September 29, 2017
9 Tishrei 5778
This time of year – the high holy days – is one that I find deeply meaningful, spiritually and personally charged, and inspirational. Each year I am profoundly impacted by the notion that on Yom Kippur we have the opportunity to ask for forgiveness for transgressions between ourselves and God. Through the prayer known as the Vidui we publicly and in unison confess our sins and ask God for forgiveness.
But on Yom Kippur, we are not absolved of the transgressions we have committed against our fellow human beings. In order to be forgiven for the wrongdoings between ourselves and others, intentional or otherwise, we must humbly ask for forgiveness. This forgiveness needs to be sought in the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur before we can ask forgiveness from God. This is the wonderful juxtaposition of Jewish life. We are required to take charge of our own destiny while also recognizing that there is a power greater than us.
In preparation for Yom Kippur we take the ten days leading up to the holiday to look internally and reflect on ourselves. This is a time to have those tough internal conversations about who we are, what we believe in, what we value, and if our actions and deeds truly reflect our values and beliefs.
While we take personal stock in ourselves, I believe that it is also an opportunity to take a deep look at our Jewish community and our Jewish institutions, as each organization has a life of its own, too. Our Jewish institutions have personality, reputations, visions, goals, dreams, desires, strengths and shortcomings, much like us. I must admit that personifying our institutions may seem funny, but in truth, through our work, we have as much opportunity to impact lives deeply as in any personal relationships.
Some of my first recollections of being in synagogue are remembering the growing crescendo of the Kol Nidre, whose words are taken from ancient Aramaic. It is my favorite service of the year. I always find that during the Kol Nidre the air is palpable with reverence, humility and awe at what will transpire over the 25 hours that follow the Kol Nidre service. The powerful traditional text of the Kol Nidre reads:
"All vows, obligations, oaths or anthems, pledges of all names, which we have vowed, sworn, devoted, or bound ourselves to, from this day of atonement, until the next day of atonement (whose arrival we hope for in happiness) we repent, aforehand, of them all, they shall all be deemed absolved, forgiven, annulled, void and made of no effect; they shall not be binding, nor have any power; the vows shall not be reckoned as vows, the obligations shall not be obligatory, nor the oaths considered as oaths."
As we spend our last hours preparing for Yom Kippur and draw closer to Shabbat and Kol Nidre, I want to take personal responsibility to ask you for forgiveness if I have hurt you in any way, intentionally or otherwise.
Please forgive me for anytime that you may have felt slighted, overlooked or not recognized. Please forgive me if you have not felt appreciated or honored for your dedication, devotion or service to our community. Please forgive me if you have ever felt shortchanged, that promises were unfilled or deadlines not observed. If I have ever done anything that has upset you, caused you worry, concern, aggravation or distress, please accept my sincere and humble apology.
We all have the opportunity to start a year anew – refreshed and looking forward. I will enjoy that in partnership with you – our wonderful community in Rochester.
I wish you all and easy fast (tzom kal), a meaningful Yom Kippur and a Shabbat of peace. May you be sealed for good in the Book of Life (g’mar chatima tova).