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September 7, 2012

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, SEPTEMBER 07, 2012 PAGE 21A By Edmon J. Rodman LOS ANGELES (JTA)-- Can ridding oneself ofayear's sins really be as simple as tossing a piece of bread into the water? Basically that's tashlich, or "casting away," a custom that many Jews practice each year at the seashore, lakeshore, stream or even koi pond. Sim- ply find a place with flowing water and fish, and toss in a piece of bread (others turn out their pockets) to symbolically cast off sins. Any place with fish will do, as their eyes are always wide open--symbolically like God--watching. But is it really that easy? The list of transgressions we will recite on Yom Kippur is a long and complicated al-" phabet of falling short, and each year standing before the water, I wonder how can tashlich possibly work? I'm not alone. The commentary in the Rabbinical Assembly's Machzor Lev Shalem, which has a tashlich service, points out that "Some rabbis op- posed Tashlich because it makes the complex process of separating sin from our lives seem too facile." Too easy or not, for the your growing number of Jews I see at the beach each year, tashlich does seem to provide the crust of a new us. The custom, which is not mentioned in the Talmud and has origins dating probably to the Middle Ages, is related to a verse in the Book of Micah (Chapter 7-19) that during tashlich is usually recited: "He will take us back in love; He will cover up our in- iquities, You will hurl (v'tashlich) all our sins Into the depths of the sea." Maybe tashlich works be- cause like our confession on Yom Kippur, it's all so public. It's one of those moments when we each get to see each other's sins--or at least an expression of them--and discover that we're not alone. Standing side by side With other casters, we see the size and type of bread they toss and let the interpretations fly. Last year I received an email with some of those interpretations: pretzels for twisted sins, rice cakes for tasteless sins, a long loaf for laziness. But in terms of size, does a bigger piece mean a biggex sinner? I suppose, or perhaps simply someone who likes to feed the fish. ~t By Zalman Schachter- with need, with loneliness and Shalomi and Joel Segelsorrow, withthankfulnessand joy, with fear and dread. "No BOULDER, Colo. (JTA)-- God," the mind insists. But the For many of us, let's face it, the upcoming High Holidays will be anything but a high. Oh, ~ve'll pack every pew in the synagogues, dressed in our holiday best. We'll be there for hours, rising when told to, sinl~ing thankfully back into our seats, reading responsiv~'ly. Many enjoy the communal aspect of it, the tunes they remember from childhood. Some feel genuine awe at the ceremony and out-of-worldly blast of the ram's horn. But if Kol Nidre's pleas to wipe out any unfulfilled vows and promises teach us anything, it is to mean what we say. Does language like "Our Father, our King, we have sinned before you; our Father, our King, we have no King but You" re- ally speak for us? How do we avoid the High Holidays trap of spending hour after hour reciting prayers we don't understand, in language we don't subscribe to, to a God we may not even believe in? Can we find a way to enter into the experience more fully without putting our minds in the pawn shop and violating our Jewish compul- sion for honesty? One surprisingly simple and freeing solution begins with a distinction. Beliefs are the language of mind. Prayer, on the other hand, begins in the heart--not the muscle but the metaphor, the realm not of cardiologists but of poets. Real prayer--daven- ing, as we Jews used to say back in the old country--is not a rational matter. It's a JCC of Greater Odando romance. Prayer is the language of heart because real prayer d~ls heart, in its small, uncertain voice, cries "Oh God! Omigod!" In that cry, if we can allow ourselves to hear it, lies the beginnings of prayer. Now take that distinc- tion a step further. The trek through the liturgy is in fact a journey through four distinct spheres of human ex- perience. The Jewish prayer book, it turns out, is more in sync with modern beliefs than we mightthink. Developmental psycholo- gists now speak of multiple intelligences, distinguish!ng- kinesthetic intelligence from musical ability, say, or logical reasoning from emotional aptitude. Kabbalah prefers to think of four parallel landscapes, each with its own symbolic language and imagery, and each finding expression in the prayer service. To kabbalists, the reality we know is rooted in assiyah ("doing"), the world of the tangible, the physical. This is the realm of the morning blessings that launch our prayers, the ones that thank God for our creature com- forts and physical abilities; Assiyah, too, is the dimen- sion in which our bodies take action, ris!ng when the ark is open, bowing, swaying back and fortl-; in the silent Amidah, even prostrating ourselves in the High Holi- days Musaf service. The beating heart of prayer is found in the world of yet- sirah ("formation"), a section of psalms that follows the morning blessings and opens us to our emotions. The key word here is Hallelujah! and the key expression is song. Yetsirah is the home of what sins Regardless, when the group is done tossing, the bread washes up on the beach: crusts, crumbs, crackers-- while in terms of spiritual- ity, I am still looking for the Wonder Bread. Why bread anyway to rep- resent our sins? Is it all those evil carbohydrates? In another use of High Holy Days symbolism, on Yom Kippur we read about the scapegoat chosen to carry all the sins of Israel and then sent into the wilderness. At tashlich if the bread is our goat, then for me that's a lot on which to chew. My slice is that bread, in Jewish tradition, the thing our homes are not supposed to be without--represents