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Rabbi Alan Green, Senior Rabbi

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Message from Rabbi Alan Green- -High Holidays At Shaarey Zedek Synagogue

by Rabbi Alan Green, August 6, 2013

High Holy Days at Congregation Shaarey Zedek
Teshuvah: Letting Go, Letting Grow

For service information, please click here
For tickets, please call Rose Mathews at 204-975-3481 or email [email protected]

“Teshuvah: Letting Go, Letting Grow” is the theme of this year’s High Holy Day season at Shaarey Zedek. But what does “letting go” have to do with “letting grow”?

Teshuvah—normally translated as “repentance” — is not the terrible experience that we often associate with that word. Teshuvah simply means, “going back”. “Going back” to what?

Teshuvah is based on the assumption that we already know, deep inside, the right and wrong of what we have done in our lives. But we have a tendency to get caught up in certain habits of feeling, thinking, and doing that obscure our innate moral clarity.

We then become so identified with these habits that we actually mistake them for our true selves. It then often happens that we fall into the role of Pharaoh—absorbing one painful experience after another—until we get the message: we have no choice but to change.

At that critical juncture, we must “let go” of what we think of as normal. We must “go back” to that place, deep inside, where we are clear about where we have been right, and where wrong in our lives. And this process, once we have embraced it, yields the most amazing growth, happiness, and fulfillment that anyone could ever experience.

“Letting go, and letting grow” is a simple formula for moving ahead with one’s life. However, applying it practically isn’t so easy. It takes work—vigilance, as well as desire—to make Teshuvah a reality. So how do we meet the challenge of making the work of Teshuvah part of our everyday awareness?

This is the real purpose of High Holy Day services. They are ever so much more than sitting in the seats of the previous generations of our family (although this has value in itself). The gift that a good High Holy Day service gives us is group intentionality.

Teshuvah is daunting and unpleasant, when we face our weaknesses alone. But Teshuvah becomes far less daunting, and far more achievable, when we do it together as families, as congregations, and as a community.

In the introduction to the Kol Nidre prayer, we say, “With Divine consent, and with the consent of this congregation, we hereby declare that it is permitted to pray with those who have transgressed.”

In other words, at the beginning of Yom Kippur we say, out loud, what we already know, but are ordinarily too scared to admit: “I am a sinner! In fact, we are all sinners! So, here we are, on Yom Kippur, all stuck in the same room and the same boat together, for the next 25 hours. Now, as a community—as a team--let’s start rowing together, towards the shore of mutual forgiveness.”

We all have our burden of hurts and resentments from the past. Some are interpersonal. Some are organizational and communal. But however you have come to carry your personal Pekeleh, I urge you to consider the teaching enunciated in Pirkei Avot—the Sayings of the Synagogue Fathers: AL TIFROSH MIN HA-TZIBUR—“Do not withdraw from the community.”

Congregations and communities are always changing, as are the individuals who comprise them. So, if you haven’t been to High Holy Day services in a while, this year, consider taking the opportunity to go again. You are not now who you used to be, and neither is anyone else. So, it may well be that your experience of the High Holy Days will be considerably different as well.

Chaya and I wish you all best wishes for a happy, healthy, fulfilling New Year of 5774.

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