילת הפשעים, וככזה הוא בעיקרו מעשה של מעלה, שאיננו תלוי עקרונית בתשובתו של האדם. הגם שלרוב הדעות צריך אדם לעשות תשובה כדי שיום הכיפורים יכפר, מכל מקום עיקרו של הדבר הוא בזה שהקב"ה הוא המכפר והמטהר את ישראל מפשעיו וחטאותיו פעם אחת בשנה. הווידוי וה"על חטא" שאנו אומרים, בתוך התפילות ובין התפילות, שבהם אנו מונים את כל מיני הפשעים, החטאים והעוונות, בכל האופנים ובכל הדרגות, באים הם בעיקר בשביל לומר שאנחנו, מצדנו, מעוניינים שהקב"ה ימחל ויסלח ויכפר לכל עוונותינו וימחה את כולם, כך שלא נשאיר אצלנו אפילו את אותן עבירות שהיינו רוצים להישאר אתן גם בשנה הבאה.
כל זה נכון ביחס לתפילת יום הכיפורים כולה. ואולם תפילת "כל נדרי" – הנעשית בטקס רב-רושם בתחילתו של היום הקדוש – היא יוצאת דופן מן הצד הזה, משום שלכאורה אין בה עניין של עוונות או חטאים. אמנם לפי כמה מן הדעות "כל נדרי" עוסקת בביטולם של כל מיני נדרים שנדרנו ואולי לא קיימנו, שגם זה הוא, מבחינה מסוימת, חטא; אך נראה לומר שהפירוט הגדול שב"כל נדרי", והחזרה על הנוסח, מרמזים על דבר אחר: הנדרים, השבועות, האיסורים מכל המינים בעצם אינם קשורים בהכרח למצוות המוטלות עלינו. הם גם אינם, מצד עצמם, דברי עבירה. אלה הם דברים שאנחנו קיבלנו על עצמנו בצורה כזו או אחרת, ושאנחנו מרגישים שיש מקום לוותר גם עליהם, ביחד עם כל שאר הדברים שהקב"ה נוטל מאתנו ביום הזה, יום הכיפורים.
אמנם יש נדרים שהם ספציפיים, ברורים וחד-משמעיים מבחינה הלכתית; אבל רוב הנדרים, הקונמים והאיסורים שבני אדם מקבלים על עצמם הם, בעצם, שורה ארוכה, כמעט אינסופית, של החלטות אנושיות שאנשים כובלים את עצמם בהן לאורך כל השנה כולה. בחלקם הם כבלים שבין אדם לחברו, ובחלקם – כבלים שאנשים כובלים בהם את עצמם: בהתחייבויות לעשות מעשים מסוימים או להימנע ממעשים אחרים, בהימנעות ממגע עם בני אדם או בעשיית פעולות שונות כדי להתחבר אתם.
במילים אחרות, זוהי רשימה – מרומזת, אמנם – של מהלך החיים הרגיל שלנו, על כל ההתחייבויות שהוא מכיל: מקריות או רגעיות, דברים שיצרנו בעצמנו בשל רגע אחד של תאווה או של רצייה בצד דברים הנאמרים או נעשים מתוך כעס או רוגז על אחרים או על עצמנו. ומעבר לזה, זהו אורח חיים שלנו בכללותו, דרכי החיים שלנו, אף על פי שאין זה מתאים להגדרה המסוימת, המוגדרת, של נדרים: איך אנחנו חיים, מה אנחנו עושים ומה אנחנו רוצים לעשות עם עצמנו ועם אחרים, מה אנחנו קונים לעצמנו, מה אנחנו קונים לאחרים, וכו' וכו'. כל אדם יש לו שורה כזו של דברים שהוא מחייב את עצמו בהם, אוסר וכובל בהם את עצמו, בחיי היומיום. רבים מהדברים הללו הם דברים שאדם בעצם איננו רוצה אותם בשלמות, או אינו רוצה בהם כלל, אבל הוא כבר נכנס להרגל של עשייה כובלת.
לפני תחילתו של יום הכיפורים, לפני שמתחילים לעסוק בדברים החמורים של החטאים, העוונות והפשעים שעשינו, כמו גם עם כל אותם דברים שהיינו מחויבים לעשות ולא עשינו, בא "כל נדרי" ומעלה את כל אותם דברים שאינם בגדר מצווה או עבירה אלא הם המרכיבים הבונים את מבנה החיים הכולל שלנו וכובלים אותנו משום שבמובן מסוים קיבלנו אותם על עצמנו כמעין נדר. הכבלים הללו, הגם שאין הם בגדר עבירות מובהקות, הם כבלים שאינם מאפשרים לנו להשתחרר ולעשות את מה שבאמת עלינו לעשות.
ביום הכיפורים, שאמור להיות השחרור הגדול ממשא החטאים והבעיות הרובץ עלינו, אנו נקראים להוריד מעלינו המשאות הפרטיים הללו, להצהיר באופן כללי וציבורי שאנחנו רוצים לוותר על אותן ההתחייבויות שאינן מחויבות המציאות, על כל הרציות שאינן הכרחיות, על הדברים שהם מבנה החיים הרגיל שלנו. ומשום כך, עוד לפני שאנחנו מתחילים בעבודה של עיצומו של יום, אנחנו קודם כל באים לנקות את האוויר שמסביבנו – כדי שנוכל לגשת לטהרה, לכפרה, ולתשובה בלי להיות כבולים בכל הכבלים שכבלנו ואסרנו את עצמנו. ואחרי זה. ואחרי שיימחל לנו על כל ההתחייבויות החברתיות והחצי חברתיות הללו שהתחייבנו זה לזה, על כל ההבטחות הבלתי חשובות ובלתי רצויות שהבטחנו לעצמנו, אחרי שניפטר מכל ה"איסורי וחרמי וקונמי וקינוסי וכינויי" הללו, נוכל, אולי, להיכנס לעיצומו של יום ולגשת לטהר את נפשנו בצורה רצינית יותר.

