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High Holy Days 2020



We are in the midst of the Jewish High Holy Days, which began last week with the celebration of Rosh Hashanah (head of the year). This is usually celebrated by reconnecting with friends and family and it signifies the beginning of a new year. Often there are special meals celebrated together with special candles that are lit and special foods that are shared. I like the symbolism of the Jewish New Year with its emphasis on taking stock, on looking back over the year just ended. You are asked to look back over your own actions in the past year and to “atone” for anything you may have done, intentionally or not, that harmed another. You are then tasked with finding, if possible, that other and setting things right again. This takes place for a period of ten days. When that is done, you are ready to enter the coming year with a clean slate.

The holiday concludes with the highest holiday in the Jewish calendar, “Yom Kippur”. This is a more or less somber religious service which begins with a traditional prayer, the “Kol Nidre” (all vows). This unusual prayer basically says that all vows made to God in the coming year are null and void! On the surface, this seems odd. But, this prayer is said to prevent a religious Jew from making an overly optimistic promise to God he or she cannot keep by recognizing that human beings are fallible, and that nobody, however well intentioned, can guarantee perfect behavior. You have to love a religion that is so honest! At this point the “Book of Life” is sealed for another year and you have the chance to start fresh.

Unlike the secular new year, the Jewish New Year focuses on your relationships and community more than your own personal goals. And in this year of isolation, it is needed more than ever. In a way we are in our own unique form of exile from each other this year. And, many of us have become introspective in this time. We have looked back with regret for the common things we didn’t appreciate. And we look forward to a time when we can be healed, and whole and connected once again. Shanah Tovah.

Days of Atonement

As the gates of another

year swing open,

we are given new options,

again.

There is a sacred temple

in the place where one year

speaks to the next.

In this in-between place

we get a glimpse of

how everything is stitched together.

It is our job

to find the lost threads

right in front of us,

to thread them

onto the slim silver needle

and begin to repair

whatever has broken

whatever has frayed

along the way.

We can do this holy work of mending,

like our mothers

who sat by the basket of socks.

They took up mending

our holes without asking

how or why.

They knew something

we now have learned.

The gift of repairing

has been given to us too.

See how day is stitched

seamlessly to night?

How holes

can be patched.

How this is sacred work

that must be done.

~Penny Hackett-Evans

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