As a child, each new school year brought the possibility of something new. A new teacher, new responsibility, a new rite of passage. In that marked time of growth, we can see the changes in our children from year to year.
For us it is more subtle. As an adult, I have come to love the time of self-reflection that the High Holidays bring. An opportunity to literally be in awe of life, to reflect on how we can deepen our work of being our best selves.
In Marcia Falk's new book, The Days Between, she frames the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as Aseret Y'mey T'shuvah, The Ten Days of Turning, or Returning. She explains that while T'shuvah is commonly translated as Repentance, the root of the word, "shuv," actually means to return, to do again. Falk invites us to:
"..think of t'shuvah as turning the heart: turning away from ordinary matters of the world in order to return to oneself, taking account of one's actions, reflecting on where one has been in the past year and where one is headed in the year to come. Aseret Y'mey T'shuvah -- ten days of meeting oneself face to face, opening the heart to change."
This is a helpful framing for me. While I was not brought up with the traditions of repenting, as a lover of justice, how can I not repent each Yom Kippur for all that is wrong in the world? How could I ever arrive at Yom Kippur feeling that I have done enough?
This year instead of making a list of all the things I can do better, I will reflect on how I can open my heart. I will seek to bring my heart more fully into my relationships with friends and loved ones and into my work for justice.
At this moment when our country is as divided as ever, how many of us would like to distance ourselves from the people who support Trump? Or the people who spew hate, racism and Islamophobia? It's painful to hear these perspectives and sometimes it is necessary for self preservation to surround ourselves by people who think and feel the same way we do.
But if we seek justice, we need to find ways to engage across these divides. We need to open our hearts rather than putting up more walls. In this new year, I will seek to find the connection with the person sitting across from me. I want to listen from my heart and aim to find the place, no matter how small, where we can connect. We still may not find common ground, but perhaps by finding our shared humanity, we will have a beginning.
I look forward to celebrating and reflecting with you as we enter into the Days of Awe.