תפילת נעילה
לזמן הנעילה יש שני צדדים. הצד האחד הוא שעם כל העליות והירידות שאנו עוברים ביום הזה יש הרגשה שעיצומו של יום מכפר, כלומר: עצם מהותו של היום מכפרת, וההרגשה הזו נעשית יותר ויותר חריפה ככל שאנו מתקרבים לסיומו של היום. בשלב הזה של היום אנחנו מרגישים שעכשיו אנחנו לא נוגעים בפרט אחד, בתפילה אחת או בבקשה אחת, אלא בעיצומו של יום, ושעכשיו אנו רוצים בכל נפשנו שהמעשה אכן ייעשה וייגמר. הצד האחר של הנעילה הוא שאנחנו רוצים לסיים את היום הזה לא בשקיעה, בנמנום, אלא בשאגה גדולה, בקריאה גדולה.
תפילת הנעילה היא לא רק תפילה שאנחנו מתפללים לפני שיינעלו שערי הרקיע ושערי השמים: לפני נעילת השערים אנחנו רוצים לבטא מה באמת אנחנו רוצים, מה באמת אנחנו מבקשים, והבקשה הזו איננה בקשה של סליחה ומחילה. אמנם בתפילת הנעילה אנחנו אומרים "אתה נותן יד לפושעים" וכו', ומדגישים זאת הרבה יותר ממה שעשינו עד כה: אנחנו מדברים על כך שהקב"ה מושיט לנו יד, נותן לנו את האפשרות לצאת מן המקומות שאליהם ירדנו ובהם שקענו, הוא מוציא אותנו מן המים העזים או מתוך הזוהמה שאליהם נפלנו ובהם שקענו אל התחלה חדשה.
אבל מעבר לזה אנחנו גם מבקשים לומר משהו שאולי עוד לא הספקנו להגיד אותו בכל מלוא תוקפו קודם לכן: אנו רוצים לומר את המילים המבטאות את מה שאנחנו רוצים באמת. אני מסיח כעת את דעתי מן הבעיות הפרטיות שלי, מן החטאים והעוונות הרובצים עלי, מן המחדלים שלי. עכשיו, אחרי ש"מחית כעב פשעינו וכענן חטאותינו", הגיע הזמן לעבור לנקודה הבאה שהיא – "שובה אלי כי גאלתיך". אנחנו צריכים, ורוצים, לבטא רצוננו לשוב אל ה', לשוב את ה' – לא בעשייה מסוימת זו או אחרת, אלא בהצהרה האומרת עד כמה אנחנו קשורים לקב"ה ועד כמה אנחנו רוצים בקרבתו.
אשר על כן אנחנו אומרים כולנו יחד, בבת אחת ובקול אחד, "שמע ישראל", וקוראים שבע פעמים "ה' הוא האלוקים" – קריאה המבטאת את כל הצדדים והאופנים שבהם ה' הוא האלוקים: בבחינת הדין ובבחינת הרחמים, בבחינת הגלוי ובבחינת הנסתר, בבחינת מה שמעל לטבע ובבחינת מה שבתוך הטבע, בבחינת ההתקשרות שלנו אתו באופן כללי ובאופן פרטי. הדברים הללו הם-הם תמציתה של תפילת הנעילה, הם מה שאנחנו צריכים לעשות: לשאוג כולנו כאחד, בכל יכולתנו. עכשיו, אחרי שכל היום הזה של מחילה וכפרה, אחרי שיום אחד היינו פחות או יותר נקיים, אנו באים ואומרים מה שבעצם עוד לא אמרנו: אבא, אנחנו רוצים לשוב אליך!

