How do the Days of Awe Give Vital Guidance for our Times?
This year in particular I look forward to sharing with all of you the Days of Awe. I am reminded of the teaching of Ahad Haam: “More than the Jews have kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept the Jews”. That is how it feels entering this New Year, 5780, and all the spiritual work that awaits us during the ten day period beginning with Rosh Hashanah and closing with Neila and the final Shofar blow. Whether we are mindful or not, we are blessed to have these holy days. The medicine they dispense offer hope and more importantly strategies to help us live more effectively in these turbulent times.
With the world spinning as it always does, we find it seemingly spinning out of control in so many ways. How fortunate we are to have these holidays that focus us on strategies by which we can choose to take control, in terms of humanity’s role in the detriment or betterment of living conditions.
Rosh Hashanah commemorates the start of the experiment with God’s Presence in this realm through the physical partner that can make it work. God empowers us with consciousness, capacity to learn, and the power of choice, yes or no to this partnership.
Rosh Hashanah celebrates the birth of the first two humans in the metaphorical story of the Garden of Eden. On this Day, they make the transformative choice to eat the Forbidden Fruit and hide out from God in their self-consciousness. The dialogue from this tale yields for us one important fruit of this holiday, especially Yom Kippur. As God inquires, the man excuses himself, “the woman, who You gave to be with me, she gave it to me…” And the woman accordingly accuses the serpent of getting this whole affair going. It’s fascinating to notice the birth of one of our greatest impediments to changing for the better: the blame game. The man managed to blame not only the woman but, even God…this business of creating woman out of man was clearly a God doing.
The Days of Awe provide time and context to reflect on the question asked in the Garden: “where are you?” and what impediments you face to change the energy and focus in your life into areas that turn humans from fault finding to seeking partnership in overcoming obstacles, mistakes, missteps and other inadvertent wrongs that have derailed you and drained you.
In our deliberations, we sit and stand in the strength and comfort and support of fellow sojourners in life, as community, sharing in these values of Covenant with God. The words we recite are in the plural. You are not left in isolation, to wallow in your own tzures, left to think or assume that no one knows your troubles nor can understand your pain.
While that is true, each one of us has our own knapsack of life, and in most cases, if offered the choice, to pick another’s, we would likely pick our own; at least we know what is in it better than anyone else’s. So, we all bring our pekeles (knapsacks) and together we cover all the issues that humans can improve upon to get out of the muck and the yuck.
And together, through Tefilla/prayer/introspection, we join one another in lifting ourselves and humanity to higher levels of awareness; together we affirm how precious life is and how blessed we are to be alive today to participate in making a difference.
How fortunate are we to be the people with a Life Eternal Warranty, given our Ancestors, assuring us that we can always change. We can turn from blame and despair to hope and courage, to join in the calling from on High, to use our abilities, talents and drive to repair the world in all the ways we can. Then we can answer the ongoing question: Where Are You?…not with blame and excuse, but with the wherewithal and commitment to say: Hineni! I am here, now, ready to join with U, HaShem, and with each other, during these Days of Awe, to renew our commitment to Life!
And the gifts of this season go on! Five days after Yom Kippur we are privileged to join in the happiest holiday of the year…the rejoicing of Sukkot and the Harvest of Life that is so much the sweeter after the journey we will have shared during the Days of Awe!
Shana Tovah U’Metuka!
Best Wishes for a Good and Sweet Year!