This week’s Two Voices asks, how we can extract the maximum meaning from the High Holy days?
Rabbi Larry Tabick says…
Meaning starts from within.
Things have meaning when we relate to them personally.
So fate of the England cricket team in the Ashes has no meaning for me because I feel no personal stake in the contest. But I recognise for many people the Ashes is intensely personal.
For Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to be meaningful for you, they need to be personal. And for that to happen, you need to prepare yourself just as England’s cricketers do… practice!
R Yitzchak Meir of Gur (1789-1866) taught that during the month of Elul we should prepare ourselves the way warriors prepare themselves for a battle.
We are preparing to battle selfishness and laziness. In essence, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are about overcoming the ego. Our weapons? Ephraim Luntschits (1550-1619), author of the Keli Yakar (Precious Vessel) commentary on Torah, suggests they are Torah study and prayer.
Prayer covers everything from davvening three times a day to meditating on your life and relationships. In either case, focus your thoughts on how you can become a more sensitive, caring person.
The key to winning the High Holy Day battle is preparing your inner self.
• Larry Tabick is rabbi of Shir Hayim/Hampstead Reform Jewish Community and author of The Aura of Torah (JPSA 2014)
Rabbi David J Zucker says…
It all begins with a promise.
You say, ‘Yes, I will.’ Yes, I will take advantage of this special time of self-reflection leading up to the High Holy Days.
I will look at this period as an opportunity to be honest with myself. I will use wisely, and sensitively the days of the month of Elul, which lead into Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
As I look back on the past 12-month period, what have I truly achieved?
What are those acts of which I am particularly proud?
How did that make me feel, deep within myself?
In the quietness of my heart, I will also ask myself: ‘Where in this past year did I falter. Where did I fail to reach the best I could have done?
Are there moments at which I should, I could, have done better? The arrival of the new year gives me a chance to do a life-review.
When I analyse what was, I think about both my ‘intent’ and the ‘impact’ of what I did, or failed to do. Were there unintended consequences?
Can I do better in this year ahead?
For what changes do I want to strive?
Let me be honest with myself, without being cruel.
It all begins with a promise. You say: ‘Yes, I will.’
• David J. Zucker, PhD is rabbi at North West Surrey Synagogue