D’VAR TORAH | September 26, 2014

In the American Reform Mahzor (High Holy Day prayer book) the Torah readings for Yom Kippur differ from those of the traditional service. During the Shacharit (morning) service we read from the 29th and 30th chapters of Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for the Mincha (afternoon) service is from Leviticus Chapter 19, the Holiness Code.

To me these two sacred readings capture the essence of the Yamim Nora’im (Days of Awe), our High Holy Days.

I blanch at the words ‘high holidays.’ Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, these observances are infinitely deeper than mere holidays as we understand from the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Torahreadings.

The image of the Shacharit Deuteronomy parsha (portion) mirrors our reality as Jews at that exact moment.Atem nitzvaim kulchem, “We stand together…” all of us in our synagogues. There is no hierarchy here, or there shouldn’t be one.

As the Torah so eloquently states, in God’s sight we all are equal. We are just Jews, worshipping together in a mega-minyan; drawing strength and courage from one another as we seek forgiveness from God for the sins which weigh upon our lives. The very community of the congregation makes this daunting task more possible.

The words of Deuteronomy address our past and present – what about our future? Yom Kippur ends. The New Year, 5775, has begun. From here where do we go? The Holiness Code from Leviticus, our Mincha Torah reading, shows us the way. God presents us the most daunting of challenges. Kedoshim t’hiyu ki Kadosh Adonai Eloheichem “Holy shall you be because I, Adonai your God, am holy.” God challenges us to manifest that part of our being created B’tzlelem Elohim, in the image of God and cause it to control our entire personality. Impossible? Probably so. Yet this is a opportunity we should willingly accept even though we know that complete success will elude us.

These words also point to events in Israel today. In every service in all streams of Judaism we pray for peace. I believe Israel and most of her neighbors share this hope. As we approach 5775 may God give the will to all humanity to live the words of the Holiness Code as we “…love our neighbor as our self.”

Shana Tova U’m’tuka,

May God grant you a good and sweet 5775!

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Candles should be lit for Shabbat on Friday, September 26 at 7:15 p.m.; for Yom Kippur and Shabbat on Friday, October 3 at 7:06 p.m.; For Sukkot on Wednesday, October 8 at 6:58 p.m. and Thursday, October 9, after 7:45 p.m.; for Shabbat on Friday, October 10 at 6:55 p.m.; for Shemini Atzeret, on October 15 at 6:48 p.m.; for Simchat Torah on October 16 after 7:44 p.m.; and for Shabbat on Fridays, October 17, at 6:45 p.m. and October 24 at 6:36 p.m.

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Editor’s note: Rabbi Stanley R. Miles, the rabbi of Temple Shalom (Reform), has volunteered to provide Torah commentaries for Community.

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