the every day--the very thing we are trying to change. At the New Year, whether placing my errors on a goat or on rye, the issue is does casting them away create space for change? Last year before the High Holidays, tossing away two garbage bags full of column false starts, meanderings and half-finished fingry letters gave me room to move cre- atively. Would tossing away a piece of bread, psychologi- cally speaking, provide room to move in other ways as well? Martin Buber called our "I- thou" relationship with God. It is in yetsirah that we turn to the sacred Other, whatever we understand that to mean. But don't think about it too much. Sing! Your heart will understand. The Barachu that follows takes us into the world of heriyah ("creation"), the realm of mind. The language here speaks of the heavenly orbs, of light and darkness, of the miracles of the universe. We are rising higher now. We marvel at creation, meditate upon it and begin to merge with it. Finally, Hear O Israel and the silent Amidah take us into atzilut ("emanation"), the highest and most abstract of the four worlds. Atzilut is the realm of spirit. Its lan~ guage thrives on mystery, contradictions and dissolu- tion of boundaries. Our prayers don't al- ways "make sense" because making sense is not what we're here for. Our journeys through life are more com- plex than that. And so our duty to the Days of Awe, and to ourselveS, doesn't end with procuring our tickets. We need more than just assigned seats and receipts that our synagogue dues are paid up. We want a ticket to transformation, a pass to the possibility that something in us feels genuinely moved. As our synagogues open their door to us, so may we open our own inner doors to multidimensional experi- ences. As the ushers show us to our seats, so let us find a seat for prayer in our hearts. Rabbi Zalman Schachter- Shalomi and Joel Segel are the authors of "Davening: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Prayer," forthcoming from Jewish Lights. Looking for an answer, I contacted Chaya Lester, a Je- rusalem psychotherapist and observant Jew who believes that tashlich is the first step toward making a change. Lastyear, Lester wrote a piece titled "The Psychology of Tashlich" on her jpost blog in which she said that"Tashlich is like Jewish ritual medicine. It's a classic psycho-spiritual technique for inner cleansing and health." According to Lester, with whom I spoke recently, before tossing their bread away an individual should ask, "What happened this year that should now have my attention?" "The individual needs to be conscious of the personal issue that they are placing on the bread," she said. "Move- ment happens when we access the power of our emotions." "Write down the top 10 things that you want to cast off," said Lester, who with her husband, Rabbi Hillel Lester, founded the Shalev Center, a place for personal Jewish growth in Jerusalem. Lester, who sees tashlich as "transformative," suggested that after tossing away thoir bread, individuals need to ask, "What should my action be? What is my next step?" Lester and family observe tashlich at a lake in Jerusalem where the fish come up and take the tossed bread. "It connects me to the Jonah story," said Lester, referring to the haftarah that is read each year on Yom Kippur afternoon and with verses---"you cast me into the depths, into the heart of the sea'--that also are recited at tashlich~, When we do tashlich, we are "casting out the negative narrative, authoring a new story," she said, referring to the High Holy Days' sefer chayim, the book of life. And that's the wonder, bread or no, we all seek. Edmon J. Rodman is a JTA columnist who writes on Jewish life from LosAngeles. Contact him at edmojace@ NAOMI ALEXANDER: in LITHUANIA & The Florida Connection English artist Naomi Alexander, ROI, records the last remnants of Jewish heritage in Lithuania today. Alexander traveled the country depicting her impressions of the people and their communities. The Museum adds photographs, artifacts and stories, from Floridian Jews whose origins are from Lithuania. IGtchen interior, Zeizmarial, Thru September 30, 2012 Locolsvo.sor,: Sorita,.Jimmy&LidiaResnickand detail, oil on wood, 2003. Deborah & Bruce Kaye in memory of Sonia and Nochim Go/arab. Organized by the London Jewish Cultural Centre in assqd~tion with the Ben Uri Gallery, the London Jewish Museum afar MEt FINKELSTEIN: Featuring alifetimeofwork by acclaimed photojournalist Mel Finketstein, PICTURING THE MAN these images from the 1950s-1980sfocus on iconic symbols of our cultural past. BEHIND THE CAMERA from presidents to performers, givinga sense of this larger-than-li!e man and Thru October 14, 2012 his world of time, place and celebrity. Exhibit curated by Donna Wendler aod Susan J. Geier and circulated by the Me/Finkelstein Family Trust. Partially sponsored by Congregation Beth Jacob Mel Finkelstein & Kim Novak, gelatin silver print, 1960. Jewish Museum of Florida 301 Washington Avenue ~0~'- ~ '~ liarni Beach. FL-~3139 t~~ ~ :~ .i Tel: 305-672-50~ %~,o.;,~'~ ~ MIAMIBEACH Open daily: lOam-5pm, except Mondays, Jewish and Civil holidays. The Museum is supported by individual contributions, foundations, memberships ann 9rants from the State of Florida, Department of $tate, Division of Cultural Affairs. Florida Arts Council, and National Endowment for the Arts: the Miami-Dade Count~ Board of Commissioners and its Cultural Affairs Coundl and Tourist Develooment Council; and the City of Mia m i Beach and its Cultural Arts Council. Receive 2 for 1 admission with this ad HFJN L'Shana Tova from your family t the Jewish Community fG Orlando! Scott Richman, President David Wayne, Bonnie Rayrnan, Associate Executive Director ROTH JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTER [ MAITLAND, FL JCC'S JACK & LEE ROSEN SOUTHWEST ORLANDO CAMPUS I DR. PHILLIPS, FL www.orlandojcc.orq