Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Jewish High Holy Days: Shana tova!

The Jewish High Holy Days began at sundown yesterday, with the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. The year is now 5771 on the Hebrew calendar.

The High Holy Days extend for 10 days, until Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the most solemn day of the year.

My friend Ilana DeBare, who is preparing for her Bat Mitzvah in middle-age, posted on her blog this reading from Gates of Repentance, the Reform Jewish prayer book. Some background written by Ilana follows. I think this is wonderful. Shana tova, Ilana!
Birth is a beginning
And death a destination.
And life is a journey:
From childhood to maturity
And youth to age;
From innocence to awareness
And ignorance to knowing;
From foolishness to discretion
And then, perhaps, to wisdom;
From weakness to strength
Or strength to weakness –
And, often, back again;
From health to sickness
And back, we pray, to health again;
From offense to forgiveness,
From loneliness to love,
From joy to gratitude,
From pain to compassion,
And grief to understanding –
From fear to faith;
From defeat to defeat to defeat –
Until, looking backward or ahead,
We see that victory lies
Not at some high place along the way,
But in having made the journey, stage by stage,
A sacred pilgrimage.
Birth is a beginning
And death a destination.
And life is a journey,
A sacred pilgrimage –
To life everlasting.

Background from Ilana:

It turns out it was written by the late Rabbi Alvin Fine, a rabbi at Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco who died in 1999 at the age of 82. Rabbi Fine’s obituary in the J. mentioned his mellifluous voice, his opposition to Joe McCarthy’s red-baiting, his Labor Zionism, his hosting of Martin Luther King Jr. and Maya Angelou at the synagogue.

It did not mention that poem – although ironically, Rabbi Fine may have touched more lives around the country through this one piece of writing than through sixteen years at the Emanu-El pulpit.

None of us know which of the many things we do -- big things, small things, even unnoticed things -- will ripple out to move others and change the world.

Whether you're Jewish or not, may you have a sweet and fulfilling 5771. And may you find time, either in the next two weeks or at a moment that is fitting for you, to reflect on your own journey in the spirit of Rabbi Fine.

Shana tova!

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