At sundown, the Jewish members of our community celebrate Rosh Hashanah and the beginning of the High Holy Days, the ten “days of awe.” They begin with the joyful celebration of the new year, with apples and honey, prayers and song, and culminate with Yom Kippur, a day to fast and atone for sins.
For twenty years, I have attended High Holy Day services, learning so much about the Jewish roots of my own Catholicism. It all feels so familiar, the focus on ritual and wisdom, the need to atone for sins in order to grow, the warmth and community.
On Yom Kippur, the prayerbook contains a list of sins for every letter of the alphabet—from arrogance, brutality, and carelessness, to xenophobia, yielding to temptation, and zealotry for bad causes. It is a catalog too specific to let anyone imagine they don’t have work to do. But this isn’t just about guilt. It is an extraordinary list of the ways we can each do better to love and respect each other. It renews our ambition to create justice here on earth—to repair the world.
Tonight let us all wish each other a happy new year by saying L’Shana Tovah. Let’s honor our Jewish family, not just by remembering that they are celebrating the holiest time of their year, but by learning and celebrating with them. You can listen to my favorite, hauntingly beautiful liturgical song, “Avinu Malkeinu.”