For this year’s (5778/2017) Yom Kippur “appeal” we’re going to focus on the last line of the Yom Kippur prayer, said aloud seven times before the very last Kaddish and the Shofar Blast. The Shema is the best-known line on that last page and one year that was our Yom Kippur appeal (for twice daily one-line Shema, each morning and evening, just that one line) but Shema often steals the thunder, so this year we’re going to focus on that last line: “Hashem (Ado-nay) Hu Elokim!” that is proclaimed seven times before the last Kaddish.
It’s a big Kabbalistical theme, discussed at great length in Chabad Chassidic writing – the significance of these two names of G-d and the meaning of them being one. Incidentally (not accidentally) they are both prominent in that one-line of Shema, and in every blessing we make. What these G-dly names stand for, what they do, and how we relate to them is at the crux of Chabad Chassidic thought.
But we only have a couple of minutes now as we near the end of Yom Kippur. So how can I explain this quickly, in a memorable way. I’m going to have to get a little undressed. (And I revealed this Superman shirt underneath my white Kittel and Tallis…)
Think of it as Clark Kent vs. Superman. Two sides of the same person.
Simply put: Ado-nay or Hashem = the supernatural, the out of this world, the infinite aspect of G-d. Elokim = the normal, the natural, the finite, that fits in and relates to this world.
Just as it is with G-d’s names and ways of Divine revelation and connection to our world, the same it is with our service of G-d and our connection to G-dliness.
Think of two ways in Judaism: There’s the Clark Kent Jew: normal, fits right in, doesn’t act drastically different, nothing crazy or wild. And then there’s the Superman Jew: decidedly different, super-Jewish, not average or normal at all, going all out and way out.
Jewish life needs BOTH. It’s not all Simchat Torah 24/7. You have to go to class, keep up a job, have all kinds of circles of friends, you may be on Rugby or Swim team, work in SA, or involved in clubs and groups of all types and stripes. But the normal, everyday, blending-in Jew alone isn’t enough either. We need that supercharged boost of a Yom Kippur or Simchat Torah, or SuperJew that can pop up on any ol’ Monday or Tuesday.
So here’s my appeal this Yom Kippur. Let’s try harder to live this balance of Hashem (Ado-nay) and Elo-him. These are names of our G-d, but in our service of G-d, they can represent the Clark Kent and Superman powers within each and every one of us.
Keep up the Clark Kent Judaism. It’s really important and that’s what 80% of our Judaism will look like. But try to keep your Superman Jew from getting rusty. Keep him in shape. There are all kinds of ways we can invest and be our true innermost selves in the most dynamic ways.
Immerse yourself in a Shabbaton weekend this November with thousands of Jewish college students. Go off to Israel. Spend a week or two this winter break studying in a Yeshiva program.
And you can be a SuperJew right here on campus:
Put on Tefillin in your dorm room. Come out to study Torah on a cold night. Make an effort to eat one meal a week at Kosher Dining. Be different. Be really really Jewish for these special moments, go all out with it. Table for a Jewish event. Wear a kippa or Chai necklace. Put more Judaism in your online posts.
The specifics will vary by person. What for one person is Clark Kent Judaism may be SuperJew for another. But the main thing is: go out of your comfort zone with some regularity, go beyond your Jewish normal, whether for five minutes a day or for an hour a week, whatever it takes.
We can talk more about these two sides of our Judaism another time, there are many levels and layers and aspects to all this. I’d love to learn with you about it all year long. But I don’t want you to forget this. Keep your capes handy. Shana Tova!