Truths You Can Use

Truths You Can Use


What Everybody Ought to Know About the Jewish High Holy Days

This Wednesday evening Jews around the world will gather in synagogue to begin the Jewish New Year. Known as Rosh Hashanah (meaning “Head of the Year), this holiday centers around prayer, study and a festive meal.

It also begins the year 5774 on the Jewish calendar, reflecting the chronology of the Old Testament, where the calendar begins with the creation of the world.

shofar

The theme of Rosh Hashanah is best captured in a ritual item known as a shofar. A shofar is a ram’s horn sounded throughout the worship service on the day of Rosh Hashanah.

It calls us to look inside ourselves to see where we can grow and change. Rabbi Harold Kushner compared it to a wake-up call whose message is a challenge. Don’t just plead with me for a year of life. I’m giving you life; what are you doing with it.

In other words, the shofar  pierces through our routines and habits. It awakens us from the slumber of everyday living. It challenges us to think, to question, to wake up!

What are we doing with the challenges and opportunities life puts before us? What meanings are we making out of the experiences we face? That is the question we grapple with during the Jewish New Year. 

Can We Forgive?forgive

Ten days after Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the Jewish holiday known as Yom Kippur. The phrase Yom Kippur means “Day of Atonement.”

Its central theme is making amends with God and with fellow human beings. An array of prayers reminds us to apologize and to forgive. Without doing so, we become trapped in the past. Yom Kippur helps us shape the future by coming to terms with our past.

A Rabbi and His Baby

A favorite story reminds me of this imperative to forgive. A fellow rabbi was giving a sermon on forgiveness. He mentioned the standard biblical passages  And then he brought his one-year-old daughter up onto the pulpit. He kept going on with the sermon, as she played with his tie and kissed his cheeks.

Everyone chuckled and wondered what was going on. Finally he stopped and said, “Now is there anything she can do that we would not forgive her for.”

Most of the congregation nodded in recognition. Smiling, the rabbi waited for silence and then asked, “And when does that stop? When does it get so hard to forgive? At three? At seven? At fourteen? At thirty five? How old does someone have to be before we refuse to forgive?” (Also Recounted in Naomi Remen’s My Grandfather’s Blessing)

On Yom Kippur we ask ourselves what we are doing to forgive? Are  we giving people the benefit of the doubt? Are we holding a grudge because it allows us to avoid doing something difficult? The prayers challenge us with these questions. We pray for God’s wisdom and our own strength to answer them.

 



  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Erik Retallick

    Thank you for such a clear and straightforward explanation of the meanings of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. As a Christian I believe that these feasts should also have great significance and application to us, as we are grafted on to Israel, by the Grace of God (Romans 11).

Previous Posts

Why We Still Love Fiddler on the Roof After 50 Years
As I child I could not sit through movies or meals. Sitting through a musical was out of the question. Yet, when I was seven, my parents decided to take me to see Fiddler on the Roof. Looking back now as parent of a seven-year-old, I would not have been so bold. Since that first experienc

posted 6:59:14pm Sep. 16, 2014 | read full post »

The Secret to Healing From Pain
I sat with the two children of a mother who had just passed away. They were recounting her life for me in preparation for the funeral. As we spoke, the mother’s long-time caretaker came into the room. She began to speak about their relationship. Though her English was not perfect, the three

posted 12:35:43pm Sep. 10, 2014 | read full post »

Do You Know What Hurts Me? A Story
  A great rabbi went into a bar. He overheard a conversation between patrons.   One said to the other, “Friend, do you love me?” “Of course I do,” the second man replied. “We’ve known each other our whole lives.”   “Then tell me, friend,” said the first man, “

posted 1:01:07pm Sep. 01, 2014 | read full post »

Does Religion Cause War?
Deadly images on television tear at our heart. We wish for the violence in Israel to end. This land, sacred to three global religions, seems endlessly mired in conflict. Does religion just

posted 12:36:26pm Aug. 17, 2014 | read full post »

The Healing Power of Laughter: The Jewish Genius of Robin Williams
In Jewish tradition we have a special greeting for a genius. Upon meeting such a person, we say, Blessed are You, Eternal God, Source of Life, who has given from His wisdom to flesh and blood.  Had I ever met Robin Williams, I would surely have said it. Williams was a singular genius. He brought

posted 2:26:21pm Aug. 12, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.