In anticipation of Rosh HaShanah, Emet Outreach hosted its annual “ReJewVenation” event.  Held just steps away from the Emet office at the Bukharian Community Center in Jamaica Estates, the program drew a crowd of alumni couples and Emet educators who were eager to enjoy an uplifting and mindful evening in preparation for the yamim noraim.

There was a feeling of warmth, family and friendship as couples mingled over a delicious buffet. Rabbi Akiva Rutenberg, Emet Co-Founder and Director, served as emcee and opened the event. He gave the first of a series of inspirational lectures by Emet’s dedicated rabbeim. Rabbi Rutenberg explained that when approaching Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur we think about the closest relationship we can have with Hashem. The Torah explains that the relationship between husband and wife is considered the closest because that is the only relationship where the goal is to become one. He added that there are two ways to do teshuva -- through love, which is preferable, and through fear. When we do teshuva through love we focus on the connection with Hashem. Rabbi Rutenberg ended with the bracha that everyone should connect to Hashem, their spouse and family through love and have a true “Ani L’Dodi V’Dodi Li.”

Rabbi Reuven Kigel, Campus Director, was up next. In his dynamic style he talked about the meaning of selichot and the importance of granting forgiveness to others. Rabbi Nissim Musheyev, Community Development Director, followed with a heartfelt discussion on the meanings of Rosh Hashana. He spoke about the concept of teshuva as a way for each person to return to their original and unique potential as created by Hashem. He said that we have to be givers to be like G-d, which is what marriage and having a family are about.  Hashem wants to judge us favorably, and we should in turn look for the positive in our spouses and children, so our homes are filled with love.

The crowd was captivated when Rabbi Mordechai Kraft, Co-Founder and Educational Director, delivered the main drasha of the night. He began with a question: “What emotion are we supposed to have on Rosh HaShanah? It is a day when Hashem is judging us for the year to come. How can judgement be a manifestation of Hashem’s love?” He discussed the process of creating Adam HaRishon and what it was like in Gan Eden before and after Adam’s aveira. He compared the approach Hashem took with Adam to how He is judging us. Hashem is looking at the past to give us exactly what we need to repair ourselves. Rosh HaShanah is a day of celebration and joy because Hashem cares so much about us.  Hashem is giving us the chance to initiate that change by getting up early, hearing the Shofar and davening so he can sweeten the judgement. Our job on Rosh HaShanah is to come to Hashem and acknowledge that even if our past isn’t perfect, we want to be better. We should be the “rosh” of ideas we want to live by. Rabbi Kraft concluded with the bracha that we should understand the power of what it means to come to Hashem and ask for judgement and thereby experience Hashem’s love.

At the end of the night, attendees felt energized for the upcoming Yom Tov.  The team at Emet would like to extend the sentiment of the evening by wishing the community a shanah tovah and a kesiva v’chasima tovah!