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Rosh Hashanah 2013: Bring Back Respect for Everyone

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Wednesday night this week, Jews all around the world will begin marking the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah. We herald in the year 5774 with grand liturgy, masterfully conducted prayer services and a lot of introspection and reflection. Indeed, a central activity of this time of year is spending time in sincere reflection about the ways in which we interacted with others during the past year and seeking out reconciliation and forgiveness from those we hurt.

The journey towards forgiveness and reconciliation with others is not a minor detail of this auspicious season. It is at the very heart of what the Jewish High Holy Days are all about. We live out our lives in intricate webs of human interaction and connection. We exist in a myriad of relationship constructs. We can be at any given time depending on who we are interacting with a parent, a child, a spouse, a co-worker, a leader, a follower and endless other possibilities. Each one of these constructs presents its own dynamics and expectations. It is so easy to tear a hole in the delicate fabric of community and it is so hard to mend that tear once its been ripped.

We dedicate a great deal of mental and spiritual energy during this time of year repairing relationships, mending tears in our social lives and bringing wholeness back again to our lives with others because a new year of growth and enrichment is impossible without it.

During the prayer services of the High Holy Days season we recite a litany of sins that collectively we are all responsible for. Amongst those sins we all recite is: "For the sin we have committed before You by hard heartedness." When we let our hearts become hard and immune from the emotional impact of the world, we become spiritually sick. The emotions do not disappear. The feelings of remorse do not dissipate because we refuse to acknowledge them. Rather, the emotions fester and impact us in ways we are not even aware of. They manifest in all sorts of ways throughout our lives, almost always in a negative sense. We need to find the courage and the strength to soften our hearts and to open ourselves up to our emotional centers. We will be better for it.

Did you speak harshly to someone this year? Did you lose your patience? Were you short on understanding and long on anger? Did you embarrass another person? In our modern culture, so much damage is caused through email and social media. Did you insult another person publicly on Facebook or through an email?

For all the ways we hurt, insulted, demeaned, embarrassed or humiliated others, no amount of prayers, introspection or mournful tears will mend that tear in the fabric of community until reconciliation is made with those offended. If what we desire is a new year of success and growth and a year of boundless possibilities, that new year begins right at the doorstep of the people we need to seek wholeness with.

This Rosh Hashanah and beyond let us commit ourselves to live out lives of respect and consideration for all the people we come into contact with in the myriad ways we exist together.