On the High Holy Days, we are encouraged to look back. We ponder the year that has passed, what has transpired, and how we might change it in the future. But what if we are stuck? What if we can’t get past a specific event? How many of us have experienced a terrible ordeal?
That I spend a lot of time thinking about community should hardly come as a surprise, since being a congregational rabbi is all about fostering a sense of community. I want the members of my congregation to feel that their synagogue is a second home for them. And, of course, the synagogue itself needs to relate to the larger community as a whole.
When all is said and done, this is my work– my professional responsibility. Yes, of course I teach, and preach, officiate at weddings and funerals, and do all the other things that pulpit rabbis do. That, too, is my work. But it all flows from a larger sense of “belonging” that hopefully is what binds my members to our particular synagogue setting.
As the Yom Kippur approaches, rather than present a specific ethical quandary I present some reflections and tips on what this holy day can mean for us as we perform the sacred act of engaging with other human beings and with God:
As we approach the Days of Awe, our annual exercise in self scrutiny and stock-taking can be a daunting task. Rather than highlight a single ethical dilemma this week, I offer here some suggestions, some “ethics-ercises,” as it were, to assist you on this journey.
Robin Chotzinoff reflects in the August/September 2010 issue of Hadassah Magazine about how she observed the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah (the ten days of repentance) last year by answering a series of e-mail questions from 10Q. Ben Greeman, who launched the project in 2008 explains that "we tried to let people tap back into tradition, but without feeling like they have to pass an entrance exam."
Modern and classic works offer roadmaps
for the path of spiritual return.
Rabbi Yitzchak Rosenbaum and Janice N. Klein
Special to The Jewish Week
Finding a theme for the newest YouTube video of the National Jewish Outreach Program (NJOP), “Soul Bigger,” should have been easy — the topic was Rosh HaShanah/Yom Kippur. But when the first version of the lyrics came out, we questioned whether the repeating motif of repentance sounded too much like a church revival meeting. However, we realized that teshuvah (repentance in Hebrew) is one of the most beautiful and spiritual concepts in Judaism, far more so than any fire-and-brimstone idea that the word “repent” may conjure up.
Last Yom Kippur, I delivered a sermon explaining how Jewish people have begun "doing teshuvah" -- seeking repentance from others -- through social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. A week before Yom Kippur the religion editor of The Detroit Free Press, Niraj Warikoo, called to find out what I'd be speaking about on the Day of Atonement.