Raining in the Sukkah

Did you know that there is only one mitzvah that you are exempt from if you are uncomfortable and that is dwelling in the sukkah? If the sound of the shofar is uncomfortable to you, sorry but tolerate it. If not eating for 25 hours is uncomfortable to you, you are still required to fast on Yom Kippur.

Why would you be exempt from dwelling in the sukkah if it is raining?!

Sukkah is G-d’s embrace. He embraces us as we are, without us doing anything religious. We eat, we drink, we chat with friends and that is sanctified by G-d when enveloped in the Diving Embrace of the Sukkah. In fact the verse “His right arm embraces me” refers to the sukkah. Unlike the days of awe when we pray and fast, on Sukkot He embraces your life as you are, inviting your personal life to be imbued with sacredness.

An embrace is not an embrace if it makes you uncomfortable. Sukkot is too personal to obligate you if you are in agony.

Then again how can someone be in agony when embraced by G-d, even if it’s raining?

Rabbi Mendel Bluming serves the Potomac Maryland community through the Chabad Shul of Potomac. Menachem Mendel Bluming and his family welcome you to the Chabad community sukkah.

Why Jews are Drawn to Synagogues on the High Holidays

Have you ever wondered why you are drawn to a synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?! Why are so many Jews who do not ordinarily attend synagogues feel the need to be there on the High Holidays? There must be a deep reason beyond tradition, guilt and the honey cake kiddush… listen in:

A king had a dream one night… He was in the woods just roaming around alone, enjoying the pleasant nature, the chirping birds and the comfortable breeze, when from afar he heard a young child playing a beautiful melody on his flute. Not wanting to disturb the beautiful music, the king sat down on a stump and allowed the mesmerizing music to saturate his soul. It was so sweet and engaging, soulful and uplifting, it made him feel so wholesome and fulfilled. The king could not pull himself away from listening to this beautiful music. Er! Er! Er! Er!… Suddenly the disturbing noise of his alarm clock woke him from this sweet dream, he desperately tried to recall the melody but alas he could not remember it. The day gave him no rest. He had to find that sweet melody once again…

He sent out word in the kingdom that any young child who would come to play a beautiful tune on their flute would be rewarded handsomely. He could not identify the melody and so he hoped that from all the contestants that precious music would emerge.

This story is your story…

Your soul is royalty and it longs for the sweet melody that invigorates its essence. We can’t put our finger on where to find that music that makes us feel whole and meaningful and so we search everywhere earnestly seeking those notes that we so deeply pine for. Look at the leadership of any movement, any revolution (even Communism!), and you will find Jews at the forefront, we eternally search for the melody that gives our spirit meaning.

Kaballah teaches that on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur G-d plays that melody and it stirs our soul and draws us close…

When you find yourself in a synagogue this Rosh Hashanah make sure to spend the time absorbing this precious melody, allow it to seep through and refresh our tired spirits that so deeply yearn for a meaningful connection to the essence of who we are. That melody sings to you that you are an irreplaceable expression of the Divine in this world; that from your soul emanates wisdom and goodness without which this universe is fundamentally lacking; that G-d loves you AND needs you; that you cannot allow time to pass because you are called upon for a mission to make this world and your life a G-dly abode!
Rabbi Mendel (Menachem) Bluming has served the Potomac, Maryland community as the rabbi and director of Chabad Shul of Potomac since 2003

Rosh Hashanah Apples in Honey

So here’s a twist on an old story that has been circulating for years:

A young girl held two apples which she planned to dip into honey on Rosh Hashanah, as we do traditionally.

Her mum came in and softly asked her little daughter with a smile; my sweetie, could you give your mum one of your two apples?

The girl looked up at her mum for some seconds, then she suddenly took a quick bite out of one apple, and then quickly of the other.

The mum felt the smile on her face freeze. She tried hard not to reveal her disappointment.

Then the little girl handed one of her bitten apples to her mum, and said: mummy, here you are. This is the sweeter one! This one is for you!

No matter who you are, how experienced you are, and how knowledgeable you think you are, always delay judgement.

As the Mishnah (Avos Mishna 1:6) teaches: always judge another favorably.

On Rosh Hashanah we ask that of G-d and He expects us to exemplify that with each other.

Rabbi Mendel Bluming who has served the Chabad Potomac Maryland community since 2000, leads Rosh Hashanah services each year which are available to all. Menachem Mendel Bluming and the Chabad Shul of Potomac wishes you and yours a Shanah tovah!

The Jewish custom to wash hands after a funeral and to not dry them

Death is one of those topics we usually prefer to avoid. It is not pleasant to be reminded of our mortality and of those whom we have lost. And yet, it is a part of life that we cannot avoid. A healthy attitude towards death can in fact be life-enhancing. The washing and non-drying of the hands helps to illustrate this.

There are several reasons given for washing and not drying the hands after a funeral or visiting a cemetery.

1. A corpse is ritually impure, and anyone who’s been close to a dead body contracts some of that impurity. Washing the hands cleanses us of this touch with death, and we don’t want to pass this unholy spirit onto a towel, so we leave our hands to dry themselves.

2. We want to arouse kindness and mercy on the departed when they are judged in heaven. Water represents kindness, as it falls from the heavens to irrigate the earth. So pouring water on our hands symbolizes the kindness that we pray should rain down on the departed in heaven. We want this kindness to be everlasting, so we don’t dry the hands.

3. Washing is a reminder for the living that now is the time to purify ourselves and ensure we have clean hands and a pure heart. We remember our own mortality and cleanse ourselves while we still have the chance. By not drying the hands, we take the message of own mortality with us.

We wash our hands after contact with the dead to express our desire to stay away from death and to embrace life. We don’t dry the hands to state that death, and its urgent message, are always with us. We can’t avoid death. So let it remind us to celebrate life.

Source: Maavar Yabok, Sifsei Renonos 19, by 17th century Kabbalist Rabbi Aharon Berechia of Modena, Italy. There he adds another reason: we are washing our hands of any negligence in the passing of our loved ones. We did all we can. We need to cleanse ourselves of survivor’s guilt. Rabbi Moss

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Bluming of the Chabad Shul of Potomac, Maryland has purchased a section of the Garden of Remembrance Gan Zikaron Jewish cemetery http://www.gardenofremembrance.org/chabad-shul-of-potomac/ which he hopes will remain with plenty of empty space for a long time to come