A Preparation Guide For the High Holidays
September 16, 2016
It all begins with Rosh Hashanah, literally, “the head of the year” or the Jewish New Year. The name-Jewish new year-is somewhat deceptive, because there is little similarity between Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest days on the Jewish calendar, and the January 1st midnight drinking bash and daytime football game!
The overwhelming theme of the day is seeking forgiveness and starting over. The liturgy of Rosh Hashanah prescribes a 3-step approach to the process of forgiveness:
1) Tshuvah/Repentance or Returning-This is the realization that we are not stuck, that our mistakes are not irreparable, that we can turn around and find a way out of the mess we have made. Rabbi Nina Cardin notes, “On the High Holidays we are asked to shed the crust that forms around our hearts as we are hardened by the fires of life, to scrape away the patina that we might think seasons our lives but in reality just dulls the brilliance beneath.”
2) Tefillah/Prayer-Through acts of repentance we create patterns for a renewed self. Through acts of prayer we blend these patterns into an extended tapestry of self, God and community. Prayer requires we open our hearts, not just to God but also to ourselves. On Rosh Hashanah we pray both from the book and the heart.
3) Tzedakah/Acts of Righteousness-Forgiveness is judged not by words, but actions. What we repent and pray for can only be realized through what we do. The act of giving (Tzedakah) reminds us that our own fortune is tied to the fortunes of our fellow humans.
If one can walk away from Rosh Hashanah with repentance, prayer, and acts of righteousness on their agenda, then one is prepared to enter the gates of atonement on Yom Kippur.
Next week: Part Three
Rabbi Howard Siegel