As a teenager, I would sit on my bedroom floor listening to old records of Belgian singer-songwriter, poet, and performer Jacques Brel. I didn’t need to keep a journal, because his lyrics wove together everything I felt at the time. Brel had a fire within, and his anger, longing, passion, and truth blazed through every word he sang. His music, raw and real, transformed and fed my soul; it informed and shaped who I am today.
When people ask me what prompted me to become a rabbi, I often tell them about my love of Jewish learning, or Israel, or a desire to help, or some such noble pursuit. The truth is, what really prompted me to become a rabbi was Chuck Taylor sneakers.
Every year for 30 years, I’ve sat in a temple sanctuary on the High Holidays and watched a movie. It’s a movie only I can see – flashbacks of all the times I recall over the past 52 weeks when I didn’t measure up to the standards of my head, heart, and soul.
Last year at this season, something surprising appeared in my inbox. It was a response to a challenge:
“Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?”
At this time of year, many in the Jewish community have a heightened awareness of matters of forgiveness and redemption. With the High Holidays approaching, we are mindful of the need for teshuvah (repentance), and we do our best to turn away from past sinfulness.
Every year on the High Holidays, police officers sit outside our synagogue to protect our community and building from harm.