The New Year is upon us… 5777 is around the corner…
It is time to take stock of the things we did and did not do. A scary proposition for many of us. Admitting “weakness” or “fault” is never easy… but it is imperative in order for us to grow.
Did we squander the year or live it to the fullest? Are there things we will do better? Are there habits that we will quit?
There are many questions we must ask ourselves, and Hashem… and it is not always pleasant, but that openness… that connection… that dialogue is the key to Judaism. It is what bonds us to Hashem.
Prayer is a dialogue… an ability to connect… and it is our chance to ask for things, including forgiveness.
Owning our mistakes is vital, and especially on the High Holy Days, hiding is not an option. We must open ourselves up and take full responsibility. We must repent and during this time, we pray to be forgiven. But what exactly does that mean?
According to the Jewish Virtual Library:
“Most Jews associate repentance with the High Holy Days. The ten-day period from the start of Rosh Hashana to the end of Yom Kippur is known as Aseret Y’mai Teshuva, the Ten Days of Repentance. However, attendance at synagogue on these days, even when accompanied by sincere repentance, only wins forgiveness for offenses committed against God. As the Talmud teaches: “The Day of Atonement atones for sins against God, not for sins against man, unless the injured party has been appeased” (Mishna Yoma 8:9).”
They continue to say that “teshuva consists of several stages: The sinner must recognize his sin, feel sincere remorse, undo any damage he has done and pacify the victim of his offense, and resolve never to commit the sin again.”
So the time is NOW… yes. But the time is also every single day!
Rabbi Eliezer said: “Repent one day before your death.”
Since we most likely have no idea when we are going to die, the idea is simple… repent every day… learn and grow.
While the High Holy Days make this more focused and perhaps intensified, we are given this opportunity daily in the Siddur with “The Chapter Of Repentance.”
And then every night we have a gift to GIVE… to forgive others… in the Bedtime Shema.
“Master of the universe, I hereby forgive anyone who angered or antagonized me or sinned against me…”
Forgiveness is about us asking others we have wronged, but it is also about us giving forgiveness to those who hurt us, injured us, said bad things, acted inappropriately, etc.
We must treat each situation and individual as just that… a unique scenario, to be dealt with in a unique way that is specific to that person.
“Know before whom you stand.”
I will offer some advice, but mainly, as is often the case, it is specifically for me.
Do not take on the world. Do not bite off more you can chew. Set realistic goals and while big picture ideas are essential and keep us dreaming, we need to be practical and come up with things we can accomplish.
Perhaps many of us make “Rosh Hashanah Resolutions”… and there is nothing wrong with that. But they can also overwhelm and actually backfire.
The world is a crazy place right now… and our current election cycle has put a huge, bright spotlight on the ills of this country and the world. We want to do so much, work so hard to make it a better place, for ourselves and our children.
But to quote the Babylonian Talmud, Avot 2:21 (and from Kabbalah 365):
“Don’t take the burdens of the world’s problems upon yourself.
Don’t ignore them, either. As Rabbi Tar’fon (First Century) put it: “The work is not upon you to complete, but neither are you exempt from trying.”
Do what you can do. Work hard. Love mightily. Set goals. Live dreams. Make plans. See the world, be an active participant in it, strive to make it wonderful, but don’t let it overwhelm you. And forgive… always forgive… Open yourself up every single day, to ask for and to give forgiveness… for that is how you will grow.