Yom Kippur 5776

Kol Nidré

 

Yom Kippur is, in essence, a day of atonement, of forgiveness for sins and transgressions, and as such it is mainly an act from Above which may not have anything to do with man's Teshuva. Although according to most of our Sages, one must do Teshuva in order for Yom Kippur to atone, still, it is God who once a year atones and who purifies the Jewish people from its sins. The viduy (confession) and the al het (alphabetical confession) we recite both between and within the Yom Kippur prayers, in which we enumerate all the different kinds and levels of sins, transgressions and crimes, are mainly a request on our part that God forgive us, atone for all our sins and wash them away – so much so that we will not keep even those sins that we may have liked to hold on to for another year.

All this is true for all of the Yom Kippur prayers; but Kol Nidrei, recited with much pathos and ceremoniousness at the beginning of this holy day, is different, because it does not have to do with sins or transgressions. Although according to some opinions Kol Nidrei is the annulment of various vows we had made and perhaps did not carry out – which, in itself, is a sin – the very detailed text of this prayer and its repetition three times seem to point in another direction. All the different kinds of vows, oaths and prohibitions do not necessarily have to do with the commandments that we are obligated to fulfill. They are also not, in and of themselves, transgressions; rather, they are various things we have taken upon ourselves and that we now feel that we can give up, along with all the other things that the Almighty removes from us on Yom Kippur.

True, halachically speaking there are vows that are specific, clear and unequivocal; however, most of the vows, oaths and prohibitions that people take upon themselves are a long, almost interminable series of human decisions with which people shackle themselves throughout the year. Some of them are interpersonal shackles, while others are ropes with which people bind themselves – e.g., commitments to do or refrain from doing certain things, avoiding certain persons or doing whatever they can in order to connect with them.
In other words, it is a list – albeit only implicit – of things that comprise our ordinary day-do-day conduct: coincidental or temporary, decisions made because of an instant of passion or desire, statements that result from anger or annoyance with others or with ourselves – although they may not suit any formal definition of "vows." It is how we live, what we do and what we want to do with ourselves and with those around us, what we buy for ourselves or for others, etc. Every one of us has a list of such things that he has taken upon himself, thereby creating, day by day, self-imprisonment. So many of these may be things that we do not particularly desire, or not want at all, but we are already in the habit of doing these self-imprisoning acts.

