As we go through life, we are not always prepared for the roars of the cannon, momentous changes that alter the course of our lives. For example, any one of us or our loved ones may seem perfectly healthy one day, then receive a serious diagnosis of illness the next.
There's nothing wrong with sending apology texts, or using technology to connect with those far away, but for many the High Holidays tradition of apologizing to those we have wronged has largely become a perfunctory gesture and that's a shame.
The "Jewish summer" encourages us to rid ourselves of the fantasy that life's blessings, such as peace and happiness, can be found outside. We ought to re-focus on who we truly are, and what our personal mission statements ought to be.
I've attended Yom Kippur services as a congregant for many years, and I've also conducted Yom Kippur services when serving as a pulpit rabbi for several years. From both ends I can tell you: Yom Kippur can be rough.
The proliferation of coffee that is probably behind the proliferation of one of the most intense Jewish rituals: the waking up before sunrise for the recitation of Selichot -- literally, "Forgiveness."
One year can seem like a lifetime when reviewing one's own actions in detail. Going from reflection to renewed action can seem overwhelming. Yet this year, I came across a new tool in my repertoire of reflection for the sake of future action: memory.
From this place it is not so scary to self reflect, to make amends, to face the "judgment." From this place we can heal and let go of conscious and unconscious messages that we are projecting on to ourselves, others and the world.
Crowning God as "King" is a hard concept for me to wrap my head around, and it's also one of the main psychological/spiritual/liturgical themes of Rosh Hashanah. So I have to turn to an unconventional source as a reference point.
During this time of the Jewish month, we are considering and reflecting on how we may have hurt others. However, before we utter an apology, we have to consider whether we genuinely wish to bring peace to the other person through our words or bring peace of mind to ourselves.
Originally, G-d didn't care about good and evil or the Torah. Then, out of an act of absolute selflessness He decided He would care about this stuff. With all this in mind, we can now begin to appreciate the secret of Rosh Hashanah according to Chassidus.
Repentance and forgiveness are powerful conscious processes that bring growth and lasting healing. That is why for Jews the holiest days of the year are those when we commit our lives to these processes.
In looking at the continued imprisonment and mistreatment of people who have not been convicted of or tried for a crime, I think that the Jewish notion of personal responsibility and teshuvah is not being followed.
We may not fix all the wrongs done by our fellow Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, or Hindus, but we have the power, and the responsibility, to be constantly improving ourselves and our communities.