My Rosh Hashana experience this year was greatly enhanced by having Rabbi Yaacov Haber’s latest book at hand, The First Ten Days.
The First Ten Days is a unique and beautiful book.
Pockets sized, with striking graphics – the book is a compact combination of esoteric mysticism, with down-to-earth practical advice.
Based upon the Zohar’s observation that the Ten Days of Repentance parallel the ten mystical sefirot, Rabbi Haber takes the reader through each Sefira/Day. Each Sefira/Day is covered in just four or five pages, including an eminently understandable description of the Sefira, its relationship to the Repentance Process, and a short To Do list for the reader to take immediate action and apply to his/her own life.
Those familiar with leading self-help books, like Dale Carnegie’s How to Make Friends & Influence People and Steven Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, will particularly appreciate the 10-Step self-help value of Rabbi Haber’s book.
The First Ten Days is also reminiscent of the writings of the late and great Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan who, like Rabbi Haber, succeeded in bringing the depths of mystical Jewish thought within the range and scope of both lay and (otherwise) erudite readers, simultaneously.
The second day of Rosh Hashana (New Year), for example, has the attribute of the sefira Chochmah. Chochmah is explained as being the “first kernel of an idea that enters into the psyche.” Rabbi Haber encourages the reader to re-evaluate his/her chochmah – “re-examine the givens in your life”.
And he continues, by giving examples: “Do you have certain assumptions about yourself that have not been tested in the past twelve months?…If you are tone deaf, have you tried to sing lately?…Or that you need to sleep as much as you do? Or that you need sugar in your coffee? Have you checked recently?”
Rabbi Haber takes the reader step-by-step, reaching the climax of Malchut (Majesty) on Yom Kippur itself. “With Malchut the creation of the world became complete”.
On Yom Kippur, Rabbi Haber implores the reader to “let go of the life that we planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for you.” In practical terms, “Be self contained. Don’t want something that is not yours. Shed all feelings of jealousy that you have and realize that God has given you all the spiritual, emotional and physical tools that you need.”
And finally, Rav Haber advises the reader to understand the value of tears. “Tears occur when we break through the hard shells of our lives…Today is Yom Kippur – shed a tear!”
In just eighty pages, including stunning illustrations and visually pleasing, clearly presented prose, Rabbi Haber covers the gamut of Jewish mysticism, the meaning behind the 10 Days of Repentance and provides a convenient pocket-sized book to accompany and guide our ideal, yet practical, spiritual growth between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.