Before the beginning of Yom Kippur, before we start to deal with the more grievous sins, transgressions and crimes we have committed, and also with whatever we were supposed to do and failed to do, comes Kol Nidrei and brings to the fore all that is neither commandment nor transgression, but rather the building blocks of the overall structure of our life, all those things that bind us because we have, in a certain sense, taken them upon ourselves as if they were vows, and which do not enable us to set ourselves free and do whatever we really have to do.

Yom Kippur is the day of great liberation from the great burden of sins and problems that weigh us down, a day in which we are called upon to cast off these private burdens, and to make a public declaration about our desire and intention to let go of all the unnecessary commitments, all the superfluous desires. Therefore, before beginning the work of this holy day we clean the air around us – so that we can go about the purification, atonement and Teshuva of Yom Kippur without all those shackles with which we had tied ourselves up. And after that, after being forgiven for all the unimportant and unwanted promises we had made to ourselves, after we rid ourselves of all the prohibitions and vows etc., we may be able to enter into the core of this day and start purifying our souls more thoroughly.

Ne'ilah

The time of the Ne'ilah prayer has two facets. One is that despite all the ups and downs we experience throughout the day, there prevails the general feeling that the day itself atones. This feeling grows stronger and stronger as we get closer to the end of Yom Kippur. At this point in time we feel that we are dealing not with any specific detail, prayer or request, but rather with the very essence of the day, and that now we really want, with all our heart and soul, that the act of atonement will indeed be completed. The other side of Ne'ilah is that we want to conclude this day not with a drowsy decline but with a mighty roar, with a great call.

The Ne'ilah prayer is not only a prayer recited before the gates of Heaven close down: before the locking of the Heavenly gates we want to express what it is that we really want, that we truly seek. And this is not a request for forgiveness. We do say, in this prayer, "You give a Hand to transgressors," and we stress it even more vehemently than we have done so far; we speak about God giving us a hand and granting us the possibility of extricating ourselves from all those places into which we had descended and sunk, and know that He takes us out of the strong currents of water or deep filth into which we had fallen, leading us toward a new beginning.

But beyond that we also want to say something that until now we have not yet had the opportunity of saying with all our might: we want to utter words that express what we really want. Now I, the individual, take my mind off of my private problems, off the sins and transgressions that weigh me down, off of my omissions and oversights. Now, after God has "blotted out, as a thick cloud, our transgressions, and, as a cloud, our sins," it is time to move on to the next stage: "return unto Me, for I have redeemed you" (Isaiah 44:22). We must, we want to express our desire to return to God – to return to Him not though this or that specific action but with a declaration that will express how profoundly we are connected with the Almighty, how deeply we want His closeness.

This is why at the end of this prayer we all say, together and in unison, "Hear O Israel," and cry seven times "The Lord is God" – an exclamation that reflects the different aspects and ways in which "the Lord is God": Judgment and Mercy, the revealed and the concealed, that which is beyond nature and that which is within nature, our relationship with Him both individually and as a nation. This is the very essence of the Ne'ilah prayer, and this is what we must do: roar, all of us together, with all our might. Now, after this entire day of atonement and forgiveness throughout which we were more or less clean, we finally come out and say what we have not yet said: Father, we want to return to You!

