Posted by: Subway Conductor | August 24, 2009

High Holidays 2009

From Rabbi Michael Arsers:

It used to be that a Jew would come to the High Holidays (which are called in Hebrew, “the Days of Awe”) with trepidation. One did not just show up for the services on the eve of Rosh Hashannah, but preparation began a month earlier. At the beginning of the month of Elul, it is customary to start sounding the Shofar at the end of morning services. This is to give us fair warning that the Day of Judgment is approaching. We need to start thinking about repentance. Beginning with the Saturday night prior to Rosh Hashannah, we start saying penitential prayers late at night. So that by the time one arrives at the synagogue on Rosh Hashannah, a Jew should have had his or her thoughts directed to the matters of importance which should dominate our thinking during the Holidays. These matters are: changing our lives and making amends with those around us.

Changing our lives requires that we make a strict accounting of what we have done in the past and what we are supposed to do. Are the two the same? None of us can honestly answer “yes” to this question. The Days of Awe are the time for making the changes required to bring our lives closer to what they should be.

Making amends with others is a crucial part of this process of change. We need to recognize that we have not always acted towards others as we should. Doing repentance requires admitting this fact and asking forgiveness fo those we have offended.

Rosh Hashannah is the “Day of Judgement.” To properly understand this day and its importance, we should perhaps imagine ourselves in the situation of being called into court. If you received a summons to appear in court one month from now, would you file the letter away, not thinking about what it might be about? Of course not. All of us, faced with a court date, would be constantly thinking about the actions pertaining to the case. What were the exact facts? What were our exact actions? What did we say? How are we to explain our behavior? This is precisely what we should be doing right now in preparation for the Day of Judgement — Rosh Hashannah.

The difference is that int he case of the HIgh Holidays, the summons is a voluntary one. We can chose whether we will appear in court. But if we don’t, then the sentence is a harsh one. We will remain exactly the same. Our lives will not be improved. Our relations with other people will remain troubled. The truth is that the High Holidays are a special kind of court date — one that is designed to clear our record and allow us to go on in life after a new start. We can emerge from these days refreshed  and reinvigorated, ready to meet new challenges. That is the power of repentance. It is why the call to us to change our lives and mend our relationships that we hear during the Days of Awe is one that we should willingly answer.

Pnina, Oren, Talia and Leora join me in wishing all of you a healthy and happy New Year. And most importantly, a New Year filled with joy and blessing.

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