Rabbi’s Review – November 2019

Holding on to Holiness

Rabbi Cassi Kail


The Hebrew month of Heshvan has arrived. After a month that contained four of our most significant Jewish holidays, Heshvan’s quietude is most welcome.

Over the past few weeks we have eaten apples and honey as we celebrated the New Year. We asked for forgiveness, worked on forgiving others, and cast our sins into the water. On Yom Kippur, we atoned and came to terms with our mortality. We mourned for all those we have lost. After a day of refraining from food and drink, and rehearsing our own deaths, we celebrated the fact that we are alive, and the New Year 5780 is bursting with opportunity. A few days later, we dwelt in impermanent structures on Sukkot, as our hearts filled with gratitude for all that we have. We heard the heart-breaking stories of three remarkable men who became homeless in Los Angeles. Due to the help of strangers, the Beacon House, their faith, and their determination to succeed, these three men have become vibrant members of our community eager to help others who are going through what they once did. Through their stories, we connected to the vulnerability of our lives, and were inspired to make this world a little more whole. On Simhat Torah we danced with Torah scrolls, rejoicing in the opportunity to yet again find ourselves within its stories (the Torah does not change, but we do!), and to gain wisdom through its lessons.

The High Holy Days are imbued with the sacred. It is in the melodies, readings, and traditions of the season. The task before us is to hold on to this holiness, as we go about our daily lives.

Each week, Shabbat ends with a Havdalah ceremony. We taste the wine, smell the spices and allow the Havdalah candle’s warm glow to reflect in our fingernails. In so doing, we hope to take a piece of holiness of Shabbat with us as we enter a new week.

The High Holy Day season is over, but its lessons about vulnerability, strength, forgiveness, and gratitude remain. The taste of apples and honey linger in our mouths. Memories of the season stay with us. In the quiet of Heshvan, let these memories inspire us to build relationships, stand up for the stranger, and be present with those we love. Let us overflow with appreciation for all that is good in our lives. In this way, the sacredness of the season will continue well into the year.