High Holidays 5767
L'Shana Tova Tikatevu"May you be written down for a good year" (Rosh Hashanah greeting)
As I sat, on Saturday, September 23, the Jewish New Year of 5767 . within this very humble synagogue (Ahavas Sholom), the last operating synagogue in Newark, New Jersey, I sat wondering how I might meaningfully blog on the experience I was having that day. As the Cantor, (the professional singer who leads prayer services) orHazzan, as it is called in Hebrew was singing the prayers, I explored the Prayer Book ( the one used just for the holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) searching for something that would elicit a feeling of special meaning for the day. I was seeking inspiration. It was not an easy task.
Granted, the task was ever the more difficult because not only am I not a truly religious person, but I am an agnostic, which makes the exploration itself, well, maybe a little hyrpocritical. After all, the book in which I am looking is one of Prayer and the prayers are all directed to God. If I don't believe in God, or even just question her existence, then how do I expect to find inspiration or something meaningful? I don't know how to answer this question, except to say that I do (expect to find meaning and inspiration). There is something to be said about the significance of prayer beyond it's relation to God. For example, the fact that most prayers are said, at least in the Jewish tradition, in unison with the community that is present is significant. I can remember when I was a young teenager, being at USY (United Synagogue Youth) conventions, with hundreds of other kids and singing some simple Hebrew song, like Henay Ma Tov U'manayim, Shevet Achim B'yachad (translation...Oh, how good and how nice it is to be sitting together with my brothers and sisters) in rounds. The spirit in that room and that pervaded that little 14 or 15 year old Jewish girl, was tangible and tremendous. Also, the fact that the words of the prayers and more significantly, the tunes in which they are sung, are consistent, also adds a sense of familiarity and spirit (though truth be told, they always change the tunes of the more familiar prayers for the High Holidays and though I know this, it disappoints me every time).
So, I searched and came up with three entries that I think help to consolidate the meaning of the High Holidays, at least for me. TheMehila is not really a prayer, but rather a supplication that in the Jewish tradition is required of every Jew before Yom Kippur. The idea is that before you can ask God for forgiveness on the Day of Atonement, you must first have asked your fellow human beings. I will begin with it and I will also mention that should it apply to any of my friends here in cyber-space, all the better.
Mehila: Asking for forgiveness
To be said to one's relatives, friends and acquaintances:
I am sorry if I have hurt you by what I have done or have failed to do, by what I have said or have not said to you since last Yom Kippur.
I will strive to improve my ways, and I ask for your understanding and forgiveness.
To look Forward
Grant us on this Rosh Hashanah
Gratitude enough to look backward and be thankful;
Courage enough to look forward and be hopeful'
Faith enough to look upward and be humble;
Kindness enough to look outward and be helpful.
A little less impatient with those we deem too slow;
A little less arrogant because of all we know;
A little less conceited since our worth is slight;
A little less intolerant even when we are right.
A little more forgiving and swifter to be kind;
A little more desirous the word of praise to find;
A little more eager to help others to rejoice;
A little more careful to speak with gentle voice.
A little more effort to see another's view;
A little more determined to live faithfully as a Jew;
A little more willingness to extend a helping hand;
A little more commitment to our people's and our land.
A little more eagerness to listen and understand;
A little more readiness to respond to God's command;
A little more resolve to do what must be done;
And a greater understanding that, truly, "we are one!"