We are now in the midst of the Days of Awe: the 10 days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur when my Jewish brethren and I must contemplate all of our sins for the previous year. A week and a half is definitely a challenging time frame for all the reflection, repentance and renewal that is required before our fate is sealed in the Book of Life for the new year. And this year, with the confluence of the early Jewish Holidays and the start of the new school year, it is truly a race against time to (1) Identify all of my sins for the prior year, (2) reflect upon them and then (3) ask for forgiveness and at the very same time (1) fill out school forms, (2) buy school supplies (3) drive endless hours and (4) help with homework. The good news is that if I am successful by Saturday on Yom Kippur, I will have atoned for my sins and be ready to start a sweet New Year!
My list to atone for is long: ranging from hanging up on the telemarketers who call my house daily and nightly, having terrible thoughts about the guy driving the car that cut me off on the 101, not speaking nicely to my kids at night when I am too tired to help them anymore, snapping at my husband when he does not hear (listen to) me, being impatient, and the list goes on.
I asked my kids what they would like to atone for during the Days of Awe before the New Year 5774 commences: “Appreciate everything I have in my life. I do not do this enough.” ”Be less judgmental.” ”Not get so angry so easily,” ”Be more thoughtful.” All smart and thoughtful responses I could adopt as well.
All this serious reflection and atonement is challenging. I have 2 suggestions – both learned from my days living in Israel – that may quench your High Holiday needs:
1. There is an old Jewish custom ‘Kapparot’, that is observed in its true form by religious Jews – you purchase a live fowl and on the morning before Yom Kippur you wave it over your head and recite a prayer asking that the fowl be considered atonement for all of your sins. Then you donate the fowl to the poor to be eaten.
2. Fly to Israel and do like the majority of Israelis on Yom Kippur – dust off your bike, your skates or your walking shoes – and stroll the automobile free city streets for 24 hours with the rest of the Israelis who are enjoying a smog and traffic free day in honor of Yom Kippur.
Shana Tova – Happy New Year.
Gmar Hatima Tova – A good final sealing in the Book of Life.
Hag Sameakh – Happy Holidays.