Our congregation had the opportunity to be inspired on Rosh Hashanah, using our new machzor (High Holy Day prayerbook). I’ve heard from many of you that you appreciated the inspiring poems and readings included in the machzor. Being together as a community is always moving for me, and I hope it was for you as well. If you were unable to attend our services, I hope to see you Tuesday evening and Wednesday for Yom Kippur.
This Shabbat is called Shabbat Shuvah, literally the Sabbath of Return, because it takes place between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This Shabbat gets its name from its special Haftarah (readings from Prophets). The Haftarah has two themes, taken from two places in the Bible. One comes from Hosea 14:2-10, and is about the importance of sincere teshuvah, repentance. The other, from Micah 7:18-20, praises G-d’s attribute of compassion and mercy. The restfulness of Shabbat should give us an opportunity to think about atonement, and the process of teshuvah in which we should be engaged.
Now is the time to make that phone call you’ve been putting off – to an estranged family member or friend, or even the clerk in the grocery store down the street to whom you’ve been rude. This is the time for the work of repenting, and Tuesday evening and Wednesday is the time when we come before the Holy One to ask for forgiveness. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, former Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel, taught that “repentance is the healthiest experience of the soul.” It is the opportunity for a spiritual cleansing.
When approaching those from whom you are seeking forgiveness, you might say: I apologize if I have hurt you by what I have done, or have failed to do, by what I have said, or what I have failed to say, since last Yom Kippur. I ask for your forgiveness as we enter Yom Kippur. Try to be specific in your apology – I am sorry I didn’t call you as I said I would, I’m sorry I offended you when I _______________, I’m sorry I (fill in the blank).
May you experience a hard week of introspection, followed by a meaningful fast. May you be sealed in the Book of Life.
Rabbi Debbie Israel