Below you can find a Torah Teaser of the Parashat Hashavua (weekly Torah reading) written by our very own Rabbi Tendler.

1 Elul 5780 | August 21st, 2020

Dear Beth Tikvah family,
Hodesh tov! Happy new month as we arrive officially at the month of Elul, the precursor to the High Holy Day season! There are 40 days from the beginning of Elul until Yom Kippur and according to a rabbinic tradition, these days correspond to the 40 days that Moses remained on Mount Sinai after the incident with the golden calf. The story goes that when Moses descended Mount Sinai the first time, he saw molten calf the people had formed as an idol. In a moment of anger and utter exasperation, Moses broke the tablets which had been inscribed by God – the symbol of the covenant between the Jewish people and God.
While the midrash implies that the first set of tablets represents that which has been broken-promises, hopes, dreams and covenants, what fascinates me most is what happened to them. One might think: they are broken, throw them out. However, even after a new set of tablets were inscribed, (and the Mishkan/Ark constructed) God instructed Moses to keep the broken ones inside of the Holy Ark right along the whole set.
There is nothing as whole as a broken heart,” the Kotsker Rebbe (1787-1859) famously said. For me, this sentiment epitomizes the point of the story and the season itself. These 40 days can be understood as a metaphor of longing, of a deep desire to return to things as they were before they were broken. After all, our tradition often views the month of Elul as a metaphor, an acronym– with the letters alef, lamed, vav, lamed representing for the verse from Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs)– ani l’dodi, v’dodi li— I am to my beloved as my beloved is to me. In other words, this view, reminds us of falling in love– the honeymoon period of all relationships in which everything is exciting and blissful. This month we are encouraged to reclaim this feeling, to invest in ALL of our relationships and reinvigorate them.

However, I believe that the Kotsker Rebbe’s wisdom points to a deeper, richer alternative. This month, Elul, urges us to take moments for deep introspection. Jewish tradition invites us to work from the broken parts of ourselves toward wholeness. Our tradition, in a myriad of ways, asks us to be vulnerable (not weak) in order to be stronger, more compassionate, more human, human beings. Vulnerability creates the platform for strength as “the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging and love.” Vulnerability is about courage, authenticity and faith. Being vulnerable is being real, showing up, living your truth. And yet, allowing ourselves to feel vulnerable goes against the grain of what we are taught day in and day out. Our society teaches us to not feel, to numb all uncomfortable emotions. Yet Brene Brown, of whom I am a big fan, teaches (in line with Judaism) that when we “pretend we can’t feel those hard feelings of vulnerability, grief, and disappointment without numbing joy, gratitude, happiness and all of those feelings that make life worth living.”

This month is our wake up call and our practice run. We blow the shofar to wake ourselves up and to wake God up. We look to our brokenness and our broken relationships and work towards strengthening each. Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz, a 17th century rabbi, notes that each group of shofar blasts begins with a teki’ah, a whole note, before shevarim, a “broken” note, divided into three parts, or even a teru’ah, an entirely fragmented sound, at least seven very brief sounds. But each broken note is followed by a whole note, another teki’ah. This, he says and I contend, is the message of the holy day season: “I started off whole, I became broken, even splintered into fragments, but I shall become whole again! I shall become whole again!”
Or in the words of Leonard Cohen:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
You can add up the parts; you won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march, there is no drum
Every heart, every heart to love will come
But like a refugee.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
Before closing, I want to take the opportunity to wish Mazal Tov to the entire Osten family on Jessica becoming a bat mitzvah this Shabbat. I hope you will join the family (via ZOOM) in celebration!
Shabbat shalom,
RST