15 Jan Reflections on the High Holidays
September 10, 2018 / 1 Tishri 5779
As a preparation for the upcoming High Holidays, I would like to share these thoughts on the season, sent to me by Terry Waslow, executive director of the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations.
Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are very different from other Jewish Holidays. These days do not commemorate an event or retell a story. These days are personal days set aside to urge us to reassess our actions and prepare to live in our most principled way. These are days dedicated to acknowledging our mistakes, to accepting our shortcomings and to working to become our best selves. We all have visions of ourselves as good people who make the world a better place. This is the time of year that we commit to that vision and to making it a reality. We do this each year as we know that it is an ongoing struggle and we accept our responsibility for creating a just and sweet world for all.
I remember being told as a child that I needed to wake up each morning, look in the mirror and decide if the person I saw was someone I liked and respected. I needed to confirm that I was the person I wanted to be. I was told that each action I took would impact who I was and how I saw myself. My parents instilled in me the idea that every day is an opportunity to review my actions and ensure they reflect my principles.
We are fortunate to be part of a tradition that sets aside specific days each year to search deep within the person in the mirror. We join with others across the globe who are honoring these days with the same intentions. Whether we are part of a local Jewish community or we are alone in our own thoughts, we are taking part in a tradition that encourages us to be our best selves. It is a tradition that allows us to own our shortcomings and our mistakes and to be able to move beyond them with dignity and a commitment to be better.
When we take time to really look at ourselves and think about who we are, as Jews, as citizens of our respective countries, descendants of our people, an infinitesimally small part of humanity, do we see someone we respect?
Someone who adds positive qualities to this world? Do we actively make this a better place? Do we commit to our identity as modern, contemporary Jews and work to build that community, sharing the traditions and living the ethics we hold dear? What aspects of ourselves cause us to pause and alter our course so that we ensure, each day, the person in the mirror is who we really want to be?
May this be a year of kindness, compassion and justice for all and may you have the strength to help make it happen.
A gut un zis yor, shana’ tova’ u’metukah, a good and sweet year to all!
— Rabbi Frank