For those who are new to the congregation, my name is Richard. My wife and I have been members here for nearly 20 years. And like a great many who are members, I identify myself as a Jew, my Jewish name being Dovid. Jews are in the middle of the Days of Awe, the High Holy Days. Much has changed in the past year. All of us, Jews and non Jews alike are in a time of reexamination, of ourselves, and the world in which we live.
During the High Holy Days Jews are asked to re-examine their lives and discover where they have fallen short of what they expect of themselves. We are asked to transform the way that we live our lives so that our actions better represent who we want to be. One of the essential actions that we are asked to take is to seek forgiveness from others. It is said that God can only grant forgiveness for acts against God. For acts or injuries against another person only that person can forgive you, and the rabbis say that asking for forgiveness includes the promise to not repeat the offense. Whether or not you believe in a god, I believe that the practice of asking others for forgiveness is an excellent one. But why wait a year to ask for forgiveness, why not as soon as we are aware of the hurt we have caused and are able to seek forgiveness? However, we, or possibly I should say I, too often forget. The High Holy Days are like strings around my finger, reminding me to remember.
I remember, with some pain, the times when I did not ask for forgiveness and the persons who I may have hurt have now passed on. In particular I think of how I should have written to my grandparents more often. I suspect if I had asked them for forgiveness they would have just said, "Now, Honey you have no need to apologize, we know that you love us, just as we love you." Yet, I also found, after my grandmother died, that they had saved every note, card and letter that I ever wrote to them. I wish that scrapbook had been thicker than it was. I remember many times in my life such as that. There were times when I left something unsaid, when saying it might have brightened a person's life. We often remember times when something that we did or said hurt someone. Asking for forgiveness for those can be difficult. Remembering, and asking for forgiveness for failing to show that you love someone, can often be even harder.
Some of you might have heard my reflection on forgiving, and how I found that in forgiving, that I was healed. When we fail to forgive, it leaves us caught in the past. Once we forgive we are better able to move into the present. So asking for forgiveness is transformative for both the person who asks for forgiveness and the person who forgives. It strengthens the bonds between them, and collectively it strengthens the bonds of the entire community.
As we mark the Jewish New Year, the situation surrounding us calls for transformation, transformation in ourselves, our relationships, our nation and our world. Let us all pray that it happens.
Shanah Tovah - may we be blessed with a year of healing and hope, which transforms us all.