A Message about the High Holy Days from the Spiritual Leadership Team
Beth Tzedec
Aug 24th 2020

Dear Friends,

Shimon the Righteous was one of the last of the men of the Great Assembly. He used to say: the world stands upon three things: the Torah, the Temple service, and the practice of acts of hesed, loving kindness.

Why is hesed one of the legs of this precious three legged stool? The authors of Avot D’Rabbi Natan provide an answer with a haunting story.

Once, Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai was going out from Jerusalem with Rabbi Yehoshua following after him. They both looked back and saw their holy Temple, the Beit Hamikdash, destroyed. Rabbi Yehoshua cried out "Oy vey, our Temple is destroyed, how are we going to make atonement now that the place of atonement is destroyed?"

Rabbi Yochanan answered him and said, "Relax, we have an even better way to make atonement. We can do acts of loving kindness, as it is stated in the book of Hosea: "I desire hesed, not sacrifice."

While our beloved Beth Tzedec has not been destroyed, we have all been temporarily displaced from our synagogue. Among the other disruptions that we have experienced this year, we are currently prohibited from joining in person to worship God and engage in the deep work of teshuvah (repentance) together.  But, just like in Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai’s era, we have another option.

If we interpret Hosea’s words for our time, then we can extrapolate that God prefers acts of hesed to our prayers. Let’s really focus our hearts and our actions on doing acts of hesed, on helping others out and being kind to people, and spreading love and light into the world. If we build this world out of love, God will pay attention and our relationship with God will intensify, even without joining together on the Yamim Noraim this year.

All of us on at Beth Tzedec miss you and we can’t wait to be together again. Until then, we will do our part to infuse the world with hesed in 5781 and we hope you will too.

Shanah Tovah,

Beth Tzedec's Spiritual Leadership Team