On the Days of Awe we often turn inward: immersing ourselves in prayer, fasting, working on spiritual growth and confronting expectations of change. In so many ways, these days are a time when we focus on internal matters. Although our prayer confessions are written in the plural, we usually dwell on our own singular faults. And despite the special commandment to welcome guests, many have the custom not to invite anyone outside the family to the holiday table to keep the days somber, reflective and intimate.
Yet, if we turn back to our oldest Jewish texts, our prophets often regarded our inwardness as a fault and a deficiency, particularly on holidays. Our mandate in the world as a covenantal people is to bring light to other nations and not only perseverate on our own needs and ills. We cannot only look inward and focus on our own spiritual growth through fasting and prayer alone; we must look outwards to the needs of others. Read More
Why does Rosh Hashanah precede Yom Kippur? No sooner do we mark the New Year than we begin repenting for our sins. Surely the logical sequence would be the reverse: we should repent and then usher in the New Year with a clean slate.
Rosh Hashanah is a day we celebrate the world. We appreciate the beauty, the wonder and the miraculousness of life. That appreciation is critical; for only when we understand how splendid yet fragile is God’s world can we begin to repent for having damaged or neglected it. All tikkun, all reparation, begins in appreciation. We heal relationships because we understand their value. We seek to restore the imbalances in the natural world because its native pageantry dazzles our eyes. Yom Kippur is the outcome of our Rosh Hashanah vision: surrounded by possibility, we need to heal what we have hurt, or nurture the untended patches of God’s garden. Seeing the cracks in creation, we acknowledge our obligation to fill them. First comes gratitude, then regret, then restoration. Read More