Maximizing the Holiday Season

D'var Torah by Rabbi Jay Spero


How to Maximize the Holiday Season

Contact Rabbi Spero at 862-9546 or


This is the time of the year when, as Jews, we spend an innumerable amount of hours in synagogue. How are we to approach this, and furthermore, how do we make this a growth experience?

First, let us define not only what the order is, but also the reason behind this order. This will give us an insight into what we are meant to accomplish.

The first holiday of the holiday season is Rosh Hashanah, the New Year. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, follows this. In Western culture, the New Year is generally a time to celebrate the fact we are alive and to make resolutions. Wouldn’t it make more sense to first atone for what we have done wrong, thus enabling us to start the year with a clean slate. Why in Judaism does the New Year come before the Day of Atonement?

Rosh Hashanah is not merely the start of the New Year. It is not even the anniversary of the creation of the world. In fact, Rosh Hashanah is the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve—mankind. On this important day G-d takes stock, so to speak. He evaluates His creations and assesses where they are headed. Was this a good year or a bad one? A year in which this person helped his fellow man? A year in which he increased his Jewish education? A year of growth?

And our responsibility on this day is to ask ourselves these questions. To crown G-d as our King, to evaluate: did we fit Him into our lives?  In essence, Rosh Hashanah is a day to prioritize.

Yom Kippur, on the other hand, is a day to apologize. It is a day dedicated to try to rectify our shortcomings, to making ourselves right with G-d and our fellow man. A day to do Teshuva—to return to G-d and our fellow man (Teshuva is often translated as repentance. Return is a more accurate translation). The reason Yom Kippur falls after Rosh Hashanah, is that only if one understands what he is supposed to and understands his priorities is he able to truly say, “I’m sorry, I will try to do better next year.”

After this often-gut wrenching process, we celebrate Sukkos, Tabernacle. This is the holiday where we leave the comfort of our own homes, and we eat, and preferably sleep, in a hut—the Sukkah. This symbolizes us leaving our “safe” homes and “moving in” with G-d.

Sukkos is called zman simchaseinu—the time of happiness. Why does Sukkos deserve this prestigious title? After one has confronted himself in the mirror, and has changed for the better, and sees himself and G-d with clarity, he has reached the sublime level of simchah—happiness. He thus has reached a deep level of love and trust with G-d (and himself). So Sukkos is a time to actualize the growth we have achieved on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

To sum up, as Jesse Jackson would put it, our role during this holiday season is to prioritize, apologize and actualize.

May this be a year of personal growth for us all, and next year in Jerusalem.

I would like to add on a side note that in light of the frightening situation in Israel, we accept upon ourselves to pray to G-d for the safety of the Jews in Israel. Furthermore we should make a resolution to love all fellow Jews.

This will be our greatest weapon.  Although demonstrations are an effective tool and should be made, history has proven that when there is unity and love amongst the people of Israel, both with ourselves and with G-d, that is the greatest demonstration we could make. 


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