Shabbat Teshuva 5776 - For all Congregations, instead of a spoken sermon

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz is a teacher, philosopher, social critic and prolific author who has been hailed by Time magazine as a "once-in-a-millennium scholar." His lifelong work in Jewish education earned him the Israel Prize, his country's highest honor. Born in Jerusalem in 1937 to secular parents, Rabbi Steinsaltz studied physics and chemistry at the Hebrew University. He established several experimental schools and, at the age of 24, became Israel's youngest school principal. In 1965, he began his monumental Hebrew translation and commentary on the Talmud. To date, he has completed his monumental project and the last book was published in November, 2010. The Rabbi's classic work of Kabbalah, The Thirteen Petalled Rose, was first published in 1980 and now appears in eight languages. In all, Rabbi Steinsaltz has authored some 60 books and hundreds of articles on subjects ranging from zoology to theology to social commentary. Rabbi Steinsaltz lives in Jerusalem. He and his wife have three children and 15 grandchildren.

The very concept of "Shabbat Teshuva" contains an inner contradiction. The essence of Shabbat is the ceasing of work, of toil, and so it is also up high, in the very first origin of Shabbat; but in many other ways Shabbat is also a day of pleasure, a day in which one tries to increase pleasures and avoid, as much as possible, things that arouse sadness and the like, as it says in the prayer: "a rest of peace and serenity and tranquility and security." Teshuva, on the other hand, seems to have to do with our shortcomings and flaws, be it in transgressions between man and man, between man and God, or against oneself. Looking into these matters, besides having an aspect of trying to improve, contains also an aspect of regret, deep sorrow and pain of the heart. Although not everyone can say that "my sin is constantly before me," (Psalms 51, 5), but recalling saddening matters that were one's share in the past year, and possibly also in past years, is sorrowful and painful, and surely does not increase one's feeling of serenity.
How, then, can Teshuva be done on Shabbat? Teshuva is an entire world in itself. As can be seen in the words of our Sages and in the Shabbat songs, Teshuva preceded Creation – namely, it is one of the foundations of Creation. Therefore, regardless of the innumerable books and sermons written and said about it, it still has ever so many new faces – just as each and every human being has a different fact.
It can therefore be said that Shabbat Teshuva is a call for a different sort of Teshuva, a Teshuva of Shabbat. Because in addition to its being a day of ceasing from work and a day of pleasure, there is another side to Shabbat, which is mentioned in the Shabbat prayers and indeed in the Scripture itself. Shabbat itself is Teshuva, a return. Our Sages say that in creating the world God dealt, so to speak, with things mundane, material matters of the world, of human beings, whereas on Shabbat He "rested and was refreshed," Shavat va-yinafash, the soul, nefesh, returns to its place. And this can also teach us what to do. If the point of Teshuva is to go back, to return to the source, so on Shabbat Teshuva there is no room for dealing with sins and transgression; rather, it is a Teshuva in the sense of return.
Yom Kippur, although its prayers contain so many confessions, is not a day of Teshuva: it is a day of atonement. On Yom Kippur we count our sins so that the Almighty will dispose of them one by one; or, as the verse says (Hosea 14, 3): "forgive [literally: raise up] all our iniquities" – that the Almighty will take each and every one of our transgressions and raise it high up with His unlimited power. On Shabbat Teshuva we do not have this power of atonement and forgiveness, but we do have another power: the power to return to the source, to all those things that belong to the side of holiness in us, in each and every one of us.
Some people can recall years in which they were in a different, higher level; others can recall such days; but there is not a single human being who does not have moments, or parts of his soul, in which he wants and feels the need to return to God. In such moments one says to the Almighty: My Father in Heaven, I want to return to You! I went out, wandered, travelled, on weekdays and on other days, I have strayed and led others astray. Now I want to return to You. Furthermore, Teshuva is the attempt to go back to what I ought to be. This is the Teshuva of Shabbat. In the Teshuva of Shabbat we focus not on our sins and crimes but rather on the question – how can I ascend, what can I improve. And thanks to this – not because we are waging a war on our sins, but because we are trying, also on the basis of past memories, to brace ourselves and return to God – God will wipe away our sins like clouds.
On Shabbat Teshuva we should devote our time and hearts to look into all the things of goodness, blessing and holiness that we have, and see also those things that we touched. I may not have touched them sufficiently, but I can do so even now, on this Shabbat, with greater strength and might. The essence of it all is to return to God, to return home, to the most prime origin, in the sense of "my God, the soul You placed within me is pure." I do not think about where I fell, where I failed, where I got soiled; I cast all of that away from me and tell God: I want to return to holiness and purity.
So this is what we can do on Shabbat Teshuva, so that we will merit to see on that day the light of good will, of the desire to raise higher, and with its power, indeed to rise higher. This light, which is an essential component of both Shabbat and the Ten Days of Teshuva, is the main point of Shabbat Teshuva. On this Shabbat we ought to think not about where we are now but about where we wish to be, about what good and blessing do I want to do. This Shabbat, then, contains a kind of pleasure that is, perhaps, different from that of other Shabbat, but which, too, is a complete, perfect Oneg Shabbat, Shabbat pleasure.

