Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Jewish High Holidays Reflection 2011


The Coalition for Peace with Justice would like to express its deep gratitude for its friends and supporters who have worked, advocated and donated toward a just peace in Palestine-Israel.


A Personal Reflection on the Jewish High Holidays

by Maggid Rachel Galper

For many Jews, the High Holidays is the time of year we celebrate Creation and the sweetness of the New Year. It is also the time we rededicate ourselves to being Holy vessels by doing teshuvah - turning toward God. We do this by calling out to the Holy One with the Shofar (ram's horn), casting all that separates us from God (our "sins") into the waters during Tashlich, performing mikveh (ritual immersion) in living waters, and doing our best to repair the harm we have caused in the world through prayer, fasting, self-examination, and making amends. We renew our commitment to live and love with a willing spirit, a full heart, and a clear mind. Only then can we be sealed in the Book of Life for another year.

On Yom Kippur (The Day of At-One-Ment), we study the story of Jonah to remind us of the ways in which we, like him, are reluctant prophets trying to avoid our sacred responsibility to care for one another. This responsibility is clearly stated in Isaiah 57-58. Here God tells us to unlock the fetters of wickedness, let the oppressed go free, share our bread with the hungry, take the suffering into our homes and hearts, clothe the naked, and to pay attention to other beings (our kin). "This is the fast I desire!" God tells us. And we are told that if we do this Holy work, we will bring healing, light, and compassion to a dark and troubled world.

In Deuteronomy 30:14, we are reminded that God's teachings are never far away; they are within us, accessible and available. In verses 19-20, God tells us, "I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life- if you and your offspring would live...." So why, with such clear and loving instruction and guidance, is it so hard for us to choose life? Why must we set aside time and space to repent and return to God, ourselves and each other year after year?

Let me tell you a story....

Several days ago, I drove up to the mountains with a friend. It was raining, and everything was blanketed with mist. We visited the plants and trees as we always do, weeding where needed, picking tomatoes and peppers, enjoying the smells of rosemary, lavender, and basil. I noticed that on many of the plants, there were intricately woven spiders webs, laced with countless drops of rain glistening like precious gems along their many strands. I was awed by the beauty of God's creation. But at the same time, I realized that the spiders were constantly building and rebuilding their webbed homes to survive and trap their prey. The earth, my Torah, was showing me that what is beautiful and purposeful entangles and takes life. She was also teaching me that the webs we weave must constantly be made and remade.

I believe this is the blessing and the curse God speaks to us of in Deuteronomy. Thousands of years ago my ancestors stood on two separate mountains, six tribes on each, to shout amen to each of the blessings and curses recited by the Priests and Priestesses in the valley between them- the place of balance and clear seeing. They shouted acknowledgement to show God that they were choosing to live life with full understanding of the consequences for their actions.

During the High Holidays, I accept the same challenge offered my ancestors: to choose life by accepting the blessings and the curses and dwelling in the valley between them. It is a time of being humble and raw before my Maker, and releasing all that does not serve. For me, this means many things. It means accepting Divine guidance and becoming a clear vessel for God's will. It means combating despair. It means pursuing justice and speaking out when it is not being done. It means being compassionate and open to the Divine in everyone I meet- without exceptions. It means confronting bigotry and fundamentalism within and without. It means challenging oppression. And it means weaving a web without becoming entangled in it.

But if the High Holidays were the only time I had in which to do this deep inner searching and cleansing, I would be utterly lost. Fortunately, my tradition gives me opportunities every day and night to do teshuvah, turning toward God, by choosing to be in deep connection with the Holy. Herein lies the core of God's teachings for me: The world I seek to create is not baffling or beyond my reach. It is here and now- already within me, within us, within each moment, within each droplet, strand, and web, within every prayer, and within every amen.

May each and every day be our day for choosing life.

Coalition for Peace with Justice | P.O. Box 2081 | Chapel Hill | NC | 27515

No comments:

Post a Comment