Let’s rejoice and be happy – Hava Nagila הבה נגילה

Hava Nagila is a Hebrew folk song, the title meaning “Let us rejoice”. Though the melody is an ancient one of folk origin, the commonly used lyrics were written by the Jewish Latvian musicologist, Abraham Zevi ldelsohn, in 1918, to celebrate the British victory in Palestine during World War I as well as the Balfour Declaration (on the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire, and British government support for a Jewish national home in Palestine, with the condition that nothing should be done which might prejudice the rights of existing communities there).

Perhaps the non-Jewish musician who did the most to populariseHava Nagila around the world was Harry Belafonte. In his live performances, he used Hava Nagila as his regular closing number because of its uplifting melody and hopeful, brotherly lyrics. His 1959 Carnegie Hall live concert recording became a best-selling record (and one I grew up hearing).

Let’s rejoice
Let’s rejoice
Let’s rejoice and be happy

Let’s sing
Let’s sing
Let’s sing and be happy

Awake, awake, brothers!
Awake, awake, brothers!
Awake brothers with a happy heart

Awake, brothers!
Awake, brothers!
With a happy heart

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בואו נשמח
בואו נשמח
בואו נשמח ונהיה מאושרים

בוא נשיר
בוא נשיר
בואו נשיר ונשמח

ער, ער, אחים!
ער, ער, אחים!
להעיר אחים עם לב שמח

ערים, אחים!
ערים, אחים!
עם לב שמח

 

The Meaning of Rosh Hashanah

shana-tova-21782566The Meaning of Rosh Hashanah

 

 

Rosh Hashanah: Not the New Years You Thought It Was

If Rosh Hashanah could be summed up in one word, that word would be; love, potential, and life. (Okay, so that’s three words, what are you going to do?)

Let’s take a look at each of these words and reflect on their meaning in the context of Rosh Hashanah. Follow me:

Love

If you have heard anything about Rosh Hashanah, what you have probably heard is either that it is the “Jewish New Years” or that it is the Day of Judgment. Well, I’m here to tell you that while both are true, they are also very misunderstood. Let’s consider the notion of judgment. The truth is, the prospect of judgment is very uncomfortable and nobody likes to be judged. We don’t like to be judged by a boss, a teacher, and certainly not by our peers. At the same time, there is a very beautiful dimension to judgment. Think about parents and children. Parents are concerned about, and judge, a whole range of items related to their children. Parents are concerned about their children’s grades in school, what kind of lunch they have, what kinds of friends they associate with, what websites they frequent, and a lot more. From the child’s perspective, this can seem a bit intrusive, but the truth is, there is only one reason why parents are so interested in virtually every detail of their children’s lives: it’s because they deeply love their children. In fact, one of the most devastating things a parent can do to a child is not to judge. Why? Because a parent who isn’t interested in what their child is doing is sending a message that says clearly—“I don’t care about you.” A child who hears such a message will inevitably draw the conclusion that they are not worth their parents attention, and that, is about the most destructive message a child can absorb.

On Rosh Hashanah, when we say that God “sits in judgment” what we are saying is that God loves us: He cares about each and every one of us, He cares about who we are, how we live, and whether or not we are actualizing the potential He gave us. That the creator of the universe actually cares about “little ‘ol me” is a remarkably empowering and life-giving idea. The reality that we confront on Rosh Hashanah is one that highlights the intrinsic value and preciousness of every life in the eyes of God.

Potential

On Passover we celebrate the Exodus from Egypt, on Chanukah we celebrate the defeat of the Greeks and the miracle of the oil. Did you ever wonder what we are celebrating on Rosh Hashanah? Rosh Hashanah is the anniversary of the creation of the first human being. The Jewish year begins with focusing on the awesome nature and potential that exists within each of us. When you look at the world around you, it’s clear that God is not only quite powerful, but very, very creative. That being the case, God could have launched Mankind with a family, a village or a whole planet filled with people: why did He begin with just one person? Jewish tradition teaches that God began with one person to teach us about the fantastic potential inherent in each of us. Each of us has the ability to have an impact on the entire world and each of us is capable of making a world of difference. As we stand at the threshold of a new year we ask ourselves some simple questions: “What can I do in the coming year to actualize more of my potential?” “How can I contribute, even in a small way, to making the world a better place?” “What can I do to make a difference in someone else’s life?”

