Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Have You Seen a Soul Dance? by Rabbi Moss

Question of the Week:
My kids say that it is boring to be Jewish. They went crazy after hours in shul on Yom Kippur and say they don't want to go back next year. We told them that we only go once a year, and it is important. How can I inspire them to go to shul again?

Answer:
Of all the days on the Jewish calendar, it seems the most unlikely pick. The service is at least ten times longer than usual - it takes all day. The atmosphere is far more serious and sombre than ever - we spend the whole time confessing our sins and begging for forgiveness. And the food is the worst served at any Jewish gathering - none.

I would suggest choosing another day for your once a year shul appearance - Simchas Torah. The prayers are relatively short. We don't even wait until the service is over to bring out the food. Most of the time is spent eating, drinking and dancing. The focus of the day is celebrating, basking in the joy of just being Jewish.

Kids love it. And adults do too, because on this day the purest essence of the soul is revealed, that part of us that equalises young and old, learned and ignorant, sinful and saintly.

The truth is Yom Kippur and Simchas Torah are two steps in one spiritual process. On Yom Kippur, through fasting and inner repentance, we rid ourselves of the negative past. On Simchas Torah, through dancing and celebrating, we draw down the blessings for a promising future. The deeper your cleansing was on Yom Kippur, the more profound will be your joy on Simchas Torah.

Don't make the all too common mistake of showing your kids the heavy side of Judaism while robbing them of the experience of Jewish joy. A Jew who knows Yom Kippur but hasn't seen Simchas Torah is a Jew who has seen the soul cry but hasn't seen the soul dance. We have cried enough. It is time to celebrate.

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