It takes a special person to join the clergy of any religion. It is more than leading prayers and being the layperson at various stage of life events. That person has to be able to speak of that religion and its tenets in a way that connects to everyone, regardless of any specific faiths.
I had the pleasure of seeing him speak in person a few years ago. It was nothing short of inspiring. It was just before the High Holidays. Those who have attended High Holidays services can attest that as important as those days are, they are quite frankly, difficult and not exactly fun. But they shouldn’t be fun.
Rabbi Sacks was able to explain in very simple terms the emotional and psychological importance of those days. I’ve been attending High Holiday services since I was very young. But that was the first time I was truly able to understand the meaning of the High Holidays.
He recently was a guest on the Unorthodox podcast. Though he was there to publicize his latest book, he also spoke about current events and how morality is as important as it ever was.
To say that this year has not been easy has been an understatement.
Tomorrow night starts Yom Kippur, the most important day in the Jewish year. On this day, we confess our sins and ask our heavenly creator to allow us another year of life.
But before we can make such a request, we must be honest with ourselves about our flaws and mistakes. That is where Tashlich comes in.
As I threw my bread in the water earlier today, I felt a sense of peace. Though the past can never be undone, we can learn from our mistakes. We can become better than who we were before. That I believe is the message of the High Holidays and Tashlich in particular.
May those who are fasting have an easy and peaceful fast and may we all be written in the book of life for another year.
All faiths have a build in method for which the members of the faith confess and absolve themselves of their sins and their mistakes.
In Judaism, the High Holidays is not only the beginning of the Jewish New Year. It is a time to review what has has transpired in the past year, accept that we have made mistakes and make the promise to hopefully learn from those mistakes.
Regular readers of this blog know that I am not particularly religious. But as I have gotten older and I have grappled daily with depression, I have come to appreciate the mental health aspects of the High Holidays.
The Tashlich service is simpler than Rosh Hashanah, but in my mind, just as important. To make a long story short, it is a ceremony in which prayers are made and bread is thrown into a open body of water, simulating the throwing one sin’s away.
As I completed Tashlich yesterday. I felt a sense of relief. My least favorite (if there is one to be had) aspect of depression is the constant reminder and regurgitation of past mistakes. Though I will never be free of these mistakes, Tashlich provided the opportunity for the emotional release of the errors from the past year, if only temporarily.
On Tuesday, Yom Kippur begins. It is an intense 25 hours of prayer and fasting. To say that it is not easy is an understatement. At a certain point in the day, it is mind over matter. But it is worth it. The emotional freedom that comes with completing Yom Kippur is akin to a weight being lifted off one shoulders. For a moment, it is as if my depression does not exist. But I know that the moment will pass and my depression will come back as it always does.
For those who celebrate, have an easy fast and may you be written in the book of life for the coming year.
For many of us, our daily schedules are packed from the moment we wake up until the time we go to bed. Between work, school, family, etc, the days go by pretty quickly.
Rosh Hashanah begins tomorrow night and ends on Tuesday. From my perspective, it’s not just time away from the everyday schedule. It’s a chance to reset, to take stock of the past year. What we did right, we did wrong, etc. One of the things I’ve noticed is that change is often recognized in hindsight and not in the moment. The person who I was last year is slightly different from the person I am today.
It’s also a chance for me to have a one on one conversation with my heavenly parent. I’m a person of faith, but like many people of faith, it takes a special occasion for me to enter a synagogue on a day that is not one of the High Holidays. That doesn’t mean that my faith is unimportant to me.
To all those who celebrate, may you be written into the book of life and have a sweet new year.
Between the holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Jews are asked to examine their deeds from the past year, both good and bad and atone for the sins from the year that has just passed. The ritual for atoning for your sins is called Tashlich.
Jews atone for their sins by going to an open body of water, praying and throwing out bits of bread. The bread is the physical symbol of the sins that we committed during the past year.
The beauty and emotional freedom of Tashlich comes from the throwing away the sins. It is as if the weight of those sins have been lifted from our shoulders and we can start again. Tashlich for me, is the most personal of the High Holidays. It is as if G-d is our therapist and we are opening up about what we did wrong during the past year. It is a one on one conversation with the heavenly creator that is not the easiest conversation to have, but it must be done.
The beauty of my religion and the relationship with my heavenly parent is that it is implicitly understood that human beings are imperfect and will make mistakes. But we can also forgive each other, receive forgiveness from G-d and start fresh.
No one wants to be burdened with their sins for the rest of their days. Just as every day is an opportunity to make a fresh start, Tashlich allows Jews to begin again in the new year.
Have a nice Sunday and may we all have the opportunity to start again.