Saturday, October 4, 2008

L'Shana Tova -- Happy 5769

We are living in the Days of Awe, the high holy days that mark the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, and continue through Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
Unlike the New Year's celebrations that occur throughout the world on December 31st of each year, Rosh Hashanah is a religious holiday. It marks a time of reflection, of looking back over the past year and forward to the coming one, it is a pause amidst the busyness of life to do a self-assessment and make course corrections if needed.
Then on the 10th day of the new year, Jews observe the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. On this day, people are encouraged to make amends for wrongs done to others, for promises that were broken, for any way in which they broke relationship with one another.
I like this focus on repairing relationships with one another, rather than just asking for a blanket amnesty from G-d. This causes us to take responsibility for our actions directly with the ones whom we have hurt. It also gives us an opportunity to be agents of grace with those who have hurt us or broken relationship with us.
Many religions provide opportunities for people to reflect on their broken relationships and give a chance for them to restore them. I think this is one of the most important things we can do as human beings. We cannot hope for the world to attain peace and harmony if we don't first start with seeking those things in our own lives.
So I encourage you, during these Days of Awe, regardless of your religious beliefs, to take some time to reflect on our lives, our actions over these past few weeks and months, to honestly and boldly evaluate your behaviors and to see if there is anyone with whom you need to restore a relationship. This could even be relationship you've broken with yourself by how you have talked to yourself, lies you have told yourself about who you are in the grand scheme of themes.
As the High Holy Days end on October 9 this year, at the last hour a service called "Ne'ila" (Neilah) offers a final opportunity for repentance. It is the only service of the year during which the doors to the Ark (where the Torah scrolls are stored) remain open from the beginning to end of the service, signifying that the gates of Heaven are open at this time.
And I believe that as we reflect, seek forgiveness from anyone with whom we have broken relationship, offer grace and forgiveness to those who have wronged us, that the gates of Heaven are opened, that we can exist in a moment of existential harmony.
In fact, I would encourage us to try to keep the gates of Heaven open throughout the year, not just during the High Holy Days but every day. So that, when we make a mistake, break a promise, hurt someone, we admit it immediately, seek grace, give grace. In so doing, I believe we can always be living in the Days of Awe.
Happy New Year!

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