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Souls in the Rain

Souls in the Rain

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If G‑d is "perfect," as Judaism says, what prompted Him to create the universe? What void was He seeking to fill?

The answer provided in Jewish Mysticism is that G‑d desired marriage. Marriage necessitates the existence of someone distinct from yourself with whom to share your life, a union of husband and wife. G‑d chose humanity as His bride.

What a marriage this has been--a roller coaster of romance, affection, quarrels and estrangement. In every generation, many counselors advocated a divorce while others proclaimed the Groom dead. Yet, the relationship has endured because both partners intrinsically know that they belong together. When all veils are removed, man manifestly yearns for union with G‑d.

According to the Kabbalah, the High Holiday season is the annual experience of the cosmic matrimony between G‑d and humanity. The five key spiritual moments of the season parallel the basic phases of a conventional courtship and union. The holidays invite us to journey through this process again and rejuvenate the relationship.

The Courtship

The Hebrew month of Elul precedes the High Holidays. This month is described in Chassidic teachings as a time when "the King goes out to the field to meet with His people, greeting them with kindness and tenderness, displaying a joyous face to all." We, in turn, "open our hearts to G‑d."

This time provides us with an opportunity to get to know G‑d.

The Groom Proposes

The world goes haywire, says Master Kabbalist Rabbi Issac Luriah. "During the night of Rosh Hashanah," he writes, "the consciousness animating the universe becomes frail and weak." The great Jewish mystics would, in fact, feel physically weak during the night of Rosh Hashanah.

All of existence was brought into being for the sake of this proposed marriage. If we refuse Him, then it was all in vain. The entire cosmos awaits our decision.

The Bride Commits

On the morning of Rosh Hashanah, a piercing sound rises from the Earth: the cry of the shofar. It is a simple cry, expressing man's yearning to connect with the Divine.

We have decided. Our answer is yes.

The Wedding

The wedding day arrives: Yom Kippur. A day described in the Kabbalah as "the time of oneness" in which cosmic bride and groom forge a bond for eternity.

In the Jewish tradition, bride and groom fast on their wedding day. On the day we unite with G‑d, we abstain from food or drink as well. The Talmud teaches that upon marriage, all the sins of the groom and bride are forgiven.

That's why this day is called Yom Kippur, "the day of atonement."

The marriage ceremony begins with the stirring melody of Kol Nidre, in which we remove the power from vows and addictions that tie us down. During these profound moments, we attempt to free ourselves from compulsive behavior and negative habits and let go of resentment, animosity, anger, fear and envy.

The traditional Jewish marriage ceremony culminates with the bride and groom entering a secluded room (cheder yichud in Hebrew) to spend time alone with each other. Yom Kippur culminates with the Ne'ilah, or closure prayer, so called because as the sun of Yom Kippur sets, the gates of heaven close--with us inside.

During Ne'ilah, every soul is alone with G‑d.

The Celebration

When the bride and groom exit their private room, the party begins. From Yom Kippur we leap into the seven-day festival of Sukkot, described in the Torah as "the time of our Joy."

These days are filled with feasting and ecstatic happiness, celebrating the union between G‑d and His people.

Union

The wedding feast is over. The guests and relatives have returned home. In a consummation of the relationship, bride and groom experience intimacy for the first time, their lives melded together as a husband and wife.

Hence, following the seven days of Sukkot, we reach the zenith of the High Holiday season: Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, described in the Kabbalah as the "time of intimacy with the Divine." During these two charged days the joy reaches its peak, as G‑d and His people merge into a seamless whole. A Divine seed is planted in each of our hearts.

That's why we recite special prayers for rain on the festival of Shemini Atzeret. What is rain? In the midst of intimacy between heaven and earth, procreative drops from heaven are absorbed, fertilized and nurtured by mother-earth, which in time will give birth to its botanical children.

The Ordinary Month

The honeymoon comes to an end and the excitement begins to fade. Now the marriage becomes about caring for each other and demonstrating trust and loyalty as we work through the daily grind of life.

Out of the twelve months in the Jewish calendar, the only one lacking a single festive day immediately follows the High Holiday season. The Hebrew month of Cheshvan is the time to build a genuine relationship with our marriage Partner in our everyday lives. This is the time to discover the joy born out of a continous relationship with G‑d.

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jim dallas October 15, 2016

very well done indeed even extra credit for a masterpiece!
hope i can recite some of it someday! Reply

shirley friedman elgin, Il USA October 9, 2012

souls in the rain This is so beautifully put. It is an article that makes all of these holidays blend together in a magnificent way to make us understand the reality of each holiday. This article was like poetry. Todah Rabah

I have shared this with my children and many friends. Reply

Anonymous omaha, ne October 20, 2011

August Queen This article so well portrays God's desire to continue to bless and nurture His spouse in all ages. In Is. 45:8 we yearn with Isaiah for the dew of His justice. How appropriately this request for rain follows Yom Kippur. This timing protects His beloved. How loved and blessed we are; how Great and Wonderful is He! Reply

Mrs Rejean Dallaire Phoenix, Arizona October 19, 2011

marriage Thank you for teaching me G-D will for my marriage and my relationship with the Divine! Reply

Miss Nancy Tahvili September 30, 2010

beautiful/ touching article Thank you for this wonerful article! It really brought tears to my eyes! It's amazing. I felt every word with my soul. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma September 29, 2010

Union Street If life is a journey, a road we all do travel, then the signs on that road, by foot, by car etc. are relevant, signs such as, most importantly Share the Road, and others like Dead End, No Trespassing, Detour, etc. There are mirrors within mirrors in the metaphoric construction of this world, that do go "up" and "down" the layers and are perceived, when one is "meant to perceive" them. It's about climbing, towards merger, towards that union, beautifully described in this article, about such metaphoric connect.

