Shalom Chaverim!

As the tumult of the new year approaches, my thoughts and feelings are all over the place. Elul is almost finished and with it my annual self-evaluation. Once again I find myself coming up short in so many areas and resolving to do better in the year to come. Tishrei is on the horizon and for me, there are two things that tower above everything – shofar and teiglach. This Rosh Hashanah marks the 43rd year that my shofar and I have been together. The only relationship I have that is longer is with my family, and that’s where the teiglach comes in.

Every year since I can remember, my mom has made teiglach. I have vague memories from childhood
of standing on a step stool so I could help drop the pieces into the boiling honey…of waiting for the end of dinner on Erev Rosh Hashanah to have that first piece…the sweet honey, cookie-like dough and sharp ginger filling my senses…there could be no sweet and happy new year without teiglach!
After I stopped coming home for the high holidays, it arrived by mail, a plastic container…wrapped in
plastic film…inside a Ziploc bag…in a small cardboard box. Sometimes one of my dad’s round challahs would accompany it on its journey.

If you have read my previous writings about the time/space portal in your kitchen, imagine closing your eyes and biting into that first piece on Erev Rosh Hashanah and being transported 3000 miles away and 40 years into the past. Without fail, every year, teiglach would come – wherever I was – a week before yontif; the sign of a covenant more powerful than brit milah. Until two years ago, when it was clear to me and my siblings that mom just wasn’t up to the “meshugas” of teiglach. So now, I send her some. My sister and brothers too. Carrying on the tradition. Those little nuggets of dough, raisins and honey are so much more to us than a dessert after the Rosh Hashanah meal. They are family, love, connection, togetherness, life well shared, perhaps even a part of my Torah; they and their creation are part of who I am.

After all those years of getting teiglach from my mom, it was really hard to accept that it wouldn’t be
arriving anymore; that it was up to me to take up the task and continue the work. And so it is with Bet
Chaverim. For the first time in our collective memory, Jack Kornberg will not be with us. Jack loved Bet Chaverim and worked tirelessly on our behalf. It is hard to accept that I will not wish him Shanah Tovah this year, that he will not be there to help raise the sukkah, that his wonderful, thoughtful, caring voice is only in our hearts and minds. This year, perhaps more than in any other, all of us are called by the shofar to make the “community of do-ers” that Jack envisioned a reality…to take up the task and continue the work.

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha’olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav vitzivanu lishmo’ah kol shofar.

Blessed are you, Adonai, our God, king of the world, who raises us to holiness with mitzvot and commands us to listen to the voice of the shofar

“To listen to the voice of the shofar”

I know, just about every prayerbook says “to hear the sound of the shofar.” But a sound is just a noise.
Like cars going by on the street outside your house or the beeping sound a truck makes when it backs up or your washing machine gearing up when it hits the spin cycle. We hear sounds all the time – they register in our brains and then they are gone.

A sound doesn’t reach out and grab you by the soul…
Tekiah! I am whole – I am on the path – I am a good person
Shevarim! I am heading for the shoals – I am struggling – I need help
Teruah! I have made mistakes – I have strayed from the path – I cannot find my way alone

Tekiah! I am whole – I am on the path – I am a good person

The year follows the same pattern, doesn’t it!? We listen to the final shofar note and break the fast on
Yom Kippur and we are whole, starting the new year with a clean slate, ready to do our best. As the
days, weeks, and months go by, we stumble, we stray from our resolve, we yield to temptation, we do
things we are not proud of. By the time Av and then Elul arrive, we don’t know what to think. How
could I have strayed so far from the path I set for myself last year? Why did I do the things I did?

When did I stop listening to the voice of my shofar? In the last week or so before Rosh Hashanah I find myself focusing on the voice inside of me – the one that answered when the voice of the shofar called out. And then the holidays are upon us and we are made whole again, to start the year with new resolve and determination, propelled by the voice of the shofar as it grabs our souls and says “I won’t let go if you won’t.” Because the voice you hear when Peter and I bring our Shofars to life is your inner voice – that visceral, deep inside human gyroscope part of who you are that gives life to your own shofar, fuels your Torah and calls you to action; it is not required that we finish the work but rather that we pick up where others stopped and continue it.

A core group of women is energizing and restarting Sisterhood and I ask all of you to join with them in this worthy endeavor. The men’s group (guys – we still need a catchy name) will be raising the sukkah on Sunday September 23 rd and I call on all of Bet Chaverim to kick-start our “year of doing” by coming out that afternoon to connect with each other and share a wonderful mitzvah. Bring vegetation and other stuff to decorate (a couple of cordless drills would be good too). Upon completion of the sukkah, we will be repairing to Anthony’s in Des Moines for snacks, beverages and tall tales. What better way to start the year than connecting with each other to enrich our community!?

May all of you be inscribed and sealed in the Book Of Life for a happy, healthy and sweet 5779.