Friday , 1 August 2014
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If it’s just a Jewish custom, why should I do it?

Men usually don’t sit and talk about their marriages and the joys of wedded life, so when they do, it’s an interesting discussion. The names of these men have been changed to protect their identities.

“I love my wife,” said Abram. “That’s why I do everything she asks me to do. When she asks me to take out the garbage, right away, I take out the garbage.”

The men agreed that Abram loves his wife.

Not to be outdone, Eli said, “I also do everything my wife asks me to do. In fact, it only takes a subtle hint like, ‘Whew! That garbage bag is sure smelling up the kitchen!’ for me to understand that she wants me to take out the garbage. Which I do, of course.”

The men agreed that Eli loves his wife even more than Abram loves his.

But in the end, it turned out that Simon’s marriage was the most loving of all. Simon’s wife doesn’t have to ask her husband to do things. She doesn’t even have to drop hints. “I wake up in the morning,” Simon explained, “and I just know that she wants me to take out the garbage. Or buy her a diamond ring. She doesn’t have to crinkle her nose or mention the ring her cousin got for her birthday. I just know what she wants me to do for her, and I do it.”

The month of Tishrei is full with mitzvoth and many opportunities for carrying out God’s will. For more than three weeks, our days are filled with praying, repenting, fasting, feasting, dancing, building a sukkah and dozens of other mtizvot customs and observances.

The customs of Tishrei fall under three categories. There are biblical teachings that are clearly commanded in the Torah, such as sounding the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, fasting on Yom Kippur or eating in the sukkah on Sukkot. In other words, we are “told” to uphold these customs.

There are also a number of rabbinical mitzvoth — observances instituted by the prophets and the sages by the authority vested in them by the Torah. These include the five prayer services held on Yom Kippur and the taking of the Four Kinds on all but the first day of Sukkot. Subtle hints remind us that we should uphold these customs.

Finally, the month of Tishrei has many minhagim (customs), such as eating an apple dipped in honey on the first night of Rosh Hashanah or conducting the kaparot in the early morning on the day before Yom Kippur. These customs are not directed by biblical or rabbinical law, but by force of tradition. They are things that we Jews have initiated ourselves as ways to enhance our service of our Creator.

The climax of the month of Tishrei, however, comes during the hakafot of Simchat Torah when we take the Torah scrolls in our arms and dance with them around the reading table in the synagogue. This practice is neither a biblical or rabbinical teaching, but merely a custom. We know in our hearts that we should uphold this cherished custom, and of course, we do.

It is with our observance of these customs that we express the depth of our love for God. The biblical commandments can be compared to the clearly expressed desires between two married people. The rabbinical mitzvoth — practices that constitute expressions of the divine will — resemble the subtle hints between husband and wife. But it’s the customs that we uphold without explicit commands or hints that cause God pleasure. And in these lie our greatest joy.

For more information, go to <www.chabadofkendall.org> or call 305- 234-5654.