Time Out…Time to Breathe

Although my grandfather has been dead for 76 years I can still hear him saying in Yiddish “s’iz ois yontiff; zoll mir da leben  bei a yohr”… the long holidays are over; may we live to celebrate another year.

How right he was. The eve of Rosh Hashanah (3 hours of praying), 1st day of Rosh Hashanah (4 ½ hours of praying), 2nd day of Rosh Hashanah (same as the first day), eve of Yom Kippur/Kol Nidre (4 hours of praying), Yom Kippur (27 hours of fasting and 11 hours of praying), eve of Sukkot (1 ½ hours of praying). 8 days of Sukkot (4 hours each day of praying), eve of Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah (4 hours of praying) and Simchat Torah (5 hours of praying). When do we say “dayenu”… it’s enough?

Now the holydays have concluded and it’s time out…time to catch our breath. Yesterday we concluded the annual reading of the Five Books of Moses in the Torah scroll, the final verses in the Book of Deuteronomy, and lo and behold, the Torah scroll was re-wound and today we began once again the beginning of the Holy Scriptures with the first lines of Breishit (Genesis): “Breishit bara Elohim et ha shomayim v’et ha aretz”… in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. Then He continued on day one to create light.

His light was intended to illuminate His world and His creations for the first man and woman. But Adam and his wife Eve turned light into darkness and exile from the paradise in Eden. They yielded to temptation, disobeying God’s command to them.

Over the millions of years, man has not changed. He still surrenders to temptation rather than living by God’s code of laws. And it cannot be blamed on an apple growing on a tree in Eden for there were no apples in the world. It was the fruit of a fig tree from which Adam and Eve ate and then sewed the fig leaves together to clothe themselves, for they were naked.

Shortly after that, Cain killed his brother Abel in jealousy. The first murder. The first fratricide. And the parents go on to re-populate their family by giving birth to a son named Seth.

The first twelve chapters of the Bible are based in mythology. They are called pan-Semitic literature because similar stories, written centuries earlier in Egypt and in Babylon, were borrowed and edited by the compilers of the Hebrew Bible in the year 90 of the common era in Yavneh (Roman Jamnia).

Among the remains of the early Hebrew prayers is one which is called Birkat HaMazon… the blessings after meals. No other religious faiths follow this religious obligation. Certainly Muslims do not. And Protestant Christians begin meals by reciting a brief grace but reciting no prayers after the conclusion of a meal.

Jews recite this prayer three times every day at the conclusion of a meal. It is a lengthy prayer comprised of many blessings. But among them are the mention of Jerusalem and the Jewish attachment to the holy city. No other religion in the world offers prayers to a city.  Jerusalem and Judaism are bound together and can never be separated.

“Have mercy, O God, on Israel Your people, on Jerusalem Your City, on the Temple Mount, the place of Your glory, on the kingdom of the family of David, Your anointed king, and on the great and holy Temple which is called by Your Name…”

“Lord our God, let us see Zion, Your city, being comforted and Jerusalem, city of Your Holiness, being rebuilt….”

“May You rebuild Jerusalem, the Holy City, soon in our lifetime. We bless You, O God who rebuilds Jerusalem in His mercy”.

What other nation, what other people, pray three times daily for the welfare of a city?  It is peculiar only to the Jews.

The holidays for 5777 have come to a conclusion. We now take long and deep breaths, hoping that our long days of prayer and repentance will be heard and will be answered.

At the end of the Passover seder, we have recited for more than two thousand years, “L’shana ha-ba’a b’Yerushalayim”…. Next year in Jerusalem.

But now we have returned to Mother Jerusalem and never again shall we leave her.  Every one of her stones upon which our feet tread is holy to us.

And we pray, as my beloved grandfather did, “zoll mir da leben bei a yohr”… let us live to celebrate the Festivals and holy days once again in this new year  5778  in happiness, good health, love and peace.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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