Sign In Forgot Password

Kavanot (Points To Consider) for a meaningful Rosh Hashana Davening

08/30/2018 12:53:37 PM


Rabbi Barry Gelman

The Rosh Hashana davening is challenging in that it is very busy and full of choreography. Some find it difficult to focus and create moments of quiet introspection.

Do not feel rushed to keep up. It is more important to internalize the prayers.

One should stop and listen to the shofar when the time comes.

Rabbi Barry Gelman

Malchiyot – Kingship

This section of the Mussaf service focuses on God’s sovereignty. Rabbi Joseph B. Solovetichik likened Rosh Hashana to a royal coronation day. One of the major themes of the Mussaf service is HaYom – Today. We ask God:

Strengthen us – Today

Bless us – Today

Give us greatness – Today

Accept our prayers – Today

Today: Rabbi Norman Lamm:

“Judaism is meant for today — not only for yesterday, and not only for tomorrow, but for today. That does not sound like a startling thesis, yet it is an idea that is sadly neglected....  Of course, Judaism has always had the greatest reverence for the past and its sacred traditions. We also have an unshakeable faith in the future of our eternal people; that is why we believe in the Messiah...

But it often happens that in our preoccupation with preserving the past and in keeping faith with the future, we overlook the present...we forget that there is a today in which God addresses man, in which obligations await us, in which life must be lived responsibly. Once we forget that, we are, for all practical purposes, obsolete.

If Torah,... is not for today — with its excitement and complexity and anxieties — then we have nothing to offer to the young Jew whom we are trying so hard to win over to Judaism.

The task of all Jews, then.... is to live Jewishly today, to show the world that Jewishness was meant for now, that we are alive and dynamic and meaningful and relevant.

There are some people who avoid the present by living in the past. "My father conducted such a beautiful Seder" — but how about yours? "My mother prayed so warmly" — well, why don't you? "Once upon a time there was so much fervor in our observance" — but why "once upon a time," why not now?”

Rabbi Lamm challenges us in this essay to make the most of each and every “today.” As we ask God to make this day a blessed one for us, we ask ourselves how we can make each day Jewishly worthwhile.

Ask yourself:

What have I recently decided to do after putting it of for sometime? How did it make me feel?

What important projects or responsibilities have I procrastinated about?

Can I make more of an effort to be involved in Jewish ritual, Jewish learning, prayer and communal life now instead of saying that I will do it when I have more time, when I am less busy, when my kids are older....?

Zichronot – Remembrances

This section of the Mussaf service focuses on Divine remembrance and that God recalls all of our actions. It also calls on us to remember ourselves differently...

The Maharal, in Path of Penitence, explains – “teshuva is what brings Man back to his beginning, and the source of Man is the space below God’s throne...Teshuva is the return to that beginning...I like to exemplify this return to the source with the following parable: A married couple, whose many years together have passed all too quickly, their children grown, sit, celebrating their golden wedding anniversary, with their photo albums. Their lives lay open before them. Here are pictures of their wedding, “Here we started, we were so young, so in love, everything before us.” And here – their son, just born, and so on. They return to the beginning, to the memories of those beginnings...

Rosh Hashana, the Day of Remembrance – the past that arises in God’s memory...” (Rabbi Gershon Shalom Rosenberg)

Ask yourself:

Are there parts of my life that I wish were different...more like they were in the past?

What is it about my past that attracts me?

Are there things I remember about the past that I wish to move way from and change? What practical steps do I need to take to make that happen? Step 1... Step 2... Step 3....

Shofarot – Sounding of the Shofar

This section of the Mussaf service focuses on the happy occasions when the Shofar will be sounded (Sinai, arrival of Messiah, day of gladness, festivals, new moons). According to Maimonides the shofar serves as sort of spiritual wake up call.

An Essay by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks – Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth of England.

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins tonight. And on Sunday (this essay was written in 2011) in the synagogue we’ll blow the shofar, the ram’s horn, as a kind of summons to us to get back on track in our lives. Asking God to write us in the book of life helps us remember our aims and aspirations in life. And we need such moments of reflection, individually and as a society, because otherwise the sheer pace and pressure of events can stop us noticing that for all our efforts we’re still no nearer our destination.

Here’s an example. I’m fascinated by the cars... There are 4 wheel drive MPVs that can take you anywhere from the North Pole to the Sahara desert. There are sports cars that can go from zero to a hundred miles an hour in less than six seconds. Each one is a miracle of technology. A hundred and fifty years ago, all there were, were horses and carriages, as low tech as you can get. A hundred and fifty years ago the average speed of traffic in London was ten miles an hour. And today? You guessed it: ten miles an hour. A car was supposed to get you from A to B more rapidly, but the faster we built cars the more congested the roads became.

Or take work. In the 1960s when I was studying economics, we believed that automation would transform the economy so much that work would shrink to twenty hours a week and the biggest problem we’d have was what to do with all our leisure time. Yet instead, we found ourselves working harder than ever; and now our mobile phones and emails mean that work pursues us into places and times outside of work...

I’m not suggesting there’s any easy answer, but we’ll never get where we want to be if we don’t stop, from time to time, to check how far we’ve come –which is what we do in the synagogue once a year. The shofar is the satellite navigation system of the soul, reminding us of our ultimate destination, telling us how far we’ve yet to remind us of the ideas and hopes that once inspired us and should inspire us still, thanking God for our achievements, asking for His help in the tasks that still lie head.

Ask yourself:

Where am I headed? What are my goals? What is my purpose?

How have I moved further along in my plans over the past year? In what ways have I moved backwards or not moved at all?

Are there new directions I should be moving in? This year I would like to.......

Sun, May 24 2020 1 Sivan 5780