So my first full Hebrew year as a Jew comes to a close at sundown. That puts me more than two years into this whole Jewish-journey thing. For a person who has trouble following through on daily to-do lists, that’s pretty good, huh?
Last year, the High Holy Days–my first observed ones–were fraught with nerves and anxiety. (“I have to sit in synagogue how many times? Over how many days? And fast for 25 hours?”) But my first full Hebrew year as a Jew has also been my second year lived Jewishly, and this time the “HHDs” (as they appear on many a synagogue calendar) are something I’ve been looking forward to.
In a few hours, Rosh HaShanah will arrive, ushering in 5773. In Judaism, the joy of a new year of possibility, hope, and love brings with it the responsibility and potential of t’shuvah–return. As I celebrate my increasing at-homeness with my religious heritage, I also know that Rosh HaShanah also begins the Yamim Nora’im–the Days of Awe.
So while I’ve prepared myself to take stock of my life throughout the preceeding month of Elul, as the first of Tishrei–the Jewish holiday month–approaches, I am aware Elul is only a dress rehearsal for the humble fault-finding and account-making of self that Jews are privileged to experience before Yom Kippur–the Day of Atonement. We go into the Days of Awe knowing that God will always forgive.
But how marvelous to be commanded at the start of every year to seek the forgiveness of those with whom you share the planet? And who, unlike God, offer no guarantee of letting you off the hook?And how else to get back on track with a life informed by Torah and mitzvot, to help guide your actions towards love, compassion, and justice for the next cycle of months?
After all, we all get off track. Sometimes a little. Often a lot. We’re not perfect. That’s not how God made us. And that’s the point. Of the High Holy Days. Of Judaism. Of life. If we were perfect, t’shuvah would be impossible. And I, for one, would very much miss this holy journey.
Thank you to those with whom I share this planet for putting up with me for another year. Especially my friends–near and far–and fellow congregants. I know me, so I know how much gratitude I owe you all.
Thank you to Ryan Anderson for having the superhuman skill to be able to occasionally shut me up long enough to get the point.
Thank you to my Aunt Juanita for reconnecting. I would be lying if said I don’t feel myself holding back tears as I write that.
Thank you to my readers, old and new, for choosing to spend time with my words.
And thank you especially to the many people who have reached out to me about this blog, welcomed my words and comments on theirs, or otherwise connected with me in debate and discussion this year. It’s an honor being on the journey together. This means you, Maxine in Tasmania, Chris in Oklahoma, Matthew in Columbus, Zahara in Indiana, Fabienne in the UK, Mim in Virginia, Robin in San Francisco, Marc from DavenSpot, Kate from the RJ Blog, David A. M. Wilensky, Felicia from the URJ, Ariela and Ayala from Ulpan Merkaz Ivrit, Everyone from JewishByChoice.org, Jason from Jewcy, Patrick form PunkTorah, Benjamin from InterfaithFamily, Shamyra from FailedMessiah, Patrick & Jane from the Welles Park Bulldog, Jeremy from EdgevilleBuzz, Brittany N., and Jeff F.
To all of you, anyone I’ve missed, everyone I love, and those with whom I continue to share this planet, may you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a happy and sweet new year.
Categories: JEWISH HOLIDAYS
Michael Thaddeus Doyle
I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.