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Sept. 19, 2023-4 Tishrei, 5784

09/18/2023 02:50:41 PM


Since Friday evening, when we welcomed 5784 as a community, we began the 10 days…of Awe and Repentance (T’shuvah). These are y’mei chol—ordinary days, to go to work, school, shop, clean—those daily events that are the bread and butter of our lives. Yet, I would argue, these are anything but ordinary days—indeed these are anything but ordinary times.

The spiritual task of mindfulness is one element of this week’s particularly elevated consciousness. If we desire to continue the self-examination begun in earnest at Rosh Hashanah, the raised consciousness that is one response to kol shofar—the voice of the ram’s horn—we need to be extra thoughtful, considering not only our choices. We need to ask ourselves about the rationale for our decisions. It is a process that is both personal and private.

In recent years, both airtime and ink, have been devoted to the psychological state of various personalities. Often the implication is that due to some (unspecified) childhood experience, or major trauma later in life, an individual becomes so self-absorbed that their actions might move into irrationality. Such a state is not mindfulness.

Some years ago, a popular bumper sticker opined that the ‘one with the most toys wins.’ Materialism retains an important influence in modern life, but it, too, begs the question that this season of the year raises. It is not about what we have; we should be concerned with how we got it. Was there collateral damage? Were others used as rungs on our ladder of personal success and satisfaction? Did we make choices that benefit or harm others? I hope these questions can be moved into each individual’s context as we are all obligated to look at our relationships, our family, our circle of friends, our community. It is no small task.

A congregation functions through complex social mechanisms, interactions and group dynamics. It requires real dedication from leaders and members, employees and visitors to build the network needed to fulfill needs of individuals and the group. That is emphasized in congregations that are face-to-face communities, with limited professional services employed and strong input from the membership as stakeholders.

Martin Buber, in his 1923 volume Ich und Du—I and Thou—proposed the existential experience that face-to-face synagogues respond to. Each of us comes as “I”, interacting—however briefly—with others on an intimate, personal level, that older English would call ‘thou’ or ‘thee’. And all are present with the opportunity to address God, for the moment in a revelational way, as Thou…You…a familiar, known, and consequent voice. 

Hallevai—may it be our good fortune—to be well enough prepared through these Days of Awe and Repentance to address one another as needed: with trust, with faith and in Book of Life.

Tue, June 18 2024 12 Sivan 5784