As fulfilling as it was to engage in Shavuot programs, a lot weighs on me. With COVID-19 continuing to ravage Black communities and racist violence all over the news, I almost feel like it’s Yom Kippur instead – the time when Jews are supposed to be most aware of their own mortality.
This week, I tell a friend I’d love to chat but actually I have to run Yom Kippur services are starting soon and I’ve got to repent for my sins before the gates are closed. She laughs. “Well, you’re gay, so you’ve definitely got a lot of repenting to do.”
With great excitement, tinged with a touch of trepidation, I moved to Israel in the summer of 1996 to begin my first year of rabbinical school at Hebrew Union College.
As the High Holidays approach, Rabbi Ruth H. Sohn explains the importance in Jewish tradition of holding up the mirror of truth to others and to ourselves. She also offers 10 pointers on mastering the art of tokhehah (rebuke) in advance of the High Holidays.
I often use the imagery of a bullseye when teaching young children the complicated concepts related to the High Holidays and Yom Kippur. Each day when we try to do our best, it’s like we’re aiming for the center of the bullseye. But sometimes we say something that hurts someone a friend’s feelings, or we do something unkind to a loved one. That’s when we land on an outer ring and miss the mark.
If on Yom Kippur we rehearse our own death, then on Tishah B’Av (observed last month), we begin the annual process of preparing for death. The seven-week period from Tishah B’Av to Rosh HaShanah provides an opportunity to cultivate our souls, to reestablish our relationship with God, and to reconcile with ourselves and others. We transform the potentially passive experience of judgment into an active process of self-awareness, acceptance, engagement, and transformation.
I am a huge fan of everything Disney – movies, Mickey, and now even Marvel. Our family has vacationed at Walt Disney World (WDW) and Disneyland more times than we can count. Our daughter was married at WDW, and we have a room in our home devoted to Disney “stuff.” Believe it or not, some recent Disney movie releases have a distinct connection to the Days of Awe.
In advance of the new year, people often ask rabbis, “Are you ready for the High Holidays?” I, for one, never know exactly how to answer. Is readiness measured in sermons written? In liturgy practiced and perfected? Or perhaps in High Holiday tickets ordered and received? What exactly does it mean to be “ready” for these days?