Introduction speech to the Maharal Matanel prize at the CER Convention - Toulouse

Mrs Aflalo is one of the founder members of the Matanel Foundation and is a member of the Board of Patrons of the CER.

Dear Rabbis,
Dear Guests,
Dear Boris, our Partner and Friend,
Thank you Rav Weill to host us with efficiency,

When Matanel Foundation was founded, our desire was to help Jewish communities throughout Europe. The necessity to inspire, empower and encourage rabbis and specially the young rabbis) became obvious to us and Hulya (Hug Lelimudei Yahadut Europa) was created to that effect.

After 5 years, Hulya counts more than 300 affiliated Rabbis and encourages then all over the year.
Hulya sends for Haggim more than 20 000 kits (Hannukiot, Michloah Manot and Meguilot, Matzot and Haggadot, books). Rabbis received them upon request in filling in the appropriate form. We try to be caritative and modern.
The items created and designed by Hulya bear bar codes guiding to audio or video content leading to prayers and songs. That way accessible to youth without need of assistance, by using their phone.
Even old people enjoy using it, refreshing their memories of all types of songs and say “c’est genial”.
Some Rabbi, like Rav Journo, took upon themselves to distribute those items to Jewish in Hospital or in Prison. This year, Hulya would like to extend this action in eldery homes and is looking for initiative of Rabbis.

Hulya is involved also in sponsoring kindergartens, Mikvaot, Shabbatonim (ECJS is one of the best example into gathering 10 000 youth throughout Europe since inception.)
Hulya organizes or sponsor seminars for Rabbis, for Rabbi wives, with help of professionals.

At the first stage of our actions, Rabbis did not have the opportunity to meet each other and to exchange about their own experience.
Friendship ties throughout those seminars have been established and B”H will progress.

At the beginning, they were reluctant to use modern tools, now they can give us lessons about using multimedia networks.

At the beginning, the word “Kirouv” was only a notion, today kirouv is a real action.

In this perspective and evolution I am pleased to announce the decision of Hulya to create the Maharal Matanel prize. The prize will reward two promising European young Rabbis every two years.
Ceremony will take place during the CER Convention. The applying Rabbis should be under 45, live in Europe with their family and take care of the same community during 3 years. Their actions should be original and inspiring and can be duplicated.

A Jury composed of Rabbis intellectuals and people from the civil society will study the applications which should be sent via the website www.hulya.lu
First prize: 18 000 euros, Second prize: 10 000 euros

We are proud to see each of you today involved in blessed actions and we hope that you will continue to be a source of inspiration for your communities.
We are proud to see CER be an active body recognized in Europe.

Pray for us

Speech at the Vatican during the meeting with the Pope

Pinchas Goldschmidt is the chief rabbi of Moscow and chairman of the Brussels-based Standing Committee of the Conference of European Rabbis, representing some 800 Jewish religious leaders in over 40 European states.

