In one week, we will gather together again for the High Holidays. How are we going to use this week? Much depends on how we view these days? If we think all the prayers and rituals are ends in themselves, then all we really need to do is show up. This is the experience of some people. The very act of being in shul, hearing the shofar, dipping apples in honey, tossing bread into the water is, in and of itself, a meaningful experience.
Others, however, go through the same motions and find the experience lacking. In order to reach a different type of spiritual high, the Holidays need to be viewed not as ends in themselves, but as means to an end. With this point of view, the rituals and the prayers are not intended to be simply accomplished; they are creating holy moments and sacred opportunities to reach deeper into ourselves.
If this is the case, then we each have work to do this week. Think about what you really want to say to God. For what blessings do you need to give thanks? For what disappointments do you wish to voice frustration? Which relationships need work and what do you need to do to accomplish that?
Make notes on a card that will fit in your prayerbook. Keep it there. Wait for a moment when the service will lend you both the time and the inspiration to say YOUR prayer. And say it more than once.
What do you want to be thinking about when you close your eyes and hear the shofar? Prepare yourself as if to say, “When this sound ascends to heaven, what of me will it carry with it?”
What trait in you would you like to throw away into the water? Think about it. Make a little note and tape it to the piece of bread, watch it fly from you, and be inspired to act.
We have a lot to do this week. If you need some help, join Cantor Goldberg and me on September 6th for the High Holiday Preparation program? We will sing and we will talk. Take the time to prepare so that you might get out of the Holidays as much—or maybe more—than you put in.
My family and I wish you and yours only the best for a healthy, happy, and peaceful New Year.
Rabbi Jeffrey Segelman