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TAO's  High  Holy  Days

The Shul

by Anne Goldberg

As I write this, early Sunday evening, I am still basking in the glow of TAO’s Yom Kippur (2010) services. How to describe the feeling… peaceful, balanced; filled with the understanding of the deeper, more healing meaning of the holy day themes of repentance and forgiveness. In the tradition of Renewal Judaism, Rabbis Marc, Phillip and Shoni led us through Yom Kippur with a sense of joy, love and compassion for ourselves and one another.

There was something ethereal in that room. It was hard to not see the light with the light of a hundred candles shimmering in the air. It was hard not to feel the light when songs like Kol Dodi and Barchi Nafshi floated and filled the space with harmony and reverie.

I was transported in this hotel ballroom. And that caused me to think about being part of this community, this shul. Which led me to wonder, does a community have to have a building to be a community? Does a shul have to have a physical home to be a shul? While a building would certainly root us, the question for me then becomes what is that building if not for the people, if not for the congregants? A building without ruach (spirit) and kavanah (intention) to fill and enrich ritual, ceremony and life’s events is just confined space.

It was clear to everyone in the ballroom of the Westin Cypress Creek that we were in shul. We prayed, turned inward and stood and sat and stood and sat with the best of them. We danced with our Torah and we took lessons from our Etz Chaim Hi, that Tree of Life that has sustained us Jews over thousands of years of Diaspora. What I came to understand is that it is cleaving to and celebrating our traditions and passing that on to our children that keeps Judaism alive.

In a most poignant moment, our beloved community bubbe, Dr. Florence Ross, paid us a surprise visit and answered the heartfelt questions from an audience captivated by this aging sage’s grasp of the frightening re-emergence of the millennia-old habit of bigotry and persecution. I could feel the enormous energy of the few hundred who listened as Dr. Ross called us to organize to action in the face of escalating hate crimes. We were all appalled and a little frightened when Rifka Maidan spoke of the plight of the Chabad Lubovitch Congregation in Boynton Beach. It seems the bank is threatening to seize the five Torahs as assets against their mortgage, a frightening and heartless scenario. It is true that, in the great tradition of the Hebrews, TAO may be slightly nomadic. Thank God, no one is threatening to take our Torahs because we can’t pay our mortgage.

In interviewing our members for my appeal this year, it was poignant how deeply our community, our shul, has affected the lives of so many. I am proud to stand as lay leader of this truly unique expression of meaningful and joyful Judaism. And for those of you for whom this was a first taste of TAO, I promise you that our Shabbat services, classes, spirituality groups and events are every bit as juicy and spiritually satisfying as our High Holy Day services. Please come and join us.

And to our holy members old and new and all of our holy guests, thank you for choosing TAO for your High Holy Day observance. If we touched you, we are honored.


A Yom Kippur Love Affair

by Anne Goldberg


This (2007) has been my first year fully immersed in the traditions, teachings and ritual of the sanctified time of year that ended yesterday with Yom Kippur. I've been on a spiritual ride that has given me enormous personal growth and insight, and I write this from a place of awe and gratitude for the experience.

The Foundation

It seems that within the months of Av, Elul and Tishri there are powerful energies of introspection and change. It is clear (at least to me) that Torah, working from these energies, contains sequential and combinable wisdom and rituals that become a platform for transformation - a platform built with the sermons, services and ceremonies of Rabbi Marc and Rabbi Phil. Each successive one built on the other, helping to deepen my understanding of the meaning and relevance and beauty of Judaism as experienced through these engaging, playful and thoroughly authentic mystics.

In the weeks leading up to High Holy Days, Rabbi Marc talked to us about opening our hearts to the truth of who we have been this past year. We were asked to look at and to admit where we might have fallen short, where we might have sinned. In ancient Judaism a sin is simply "missing the mark," i.e. something that can be done differently-simple, but not always easy. And in those weeks, with the help of my friends and my community, I did just that. I opened my heart, looked within and tried to see where I'd missed the mark in my life.

The Tapestry

Rabbi Marc weaves information and ideas, cannily communicating ancient, deeply spiritual truths that are in sync with the intrinsic energies of astrology and tradition. As I understand it, Av, Elul and Tishri are about breaking down our defenses and supporting the uncovering of secrets; of opening those dark places to bring in the cleansing light of (self) love and forgiveness, and moving forward with, faith and purpose under grace. In this yearly self-inventory, we are guided to follow the rhythm of ancient, universal truths and recognize that, in its Divine wisdom, ancient Judaism synchronizes with earth energies in creating a calendar of events that supports us in our spiritual growth. How lucky we are to have Rabbis who help us navigate through these energies! And so we each are asked to identify and let go of the habits and patterns that no longer serve us, those around us or the planet.

At Selichot, we were guided to really look at those things; to name them and say them and release them. Then we were asked to surrender - to let go completely and trust that we will be caught safely in the arms of the Divine... or in the arms of those we love and who love us... also divine.

On Rosh Hashanah, Rabbi Marc admonished us to do the"hokey pokey"and turn ourselves around. End those patterns! It was profound and caused me to think about who I am now and who I want to be moving forward. As a result I have made - and continue to make - changes so I am more closely that person I strive to be. I made some amends that were long overdue. I asked for forgiveness and I forgave. It was liberating. I feel lighter.

The Union

Erev Yom Kippur was the trampoline for the final big jump into the new. Prayer, meditation and song primed us for the Big Day. And as homage to this process, for Yom Kippur services I wore my "romantic" perfume instead of my "day" fragrance. I did that because I decided that Yom Kippur was a day that I would have a love-affair with myself. After all, for whom have I done all this hard work? Me! For whom was I fasting? Me! And why? Because I love myself and I deserve to put in the effort to make me happy the way I want to help others to be happy. I'm worth it!

Yom Kippur is the culmination of weeks of preparation: of opening, of releasing and of renewing, stretching our limits and going through some pain (although the fasting was pretty easy) to purge and cleanse the dark places within. (Morning Torah prayer: Thank you God for giving me the tools to bring everything to light.)

Yom Kippur is when I am asked to walk the path of self-transformation, to honor the truth of who I am. On Yom Kippur I became One with my holy center and understood my Divine Partnership. (Morning Torah: Thank you God for this life of boundless freedom and limitless possibilities.)

On Yom Kippur I am reminded that I am here to embody the Divine. (Thank you God for allowing me to wear your garments, to be your angel on earth... once more, the beauty of Torah.) On Yom Kippur I am reminded that Divine Miracles happen all the time and that I am one of them. I am reminded that God is always listening. (Shema) I just have to carefully watch what I say. (Psalm 34: Care for your words for they form your world) or as we say in the modern world, be careful what you wish for. On Yom Kippur I am reminded that I am part of something so much larger than myself and that anything other than love is not real.

And so on Yom Kippur, I had a love affair with myself - and it was good!

L'Shana Tova. I love each and every one of you. My New Year wish for you is that you receive the boundless treasures you so richly deserve.

Anne Goldberg
Immediate Past President

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