The shekinah, the divine feminine, is within us all and it's important to perceive that "she" itself, in the word, in English and this Hebrew, also encompasses "he". It is both.

Perhaps God was "lonely" and so created a world. I split words, I deconstruct, and it's deeply about ONE and so I see L ONE LY.

What I can do, what others do, sages and beyond, in looking at words, this alchemy of words, which crosses Babel, is so totally divine and imbued with meaning.

JOIN THE DANCE Reply

Miriam Nechama Ames, IA September 28, 2010

This article describes exactly what I have been feeling inside. Thank you so much for articulating and helping me realize what has been happening. Reply

chana Jerusalem September 28, 2010

great article as usual, but what is the source? what is the source of the groom proposing and the bride accepting on Rosh Hashana. Till now I learned in Chassidus that Rosh Hashana morning is the decision by G_D to renew the world, after WE have proposed to do a good job this time.Obviously there are different ways of interpreting Torah, so I'd like the sources for your version of Riosh Hashana please Reply

Shelley L. Rubenstein Brooklyn, New York September 28, 2010

comparing marriage to holidays in Elul/Tishrei I enjoyed reading this analogy very much and it made a big difference to me in my compehension of the Yom Tovin we are given and the complements of marriage thoughts through the holidays. I was amazed and enightened and needed this so much today to read. It was beautifully described and much enjoyed by me. Reply

Dr. Harry Hamburger Miami, Fl. September 28, 2010

The soul of the Jew existed before creation As it has been said, "both Israel and Torah preceeded the creation of the universe and the world." It is also said that, "We created the world in Our image." From these two statements we come to know that G-d and the soul of Israel using Torah as a blueprint, created a physical universe, first for man to dwell, and to prepare this physical universe as a place where an infiinite G-d could one day dwell in a material universe. We are partners with G-d in creation, and also in preparing the world for His dwelling place!
May this time come soon! Reply

ewa greef Gateshead, UK September 12, 2010

closeness I am at the age of 55 trying to return to my mothers faith of Judaism, yes in theory that makes me Jewish and i am proud of it, but an ignorant one, i am studying under the guidance of a Cohen, whose help is invaluable but pieces like this makes the study so much easier and a joy. thank you.
ps mother changed her faith to RC in order to be allowed to marry her liberator from bergen belsen. Reply

Kelly Rae Sydney, AU November 10, 2008

Dear Rabbi Jacobson,

Each year I spend a lot of time alone during the High Holidays. Yes, I do spend it with my dear friends and family as well. However, I try to feel the special significance of this month and how special it is. We have a chance to once again choose between life and death, between the light or the darkness. I thank you for your article. I would like to say I especially enjoyed the part on the fast of Yom Kippur and the blowing of the shofar, signifying our answer of yes for a continued relationship with Ha'shem. Reply

Sarah Z Israel October 28, 2008

fabulous! this piece is incredible! Such a beautiful concept - so well written. Bravo Rabbi - loved it! Reply

Tali Katz October 3, 2007

The Hug Dear R. Jacobson,
Thank you for all your teachings. The one that is especially dear to me that I have used with all my guests each year since 2002 is "The Hug". I was so pleased this Sukkot to see the revised teaching with that beautiful picture of children hugging a tree.
Reading my Sukkot machzor in Shul, as I read and followed the reading of our Holy Torah, the pasuk when Moshe asked Hashem to show Him his face he refused and showed him his back had a new meaning to me. What came to me is Hashem gave Moshe an embrace as we are embraced by the Sukkah each Sukkot. Reply

Celia Leal São Paulo, Brazil September 30, 2007

Shemini Atseret Dear Rabbi Jacobson:

These High Holy Days and the festivals that follow awaken our spirits to the blessings of belonging to God: That shapes a layer of protection for our lives and our feelings and we can be close to God in our hearts and our deeds.
Thank you for reminding us that we belong to God, are protected and can give an upturn to our everyday lives when we have the awareness of such a bond and unity everyday! Reply

Evelyne-Valerie D'Arnal Great Falls, Montana September 29, 2007

Souls in the Rain I always thought of Religion as humanity's Love Affair with his creator. This article made it so real to me. Thank You! Reply

ANDREA YAMAMOTO Kakegawa, Shizuoka, JAPAN September 20, 2007

Thank you!! Mr. Yosef Y. Jacobson, your article has given me inspiration, incredibly!

Our son, born this April, (in the month beginning with an 'I') has likewise your name. How special for me to realize this when I read your article. =) He was named after the patriarch's Yosef's name. =)

I don't have any comment; I just wanted to say, 'Thank you.'

Sincerely. Reply

Anonymous October 18, 2006

Excellent excellent article. The analogy really made sense. And I know it will affect how I live and think during this month. Thank You!! Reply

Anonymous via chabadofbakersfield.com October 17, 2006

nicely put--in awe of the parallels As I looked for the deeper symbolism during this holiday season, I was so stunned to read your Souls in the Rain. Especially pertinent to me since I have just started a beautiful relationship with a real mensch. We shared parts of high holy day services together and he helped me construct (and later - deconstruct) the Sukkah in my backyard. When I read the symbolism in your story, reflecting back on the last few weeks.....I am in awe of the parallels I found and looking foward to the unknowns of my future. Reply

Hanalah Houston, Tx USA October 29, 2005

We are married to HaShem It is true that Israel is married to HaShem. We know this on many levels.

Sinai was our wedding.

I would have felt happier with the article if it had begun with a statement such as,

Of course we all know that Israel is married to HaShem, but the High Holy Day Season reminds of in a very special way. Reply

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