As we draw nearer to Rosh Hashana many of us can feel duel emotions.
On the one hand, we can experience great happiness in celebrating a new year and looking toward the future. On the other, trepidation and angst for Rosh Hashana and lest we forget its long and lengthy prayer services and tefillot.
However, when we analyze deeper the tefillot of Rosh Hashana it can be easily recognised that they are not merely verbose passages, but rather prayers that express the beauty of Judaism.
There’s no better way of conveying this than in the Haftorah passage which we read on Rosh Hashana- the story of Chana.
Chana lived in the times of the First Temple and was barren for many years. One year she ascended to Jerusalem and stood by the Temple praying fervently that G-d should bless her with a child. Upon seeing Chana’s ecstatic prayers, Eli the High Priest admonished her, mistakenly believing she was drunk.
Chana corrected him and told him that she was not drunk, only sad and pouring out her heart to G d. Realizing his mistake Eli proceeded to bless her that G d should hear her prayers.
In due time Chana’s prayers were answered and she had a son who she brought to be raised in the Temple and who later grew up to be Samuel the prophet.
For me, this story is packed with a myriad of messages and meaning which are still widely relevant today.
First and foremost, the story of Chana represents the importance of prayer.
After suffering from bareness for many years Chana did not go and seek out the best healers and medicines of ancient Israel but rather she ascended to Jerusalem in order to petition G-d.
In our times, even though the Temple has long been destroyed, each synagogue is referred to as being a representative of its sacredness and grandeur. This story emphasises that in our time of need (or even times of thankfulness and happiness) a Shule and prayer are our greatest assets.
Secondly, the story of Chana represents the way we pray. Eli thought Chana was intoxicated because she prayed with all her might and intensity, something that was lacking by the majority of people then, and still today.
It is a sad and deluded misconception that the prayers of the siddur are a mere script. Tefilla is our own personal dialogue with G-d, full of different emotions which can be utilized in creating a connection to G-d.
We beseech, praise and converse with G-d and, at the same time, we meditate on what we can do better, on what we can improve and on what we are are thankful for.
Thirdly, this story illustrates the importance of bringing our prayers into positive action which influence our lives and surroundings.
Chana recognised the child she bore was only through G-d’s blessings and that he was born for a specific purpose. Thus she brought him to live in the Temple enabling him to grow up to be Samuel the prophet, one of the greatest leaders in the history of the Jewish people.
Prayer is not limited to the synagogue. Our tefilla should continuously positively impact our daily lives. Prayer is not the chanting aimlessly of some sacred passages but a process which should effect our thought, speech and especially our actions.
I look forward to seeing you all over Rosh Hashana at ARK Centre – our community centre with a synagogue in the middle
Come pray, sing and meditate and let us, over this coming holiday, renew our own ongoing discourse and dialogue with G-d.
Together with our Chazanim and Gabbaim may our teffiliot be something that will ultimately influence and have an impact on us the entire year round.
Wishing you and your family a happy, healthy sweetest of the sweet New Year!
Rabbi Gabi and Mushka