Dip The Apple In The Honey


Please mark your calendar. Then mark it again. And again. And again and again.

The month of holidays is upon us!

In a happy monsoon of holiness, we are showered repeatedly with the great blessings of Rosh Hashanah, then Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.

These wonderful, marvelous holy days run the gamut of spiritual energies and human emotions.

Introspection, reflection, self-assessment, regret, tears, apologies, reconciliation, relief, joy, labor, exuberance, and finally, pure celebration! And all of it – with love.

(Who knows how much emotional health and wellbeing we owe to our years of carefully observing the rituals and rhythms of this festive month!)

But it only works if you mark your calendar. These days have to really belong to you and they have to be marked “sacred.”

There was a time when these days were to a Jew what Super Bowl Sunday for an NFL fan. Untouchable. Non-negotiable.

Like April 15th for a CPA.

Like the month of June for a caterer.

Like Black Friday for a Best Buy store manager.

Like any day he wants for Tom Brady.

Out. Not available. Otherwise occupied. Out of the office with limited access to voicemail.

Often, when people want to say that a given date doesn’t work for them because they have plans to be in, say, Hawaii that day, they say, “Oh, I can’t, I’m in Hawaii that week.” Even if it’s in six months they’ll say, “I’m IN Hawaii that week.” It’s more than having plans, more than having made a commitment – they’re already there!

We need to learn to talk like that about our Yiddishkeit. “Oh, I can’t make it, I’m in Shul that day.” We’re already there! Can’t be in two places at once.

It isn’t easy. It isn’t easy to cross a date off the calendar and mark it in red UNAVAILABLE. It’s too tempting to reopen it for meetings and business trips. It’s the reason people push off long-awaited trips and getaways – scheduling conflicts.

But eventually you realize you have to do it. How long can you postpone your long-term interests and wellness for short-term interests and thrills? So you mark the dates with a red Sharpie and you GO!

And always, always – you’re glad you did.

So here are the dates for the month of festivals, and remember that everything starts the night before:

September 26-27: Rosh Hashanah

October 5: Yom Kippur

October 10-11: Sukkot

October 17-18: Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah


Every year, on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah, we read these famous words in the Torah:

“I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. You shall choose life, so that you and your children will live.”

You’d think that choosing life would be the biggest no-brainer in the history of mankind. And yet, not for nothing does Torah hammer this point home so strongly.

When faced with a choice between what we’re living from and what we’re living for – not so simple. Between making a living and getting a life – not so simple. Between what looks like freedom (but really pins you down) and what looks like restriction (but really gives you your wings) – not so simple!

Choosing between right and wrong, when wrong is so much fun and right can be so annoying – not so simple. Choosing between the newest technology and the oldest religion – not so simple. Choosing between making one more dollar and doing one more Mitzvah – not always so simple.

Choosing between giving our kids a good time or a good life – not so simple.

Blocking days on your busy schedule to slow down and shape up; to thank G-d for your blessings; to make sure your life is an examined one, an improved one, a purposeful one, a holy one – not so simple.

Canceling meetings and workdays to hear a Shofar, fast and pray, shake a Lulav and Etrog, build a Sukkah, dance like crazy with the Torah – not so simple.

And yet these are the choices we need to make. This is where we are challenged to CHOOSE LIFE!

When we pray to G-d to write us in the book of life, let us not forget to write ourselves in the book of life, by choosing life, life, life at every opportunity.

So go ahead. Get your sharpie, mark you calendar, block those days and – choose life!

Lโ€™chaim, and happy new year!

(Written by Rabbi Eli Friedman, Chabad of Calabasas)

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