"The overarching theme of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is 'change:' to change from what we were before and to become new individuals. The motif behind it all is accountability. We are responsible for our actions... What we do or say has an impact and a resonance in the world." Rabbi Emanuel Feldman
That brief overview of the holiest Jewish holidays couldn't be more timely or relevant. Our country and the world are struggling with these very issues. Accountability. Responsibility. Action. Positive Change. Honesty. Humility. Trust. Not as campaign slogans. As time-honored ideals to reach for, live by, try to achieve.
The High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur give Jews an opportunity to clarify our most critical priorities. Not just spiritually, but in our everyday lives. Our goals and values. How to reach them. How to make a meaningful contribution to others and to our world.
This is a time for significant inner initiatives. And it's an opportunity for us to recreate ourselves, to strengthen our ties to our faith and to each other in the year to come.
It's not easy. But it's so important. Take a look around at the world today. If each of us simply took responsibility to make our own part of it a little better, it would be such a significant start.
Jews celebrate Rosh Hashahah as the New Year, to commemorate the 6th day of Creation, when God made Adam and Eve. In his image. Which doesn't refer to appearance, but to the essence of our humanity. Free will. The potential for goodness.
With free will comes the ultimate gift. A conscience. And with a conscience comes responsibility. To try to be a good person. Often we fail.
We are taught to understand sin as fact of life, of Free Will. And we are reminded there are consequences to our actions. Each year Rosh Hashanah begins the ten days we face our sins, great and small, learn from them, make ammends to people first. And then, to God. We vow to try to do better, to be better.
Sin, Repentance, Forgiveness
Tonight at sundown begins the most solemn and holy day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur --the Day of Atonement-- 25 hours of prayer, reflection, repentance and, one hopes, forgiveness.
Many people ask themselves some basic questions during these hours especially, to affirm and remember what is truly important and who we ultimately want to be. Below are some questions to ask yourself, any time of the year.
It's not always necessary to know the answers -- what's important is to ask the questions. Starting tonight and throughout Wednesday I'll be asking myself these and other questions. And seeking my own brand of inner spiritual guidance.
No matter what your beliefs, there's value here for everyone who wants to be a better human being.
When do I most feel my life is meaningful?
How often do I express my feelings to those who mean the most to me?
Are there any ideals I would be willing to die for?
If I could live my life over, would I change anything?
What would bring me more happiness than anything else in the world?
What are my three biggest achievements in the past year?
What are the three biggest mistakes I've made in the past year?
What is the most important decision I need to make this year?
What are the most important relationships in my life?
What can I do to nurture those relationships this year?
If I could change only one thing about myself, what would that be?
If I could give my children only three pieces of advice, what would they be?
This question I'll answer here in public, for all to see. Because I believe if more people followed this advice, the world would be a better place.
1. Respect yourself, and others.
2. Be generous and kind.
3. Always be guided by your most honest instincts.
May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for another year.
Kol Nidrei, Yom Kippur Eve Prayer. You don't have to be Jewish to hear the love, the yearning, the pain, the desire to reach for a higher purpose.