There is a meditation in one of our prayer books that speaks of the difficulty in singing of “oneness”. The meditation comes as we prepare to recite Kaddish. There is a theme of the importance and power of memory. For some reason, that meditation is running through my mind as the New Year dawns. It is hard to sing of oneness for so many of us. Eighteen months into the pandemic and to that stress we have added Afghanistan, Fires, Ida, the rise in anti-Semitism, racism, the continued stagnation of government, the rise in white supremacy movements, January 6, Texas and Florida, the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, the reality of economic inequality and the overwhelming challenges of climate change. No wonder “it is hard to sing of oneness”!
But the Ten Days are here. So many in these past months have become victims of time. We have lost track of it and literally lost months of it, which, for our age cohort is very powerful and meaningful. So we will try and re-connect with our spiritual side during this sacred period, for, in truth, that is a serious challenge. We are reminded in the unetanah tokef prayer just how little we really control within our own life. These Ten Days invite us to focus not on the global, but on the local; the local being our own soul. This is NOT easy.
This period is really an invitation, given every year by our tradition, to change. Change is often accompanied by some fear, some risk and some doubt. This is even truer as we get older and we become used to doing things our own way. But I think these Holidays, even more than last year when virtual worship was new and novel, carry with them a greater invitation for doing soul-work. This is all very personal and, in the spirit of the season, I must admit that I am struggling with this invitation myself. What do these holidays mean? What can they mean? What do we want them to mean?
Here is one suggestion. On Yom Kippur we will spend some time in the section of the prayer book called the Viddui. This is the confessional, where we recite and chant the sins and mis-deeds that we have committed this past year. You may know this as either the ashamnu or the more famous Al Chet section. Yes, these are recitations that really are for us. They are reminders that we, as flawed humans, make mistakes and we pray for the knowledge and courage to correct them.
But, this year, maybe try something new. So many have lost so much, especially time. Maybe this year, consider saying a litany of blessings: for the blessings I have had during this pandemic…….!
Maybe this year we need to focus on gratitude and blessing rather than sin and repentance. Maybe this year we need to take stock of those things that brought is some pleasure these last eighteen months. Maybe, in recounting the blessings of life, we can find motivation to celebrate them and be guided to share those blessings with others. Maybe, in doing so, we can sing of that oneness that comes with blessing.
Rabbi Richard F Address.
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.