Every Rosh Hashanah represents a vote of confidence from God in our individual, personal potential. Every Rosh Hashanah also presents us with a fresh opportunity to unlock more and more of that great God-given gift.

Life

Throughout the Rosh Hashanah prayers, we ask God to “Remember us for life” and “Inscribe us in the Book of Life.” When we greet one another we say “May you have a good year, and may you be written and sealed for a year of good life and peace.”

Our prayers for life are meant to be understood at face value—we want to live—but they also have a deeper meaning. Consider this: I once met a Holocaust survivor who said, “I would choose to go through all those years in Auschwitz again rather than spend one day of my life as a Nazi.” That is an incredible statement, and what it means, I believe, is this: one can be alive, strong, and healthy yet be “dead” at the same time. A life lived in the boots of a Nazi, or under the flag of Al-Qaida or Hezbollah, is a life utterly drained of all meaning. You see, there are certain choices that we make, and certain courses of action that we pursue, that have the ability to infuse life with “life,” and there are others that drain life of everything God intended it for. On Rosh Hashanah, we not only ask for life, we strive to be people who embrace the kinds of values, ideals, and choices that will fill our days with life: With meaning, with goodness, with spirituality—with life!

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I would like to wish all of you a Shana Tova, a good sweet year, health and happiness for the entire world. Happy Rosh Hashanah and Happy New Year to you and all of Israel with a sweet new year- a new beginning. May the Lord bless you and keep you Shalom

 

Western Wall in Jerusalem

Western Wall in Jerusalem

The Western Wall, Wailing Wall or Kotel (Hebrew: About this sound הַכֹּתֶל הַמַּעֲרָבִי (help·info), translit.: HaKotel HaMa’aravi; Ashkenazic pronunciation: Kosel; Arabic: حائط البراق‎, translit.: Ḥā’iṭ Al-Burāq, translat.: The Buraq Wall) is located in the Old City of Jerusalem at the foot of the western side of the Temple Mount. It is a remnant of the ancient wall that surrounded the Jewish Temple’s courtyard, and is arguably the most sacred site recognized by the Jewish faith outside of the Temple Mount itself. Just over half the wall, including its 17 courses located below street level, dates from the end of the Second Temple period, commonly believed to have been constructed around 19 BCE by Herod the Great, but recent excavations indicate that the works were not finished during Herod’s lifetime. The remaining layers were added from the 7th century onwards. The Western Wall refers not only to the exposed section facing a large plaza in the Jewish Quarter, but also to the sections concealed behind structures running along the whole length of the Temple Mount, such as the Little Western Wall–a 25 ft (8 m) section in the Muslim Quarter.

It has been a site for Jewish prayer and pilgrimage for centuries; the earliest source mentioning Jewish attachment to the site dates back to the 4th century. From the mid-19th century onwards, attempts to purchase rights to the wall and its immediate area were made by various Jews, but none was successful. With the rise of the Zionist movement in the early 20th century, the wall became a source of friction between the Jewish community and the Muslim religious leadership, who were worried that the wall was being used to further Jewish nationalistic claims to the Temple Mount and Jerusalem. Outbreaks of violence at the foot of the wall became commonplace and an international commission was convened in 1930 to determine the rights and claims of Muslims and Jews in connection with the wall. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War the wall came under Jordanian control and Jews were barred from the site for 19 years until Israel captured the Old City in 1967 and three days later bulldozed the adjacent 770 year old Moroccan Quarter.[1]