Your Holiness, Your Eminences, dear Colleague Chief Rabbis, dear Members of the Board od Patrons ofthe CER.

Your Holiness in his homilies has spoken of the God of Surprises, a notion of God, which has also been bequested to me by me teacher Rabbi Soloveitchik, The God, who unexpectedly carries his will and salvation to humanity through least espected emissaries. The fact that we are meeting today in a historical context is also to celebrate a surprise.

This year 2015 we celebrate fifty years of Nostra Aetate with the declaration that the Church, in her rejection of every persecution against any man, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved by political reasons, but by the Gospel's spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone. Nostra Aetate marked a new beginning in the relationship between the Church and the Jewish people.

50 years is a full cycle ans is described in the Word of God as "leolam" as forever, a word signifying an eternity, which is included in the passing of a Jubilee cycle. And we are today grateful to the honor accorded to us, to celebrate this monumental jubilee in the presence of Your Holiness; and celebrate also all further advances in the relationship between our religions,including the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the STate of Israel.

The world moved beyond Nostra Aetate when Your Holiness stated in 2013 in Evangil Gaudium, that "We Christians should embrace with affection and respect Muslim immigrants to our countries" and Your Holiness asked that "Muslim countries grant Christians freedom to worship and to practice their faith, in light of the freedom which followers of Islam enjoy in Western countries"

I would be not overly dramatic if I would describe that many Jews in Europe feel themselves as Christians in the Middle East, even though the governments of Europe have taken steps to protect their Jews. I used a metaphor to describe the situation of Jews in Europe today, as the one, where two trains with ever greater speed are racing towards each other, and we the Jews, are the one man standing on the raiils, not knowing which train is going to hit us first. On one hand our synagogues our schools our museums, our elderly and youth are being attacked and killed by radicalized immigrants from the Middle East in many Western European Countries. This is one train.

The other train is the reaction of secular "old Europe" to the onslaught of Muslim radicalim. Instead of fighting the radicals, "old Europe" backlashed with a broadside attack against Islam, forbbiding building of minarets, the wearing of traditional covering for women, and trying to outlaw Hallal meat and circumcision. But while Islam might be the primary target of the latest xenophobic European campaigns against circumcision and ritual slaughter, European Jewry is the "collateral damage" in this anti-Muslim offensive. The most glaring example of this when during the French presidential elections, one party endorsed a ban on religious headwear - including kippot in public. This is the other train.

We would like to thank the Holu See and the Catholic communities of Europe for supporting our quest for religious freedom and our common quest to head off the dangers of Radical Islam, which has become a threat not only for us, but for the world as a whole, as the terrible events in Paris and Coppenhagen have shown us. We express our deapest sympathy, prayers and support for the Christians in the Middle East and are proud to note that the Holy Land is an island in that very troubled region, where Christians can continue to enjoy full religious freedoms abd their personal safety is protected by the Jewish State.

Coming from Russia with a very important group of our lay leadersn it is impossible not to raise the issue of continuous bloodshed and suffering, thousands of victims, hundreds of thousands of refugees, sanctions and counter sanctions, which has led to great economic difficulties for ordinary Russians, Ukrainians and Europeans.

We see the danger of a new mounting wait between East and West, endangering mankind and our world. I started with the mention of the God of Surprises. Who would have thought even twenty five years ago that the East will become the defender of traditional religious values while the East will become the defender of traditional religious values while the West has embraced a secularism, which moves away from its Judeo-Christian heritage. Your Holiness is in a unique position as the leader of Western Christianity, chich at one hand embraces traditional religious values and on the other hand is embedded in a modern Western society, which has championed democracy and human rights, to be God's emissary to help build new briges and bring the East and the West back from the brink of warn to a unified and peaceful Europe and the world.

I would like to close with a blessing to Your Holiness and all of us, a blessing of Shalom of peace, for us and the world.

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