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A Word from Senior Rabbi Craig Marantz

This Shabbat we enter into the month of Elul, which means the High Holidays will arrive in just a month. Time then to make sure we prepare our hearts. The Yamim Nora'im, the Days of Awe, can constitute heavy, soulful lifting. And while we are free to just show up at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, doing so can be like bench pressing 300 lbs. without training. Just like building up to that weight calls for incremental effort, so does shaping our High Holiday kavannah, our spiritual intention. And, I am here to help you-with any learning, prayer or positive action that help you get ready. In this preparatory spirit, I would like to reflect on what we talked about last Friday night.

The inspiration for the Birkat Ha-Mazon, the blessing after a meal, is found in our recent parashah, Ekev: "When you eat and are sated, you must bless the Lord your God for the good land that He has given you." (Deut. 8:10) According to Rav Kook, the first chief rabbi of Israel, one of the four blessings from which the Birkat Ha-Mazon flows, Ha-Zan et hakol (the One who feeds all), but we wondered if it was enough to give thanks for our own nourishment--when millions of people go hungry every day, or live with food-insecurity. And what about all the food that is wasted? We should always be thankful for the food we enjoy, but we clearly have additional work to do. We can't wait around for miracles, like manna from heaven.

I am so proud that members of our community collaborate every third Thursday at the Inspiration Café. In purchasing, preparing, serving food to 30 plus people, our friends contribute to the annual effort of feeding the 26,000 people or so the Cafe serves, lending kavod, or respect, to their lives. I look forward to joining this month and hope you will come along, too.

And also before Rosh Hashanah, Maot Chitim, a Jewish organization dedicated to collecting and delivering food for the impoverished around holidays, calls on us to deliver food boxes (80-100) to elderly Russian Jews for Rosh Hashanah, wishing them all a shanah tova. This opportunity to serve will take place on Sunday, September 25th at 10:00am at 600 W. Diversey Blvd. We need 6-8 people to participate, and if you're interested, email our fellow congregant Stephen Melamed at

So as we approach the High Holidays and look for ways to prepare our hearts--to train our spiritual muscles--let us a consider taking personal steps toward fighting hunger. And, let our kavannah, our spiritual intention, be guided by the Birkat Ha-Mazon. Not only shall we try to be more thankful for God's blessings of food and sustenance, but let us broaden our capacity as a force for good, making sure that we do our part to extend the nourishment and food security we so enjoy in our own lives to those who wish for the very same blessings. Barukh Ata Adonai Ha-Zan et Hakol! Blessed are You God, the One who feeds the hungry and inspires us to do our part in providing food and preventing its waste. Amen.

I wish you and yours a meaningful Elul.

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