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September 2018 - Message from the Rabbi

rabbi gary mazo Shalom!

You are reading this during the month of Elul – that month that immediately precedes Rosh Hashanah. Its primary purpose is to prepare us for the coming High Holidays. Every day except for Shabbat and the very eve of Rosh Hashanah, we blow the shofar to "wake us up" to our potential.

Every year, there are people who have not been in synagogue for years and make the decision that this is the time to come back; and they look to me for inspiration. They look to me to validate their change; their commitment. It is a tremendous amount of pressure.

Every year, a few new people come in and say something along the lines of, "you know, Rabbi, I’m not really religious, but I do need a place to go for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, so I’m coming here today." I hear that a lot. But exactly what does it mean, "I’m not religious, but I need a place to go for the High Holidays?"

Even people who belong to our congregation; even some who come regularly, will say to me, "You know, Rabbi, I enjoy this, but I’m not really religious!" Maybe it is just vocabulary. Maybe it is just a semantic problem. Maybe we do not realize how religious all of us really are, even if we are not all entirely living the ritual aspect of our life.

Here is an experiment; Here are a pair of words, the first word is the religious word; the second word is the secular version of the same thing:

Holy/special

Righteous/decent

Faithful/honest

Pious/law abiding

Prayerful/thoughtful

Reverent/constructive

Charitable/generous

Blissful/happy

Some people who feel they are not "religious" might prefer the second word of each pair. They may not use, "Holy, Righteous, Faithful, Pious, Prayerful, Reverent, Charitable and Blissful" because they think they are secular. So, for them, things might be: special, decent, honest, law-abiding, thoughtful, constructive; generous and happy. When it is all said and done, however, the words mean the same thing. Holy means special, and Righteous means decent. Faithful means honest. And on and on.........

When we come to synagogue for worship, we do pray; and yes, that is religious. However, ifthe prayer ends without action, it is often considered a prayer said in vain. Religiosity is not just the rituals, but it is what the rituals ultimately enable you to do - teach you to do - inspire you to do.

There are people who are religious who do not partake in rituals. There are people who have rituals, who are not very religious. Judaism is not about living in either extreme – it about being open to creating a balance in our lives.

This is the month of Elul. This is the month of hearing the shofar as a wakeup call, telling us topurify our souls and rededicate ourselves to the principle of making the world a better place.We cannot make the world better if we do not make ourselves better first!

We attend worship services because they remind us of the priorities which fill life with joy and meaning. When we stop on Shabbat to take a breath, we also have to think about our sense of connection with time and with each other. That is the religious thing to do.

This year let’s be open to becoming more "religious" in its fullest context. Just in time for Rosh Hashanah, let’s be open to the possibility of infusing our lives with more meaning, drawing closer to God and to one another.

Shanah Tovah - a happy and healthy New Year to one and all.

Gary A. Mazo, Rabbi