The shifts and changes of the past year have happened with a rapidity that can leave us feeling breathless... At the High Holidays, we shift our focus from what we read in our papers or on our screens to what is going on within us. Where did we find ourselves “off the derech,” -- deviating from the well-intentioned journey we had laid out for ourselves last High Holiday season? The goal is not to berate ourselves for the inevitable ways in which we have missed the mark, but to give ourselves another chance to get back on the path, returning to the journey that reflects our highest selves.
In our services this year, we focus on the theme of strength and explore what allows us to find emotional or spiritual support or encouragement. As we finish reading each book of the Torah, we lift the scroll high, saying “Chazak chazak, v’nitchazek”, “Be strong, be strong, and let us strengthen one another.” This phrase is particularly apt when we are beginning or ending our yearly cycle of Torah reading, and marvel at the congregant who lifts that Torah scroll high, with most of its weight on one side or another. So too, in our lives, we are at times called upon to do the heavy lifting of the uneven moments of our journey. We look toward deep wells of internal strength to help us to meet the challenges before us. As we do this work of teshuvah, of return to the best possible version of ourselves., we would do well to recall the wisdom of a letter printed sixty years ago in the Trenton Evening Times and attributed to Scottish author Ian MacLaren: “ A thought to help us through these difficult times: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
Wishing you kindness, clarity, and strength in these Days of Awe.
Rabbi Marsha Friedman