Heading into 5781!
On Friday, September 18, at sundown we bid good-bye (not l'hitraot) to 5780. Who could have predicted just one year ago the trajectory of this past year? During the month of Elul we make specific efforts to reflect on what we have done during the previous year. We attempt to make amends, and we think about how we will change our behaviors in the coming year. These coming days are the days of Judgement and Atonement. Assessing, reflecting, apologizing, asking forgiveness, and planning for the year ahead are goals of the Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe. Let’s consider a central prayer of the Days of Awe. The Viddui (confessional) that we'll say on Yom Kippur is collective. It speaks to how we as a community have wronged each other. What a year to reflect on how we interact with other people!
For a personal approach, check out these 10 Questions (10Q) for the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I've done this reflective exercise for nearly ten years and my children started responding to these questions around age 10 as well, first with me and now on their own. The questions push us to pause and reflect and plan for the future. Once you answer the questions, they are locked in a "vault" and they will return to you next year right before Rosh Hashanah 5782. What an opportunity, as I look forward to reviewing my responses last year, to consider what a year 5781 has been.
For a more collective approach we turn to the Viddui (confessional) that is said on Yom Kippur as well as in the last moments of our lives. Though we say it as individuals, and hopefully we reflect on the ways we have committed these acts, the Viddui is not said in the singular more personal voice, but rather as a collective, indicating that we are part of the whole and the whole has transgressed. How much more true as the events of this past year have raised the collective consciousness on how the community, however you define that, has failed in many ways, in the way that we take care of others, in the way that the racial divides in the country have always been deeper than many (though not all) of us have known. Take a look at the text of the Viddui and think about how you and the collective have participated in these transgressions. Like the sin of omission, sometimes what we don’t do has an impact as well as the things that we do. How will we spend the year ahead so that when we reach 5782 the list of our own transgressions, as well as those of the community, will be smaller?
To that end, you’ll see that in the second version of the Viddui, written by Rabbi Avi Weiss, we can acknowledge what we have done on the positive side of the scales of justice. May this be a year where we put more weight on the side of justice and shed some of the weight of our transgressions.
Wishing everyone a year of health and safety, for us, for community, and for the world. Shana Tova to all. Have a Sweet New Year!
Assistant Director of Jewish Life