A generation later, when his disciple the Maggid, the preacher of Mezeritch, had petitions to make, he would go to the same place in the forest, and would say: "Lord, we can no longer light the fire, nor do we know the secret meditations that underlie the prayers; but we do know the precise place in this forest where it was once performed. And that must surely be sufficient!" And it was.
A generation later, the great rabbi, Israel of Rishiv, was called upon to perform the same task. He sat down on his throne in his dynastic center, and said: "We cannot light the fire; we cannot recite the meditations and prayers; we do not even know the precise place in the forest where it was performed. But we can tell the story of how it was done." And the story he told had the same effect as the actions of the other two!
There are many who come to worship during the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur blessed with knowing how to light the fire—the fire of enthusiasm that spiritually warms and nourishes ourselves and our children. We certainly know the place in the forest, are familiar with the prayers and meditations that well up naturally from our hearts and emotions to their lips.
There are others who cannot light the fire or recite the prayers and meditations but who, nevertheless, "know the place in the forest." We come to services fairly regularly, observe other festivals, and are committed to giving our children a better religious education than we perhaps had.
But there is a large majority of us who find ourselves unable to even locate the place in the forest, who are not even inclined to search for the place, who do not even know that there is a forest, inside of which there is a place of unique exaltedness.
And yet, for all that, we do engage in the basic exercise. We tell the story! We tell it by our presence. We affirm that it is, after all, our story, and a glorious, rich and ongoing story that is gathering momentum, spiritual power and interest as it unfolds in our age.
As we gather this year for High Holy Days, once again at Real Life, our small community becomes a large congregation. It’s an amazing sight to behold, as Santa Clarita for a few days feels vibrantly Jewish. And something wonderfully sacred happens as, from all our different directions, the room becomes a sacred space where our prayers blend and fuse together.
This year make a commitment not to be afraid of trying something new. Don’t be intimidated by the Hebrew or songs you may not know. Unlock your heart and spirit to new possibilities.
Each of us has a prayer that is necessary, not just for ourselves, but for everyone else too. And it may very well not be in Hebrew. It may not even have words, but rest assured, your community is depending on it.
We look forward to seeing you during the holiday season, and may it open up new opportunities for the future.
L'Shanah tovah tikatevu. May you be inscribed for a rich and fulfilling year in the Book of Life.