Tag Archives: Chabad of Northeast Queens

Op-ed: Rosh Hashanah — more than just a new year


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BY RABBI YOSSI BLESOFSKY
DIRECTOR CHABAD OF NORTHEAST QUEENS 

Throughout the year, the Jewish calendar is filled with holidays commemorating key historic milestones. Passover recalls our flight from Egypt; Shavuot, receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai; Purim, our deliverance from the threat of annihilation. As Rosh Hashanah approaches, one might wonder, what is happening, what key event in Jewish history do the High Holidays celebrate?

The Talmud tells us that Rosh Hashanah is not the anniversary of the creation of the world, it is the anniversary of the sixth day of creation, the day G-d created Adam. Rosh Hashanah thus does not actually celebrate the creation of the physical world, rather it celebrates the creation of humankind.

Mystical thought explains that this is a great lesson to us. The date of the Jewish New Year emphasizes the role of people rather than the world in general. G-d did not create the world to have static and lifeless planetary matter. He wanted a dynamic, changeable environment whose material crassness could be transformed into a dwelling place for Him. This is achieved by the actions, thoughts and words of people. Our divine mission is to change the world for good, and make it into a place where G-d and G-dliness is welcome.

Furthermore, our sages teach us that the reason Adam was created a single being (unlike other species which were created in large numbers) is to demonstrate how even one person is as valuable to G-d as the whole world. Every single individual has the capacity to attain the highest degree of fulfillment for his/herself and the rest of the world.

When Rosh Hashanah arrives, we commit ourselves to a more intense bond with G-d, and to a more meaningful and deeper relationship with Him. We don’t need a specific historic event to be the focus of Rosh Hashanah, for the holiday commemorates the very purpose of our being.

On Thursday, Jews the world over will be “convening” in our own special way to nominate G-d for another yearlong term. With simple acts of devotion, goodness and kindness, and belief in His ultimate rule, we issue our vote of confidence in the Creator and in return receive another year of life, blessings and the opportunity to draw ever closer to Him.

This year especially, this message resonates loud and clear.

With the world facing the clear and present threat of ISIS and other forms of terror, we realize the urgent need to transform this world into the place G-d intended it to be — a place of goodness, kindness and decency.

May we all merit to be written and sealed in the Book of Life for a happy, healthy and meaningful 5775.

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Op-Ed: The meaning behind Chanukah


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BY RABBI YOSSI BLESOFSKY

Chanukah — the eight-day festival of light that begins on the eve of the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev — celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, of spirituality over materiality.

More than 21 centuries ago, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who sought to forcefully Hellenize the people of Israel. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of G-d.

When they sought to light the temple’s menorah (the seven branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks; miraculously, the one-day supply burned for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.

To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Chanukah. At the heart of the festival is the nightly menorah (candelabrum) lighting: a single flame on the first night, two on the second evening, and so on till the eighth night of Chanukah, when all eight lights are kindled.

The deeper message of the festival is that the oil represents the soul – the spark of G-d within us. Our enemies strive to defeat us any which way possible, through physical annihilation and spiritual assimilation. The miracle of Chanukah teaches us that ultimately we shall overcome. The soul can never be put down and defeated, and regardless of how bleak the situation may appear, light will ultimately overpower darkness.

On Chanukah we also add the Hallel and Al HaNissim in our daily prayers to offer praise and thanksgiving to G-d for “delivering the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few… the wicked into the hands of the righteous.”

Chanukah customs include eating foods fried in oil — latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiot (doughnuts); playing with the dreidel (a spinning top on which are inscribed the Hebrew letters nun, gimmel, hei and shin, an acronym for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, “a great miracle happened there”); and the giving of Chanukah gelt, gifts of money, to children.

Rabbi Yossi Blesofsky is the Director of the Chabad of Northeast Queens