2017-09-13 / Editorial

Recent natural disasters make this an especially poignant High Holidays

Among the beautiful traditions observed during the Days of Awe, tashlich, the symbolic casting off of sins, may feel even more poignant this Rosh Hashanah.

Taking a break from intense prayer, we immerse ourselves in nature, gathering along the banks of a river, stream or perhaps the Atlantic Ocean to cast away bread (sins) into the water. As the dampened “sins” sink or are eaten by fish or fowl, it’s only natural to ponder the fragility of life in the context of recent deadly disasters. Millions of Americans are just beginning to assess the damage to their homes and lives wrought by extreme winds and severe flooding from Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.

The complexity of issues we face in our lives and confronting the planet could seem overwhelming. Fortunately, one of the central prayers of the High Holiday service, the Unetaneh Tokef, provides Jews a blueprint both for the inward work needed to bring about spiritual growth and to repair the world. The call for teshuvah (repentance), u’tefillah (prayer), u’tzeddakah (charity) carries immense power for change. These three powerful concepts are big themes of the holiday intended to lead to both soul-searching and renewal in any year. At a time when so many are suffering, the call for u’tzeddakah (charity) is even more compelling.

It has been heartwarming to see people of all faiths coming together in recent days to help friends, neighbors and strangers rebuild their lives. As we engage in our own personal work during the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we will emerge in a better place to join others in the needed work of repairing the world.

We wish you and your loved ones a Shanah Tova. 

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