The white carpet (red being too sinful a color) was rolled out for three “rock stars” of Jewish women’s learning at the Wilshire Ebell Theater on Oct. 3 for the Los Angeles leg of the “Avinu Malkeinu” High Holy Days lecture extravaganza.
It felt like a rowdy concert as 800 Orthodox Jewish women and teenagers jammed the entrance on their way to hear best-selling author/translator on faith and relationships, Rabbi Lazer Brody; Scottish-born author and teacher Rabbi YY Rubinstein; and Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein, founder and director of Brooklyn’s Ohr Naava Women’s Torah Center.
The crowd mixed smiles, laughter and serious contemplation during the two-and-a-half hours of homilies on teshuvah (Jewish return) given through allegories, stand-up-style humor and biblical teachings.
“There’s no father who doesn’t want his child back again,” said Rubinstein, referencing the title theme, “Our Father, Our King.”
“As long as we forgive ourselves, every one of our aveirahs [sins] becomes a mitzvah.”
The most difficult forgiveness, he said, occurs between people, and he challenged the women to make pre-Yom Kippur amends with an estranged friend by admitting fault.
Brody kept the focus on middot (character traits), likening Yom Kippur to Tu B’Av, the Jewish holiday of love, saying, “Holiness is synonymous with happiness.”
His challenge to the audience: Take an insult with a smile. Public humiliations, he taught, are like divine trade-offs for much worse offenses against one’s life and property.
“It’s a lot easier to take an insult than a Katyusha rocket,” said the American-born Brody, who stopped in Los Angeles en route to his home in southern Israel after making a traditional Chasidic Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage to Ukraine.
The fiery Wallerstein cautioned against “the Satan” in our lives — physical and mental impediments that keep us from unlocking our potential.
“As long as there’s a little fight in you to grow, to change, the Satan cannot swallow your soul; but if he breaks your will — you’re his.”