This is the beginning of a ten-day penitential period in our calendar. A time of thoughtful introspection, of self-examination. It’s during this period that we try to mend broken fences, bury hatchets, make apologies. To make sure our relationships with our fellow humans are in good order. And then, at the end of those ten days, we stand before our Maker on Yom Kippur and ask forgiveness for all our failings. The things that make us human.
This is not a sad holiday, but it is solemn. In a figurative (and maybe literal!) sense, we’re having our annual performance review with the Big Guy Who Sitteth In The Corner Office On High, and we are asking to have our contract renewed for another year. Compensation is not an issue: Raise, shmaise, so long as you’re healthy.
There’s a lovely piece of liturgy that is unique to these High Holy Days. It’s called the U-netaneh Tokef, and it paints a picture of God as a shepherd, watching as His flock passes under his staff one by one.
“A great trumpet is sounded and a still, small voice is heard.”And that’s when your fate for the upcoming year is decided: who shall live and who shall die.
That image - metaphor - call it what you will - became very powerful for me after my mother died sixteen years ago. Even more so, now that we’ve arrived at a point in life where we have lost other family members and friends. It brings a tear to my eye every time.
Who shall live and who shall die.
Is it only a metaphor? Who knows? As Jews, we’re taught that belief is less important that deeds, and that there are some things we just are not privileged to know while we walk this planet. But real or not, the idea that we are judged for our behavior makes us think about whether we’re living right. Which is probably the point.
I know I’ve got failings; lots of them. I tend to let the mail pile up. I am a master of the art of procrastination... shit, my basement is still a mess after six years in this house... oh yeah, and I sometimes use crude language. Plus others too numerous to list.
But (like the guy said in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” as he was being loaded onto the cart with the Black Death victims), I’m getting better!
Now, if I’m a Really Good Boy, I won’t be blogging over these next couple of days. Well, we’ll see about that. Maybe I’ll give myself something else to atone for by posting some stuff.
To anyone I have offended or hurt in any way during this past year, my sincere apologies. And at this Rosh o’ th’ Shanah, heartfelt wishes to all for a sweet and healthy year.