Last night as the sun set, we Jews finished the last of our High Holy Days, or what is called "The Days of Awe". Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish year, for it is on this day that we are inscribed in "Book of Life" for the next year. To be Sealed in the Book of Life requires reflection on the past year and making amends for any wrongs one has done in the past year.
We have 10 days to do this..."The Days of Awe", from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur. We are to use this time right any wrongs we have done, make amends to anyone we might have hurt. For we are to come before G-d with a clean slate, as it were. Were we kind? Were we thoughtful? Did we gossip about a neighbor? Perhaps, we did something worse. Perhaps we were unkind to our parents (if we are lucky enough to still have them). The 10 commandments tell us we are to "Honor our Mothers and Fathers".
Were our transgressions worse? Did we cheat or steal? All of these must be made right if we are to be Sealed in the Book of Life for the coming year. On Yom Kippur we fast for 25 hours. No food, no water. Nothing is to pass our lips. This is one of 4 fast days we have a year, but this is the most important one. For doing this helps us to atone for any sins we may have committed in the past year. It also allows us to realize that we can do anything we truly set our mind to, we don't have to give in to temptation.
This New Year is 5768. It is the 1st time in many years that I have joined a Temple and have participated in services. I have always believed in G-d, always considered myself spiritual but have felt for a very long time that something has been missing from my life.
What was missing was an affiliation with a Temple and celebrating all our Sabbaths, all our holidays. Last night when the Shofar (Ram's horn) sounded to close out the "Days of Awe", to end Yom Kippur, my soul was full.
It is extraordinary that we Jews are still here 5,768 years old. Why is it extraordinary? Because it seems that for almost all the years we have been on earth, someone has been trying to kill us. Hitler almost succeeded. After all, he killed 6 million of us and yet we still survive.
The State of Israel is approximately the size of New Jersey and yet it continues to thrive in a very hostile area. Our Torah survives. Every time it is brought out of the ark and we read the stories of the Old Testament, it is a thrill. This great, sacred Torah has survived for all these years. The story of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. The story of the exodus from Egypt or as we read yesterday from Leviticus, what we are supposed to do...the law.
How is it possible that in spite of all the hatred of the Jewish people we survive? Just looking at the continuation of the Jewish Religion, for 5,678 years is a miracle. I was lucky enough to be part of this miracle during this Holy season. Hearing the sound of the Shofar. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by people whom I love and who love me. I was lucky enough to live to see another year and pray for the next one. All the while, wondering and anxiously awaiting the adventures that I will have in this coming year.
5768. That is the year on the Jewish Calendar. We are almost at the end of the reading of the Torah and when we finish the reading of the Torah next month, we will celebrate another year of reading the Torah and roll it up and start at the beginning once more. This sacred document resides in the Ark until it is time to take it out for the reading. How lucky we are to have these amazing stories to help shape us as a people and move us individually.
I go to sleep now and pray as I always have, but now, I really believe G-d is listening. One of my favorite phrases is, "Pray as if everything depended on G-d, Act as if everything depended on you." This is how I pray and now it fills my soul.