Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Yamim Noraim 5771, Part 4: Context


21 Elul, 5770

Imagine that the big day has arrived: Rosh HaShannah is here (what, that's not the big day you were thinking of?). You are surrounded by hundreds of people. What are you thinking about?

That's the rub, see. It's so hard for us to know how to be on the High Holy Days. What is it, exactly, that we are meant to be doing? Most of us end up critiquing your neighbor's sense of style. This is not the holiest idea, but it is highly addictive (don't deny it).

Most Jews step into the Yamim Noraim as if it was controlled anarchy. There is an experience to be had, something occurring around us, something profound; however, it seems so difficult to access the experience itself. How do we move from the outside to the inside? The Ben Ish Hai (our teacher from a few columns ago), has a suggestion.

Look around you, he says. Notice that everyone surrounding you is either younger or older than you are. Think to yourself something like this: "that person, older than me, must have so much extraordinary life experience, wisdom that I do not yet have, has accomplished things which I have not;" or, alternatively, "that person, younger than me, has not made as many mistakes as I have, has more youthfulness and innocence than I do, more of life ahead of him."

The truth of these assertions is irrelevant. The point is, in a very humble way, to figure out who we are when we step into that room. One of the gifts that other people bring us is that of context: where are we in our lives? how far have we come? how far do we believe we have yet to go? And from that moment of essential location, we can step into what is happening around us.

May this Yamim Noraim bring us in touch with who we are.                   

Kol Tov,
Only Good,
Rabbi Perlo

No comments:

Post a Comment