One of the hard truths of life is that we never know when our number will be up. If we are lucky, we will live to see old age. But not all of us are so lucky.
NBA legend Kobe Bryant was killed this morning in a helicopter crash with his daughter Gianna and seven other people.
I’m not a huge sports fan. The extend of my sports watching is going a Brooklyn Cyclones game every summer. But I respect hard work, talent, drive and the knowledge that one has to work for what you want from life.
Kobe Bryant was only 41. His daughter was only 13. Their loss, simply on the human level, is palpable and heartbreaking. My heart goes out to his wife, his surviving children, those who knew him best and the millions of basketball fans around the world.
Earlier this week, like millions of Jews around the world, I fasted and prayed that on Yom Kippur, I would be written in the book of life for the coming year.
Yom Kippur is not easy physically, spiritually or mentally. It requires a strength and a will to push through the hunger and the wish that sundown would finally come.
As I fasted this year and finally chowed down, I began think about how much I appreciate the small things, especially food. Most days, I don’t think about where my next meal is coming from. But when I cannot eat during the 25 hours of Yom Kippur, it makes appreciate the easy access for food that I take for granted.
I live in New York City. It’s not hard to find a homeless person begging for spare change. Normally, as bad as it sounds, I pass by a homeless person without a second thought. But this year’s fast made me think. I have much to be grateful for. It’s time to be grateful for what I have.
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.
When we were children, we were taught that lying is bad. There are consequences for not telling the truth.
Today, Michael Cohen appeared before Congress for the second time. He appeared to be contrite and from a certain perspective, he appeared to finally speak the truth. The question is, was he really telling the truth or was he again lying to save his own skin?
He stated that you know who is a cheat, a liar and a con man. The 2016 election was not about the genuine belief that you know who could govern this country, it was a marketing ploy to increase business. The payments to Stormy Daniels were directed by you know who to ensure that the affair would stay a secret until after the election. You know who also knew about the Clinton emails before they were released to the public.
Both Republicans and Democrats wanted the truth, at the end of the day. While the Republicans focused on the fact that Mr. Cohen lied during his previous hearing, the Democrats seemed more interested in the facts.
Though I am a Democrat and proudly so, I have to agree with the Republicans in this instance. If Mr. Cohen lied previously, can Congress and the American people trust that he is telling the truth this time? Even if he is finally telling the truth backed up by cold, hard facts, he is still going to prison for three years while his former client is free as a bird.
As a fellow Jew, I am sure that Mr. Cohen is aware of the Al Chet prayer we chant during Yom Kippur. Al Chet is basically a confession, where we admit to our creator that we have sinned during the past year. Where he is going, from my perspective, it will take more than chanting Al Chet to be absolved of his sins.
P.S. Mr. Cohen also lost his law license yesterday. It’s not karma, but it’s a step in the right direction.
No human being is without flaws or imperfections. Though many of us try to mask these flaws or imperfections, they often bubble up the surface.
One of the aspects of Judaism that I appreciate is that my faith not only respects this aspect of humanity, but it encourages us to become better people.
I find that the most liberating Jewish traditions is Tashlich. In the days in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, many Jews will go to a body of water to cast away their sins via throwing pieces of bread into said water. While this is being done, those in attendance ask the heavenly creator to forgive them for their sins from the past year.
Following Tashlich is Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. From sundown to sundown, most adults (with the exception of the people who are sick, need food or drink to take medicine or pregnant women/nursing mothers) will fast. We also wear white and forgo leather shoes so our creator will see how humble we are before them.
Though I am not religious, I understand the power of both Tashlich and Yom Kippur. One of the hardest things any person can do is take a hard look at the flaws/imperfections and ask for forgiveness for anything they might said or done wrong due to those flaws/imperfections.
To all who are fasting, may you have an easy fast and a sweet New Year.
No one is perfect. We all have our faults and we all make mistakes. But that does not mean that we can’t start over and wipe the slate clean.
Friday night to Saturday night is Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.
We ask for forgiveness of our sins from both our fellow mortals and our holy parent. We hope that the combination of asking for forgiveness, prayer and fasting for 25 hours will be enough for the slate to be wiped clean for another year.
For me, Yom Kippur, of all of the Jewish holidays, is the most important day of the year. The hardest thing anyone can do is admit that they are wrong and ask to be forgiven for our errors. It’s not easy, but it is sometimes necessary. When the sun has finally set and the Shofar has been heard, it is as if a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.
My creator and holy parent does not expect me to be perfect, it is understand that I am human and I will make mistakes. At the same time, it is also understand that I am willing to repent and try to learn from my mistakes when they occur.
To all those who are fasting, have an easy fast and may the G-d write you in the book of life for another year.
The holiest day of the Jewish calendar, this holiday requires Jews to fast and atone for their sins.
I’ve been fasting (or doing my best attempt to fast) for a few years now. It’s not easy, by any stretch of the imagination. The emotional will power that is required to not open the refrigerator is almost herculean.
But I do it. I do it because it is important. As I stated in my post about Rosh Hashanah, I don’t participate in many Jewish rituals. But Yom Kippur I do participate and despite the challenge of fasting for 25 hours, I somehow manage to do it.
I fast on Yom Kippur because I want to show my creator that I am proud to be Jewish and it is important that I externally share that pride with the world.
To all those who are fasting, have an easy fast and may you be written in the book of life for the coming year.
P.S. I say it every year, the best meal I have is the post-Yom Kippur meal.
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.
Today is Anne Frank’s birthday. One of the millions of Jewish children that were murdered in the Holocaust because they were Jewish, her legacy is that of hope, love and our shared humanity.
Last week I had a very interesting conversation.
I was talking to a friend from my martial arts school who is Muslim and in the middle of celebrating Ramadan. We were comparing the differences between Ramadan and Yom Kippur. While there are some differences between the two holidays, there are is one major similarity: devotion to G-d. Both holidays require fasting, which as anyone who has fasted can tell you it is not easy. What comes with the fasting is believing in and praying to a higher being who I believe is akin to a third parent. While our religious practices and beliefs differ, we still believe in a higher power and we still follow the same ancient traditions that our families have practiced for thousands of years. We were able to have a conversation about our individual religions that was just that.
And now to the reason for this post: the horrific shooting at the nightclub in Orlando. We are all G-d’s children, made in the image of our creator. The only reason the patrons of this nightclub were targeted is because they are gay. My heart breaks for everyone involved. This is not the America that I know, love and believe in. Today I pray for the victims and their families. I also pray for America, that we should learn from this tragedy and get over the b*llsh*t that says we are different due to an accident of birth. We are all human beings and deserve the same respect.
Tonight, Jews around the world will begin the holiday of Rosh Hashanah. In English, the days are referred to as Days Of Awe.
For the next two days, we pray to G-d to forgive our sins (and ask our fellow mortals to forgive our sins against them) and to write us in the book of life for the next year.
For many Jews who are not regularly observant, the next two days and Yom Kippur (which occurs next week) are equivalent to a student who does nothing all semester, then suddenly crams like there is no tomorrow for the final.
For me personally, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are more than days off. It is a chance to not just reconnect with my tradition, but to recharge away from the craziness that is life. These days allow me to look back at where I was last year at this time, what mistakes I made and how I can learn from those mistakes.
In between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is a ritual called Tashlich. In essence, Tashlich is when we symbolically cleanse ourselves of our sins of the past year by throwing bread into an open body of water. For me, it is the most personal part of the holiday. It is as if I have a personal line to G-d and I am receiving a one on one session where I am confessing my sins. After completing Tashlich, I always have a lightness of being that I did not have before.
L’Shana Tova and Happy New Year to those who celebrate.