A Bisl Torah

Getting “Ready” for the High Holy Days

Getting “ready” for the High Holy Days isn’t an easy task. I don’t mean the writing of sermons or organization of the honors list. I am talking about soul work. Real work. Being open to repairing our wrongs and admitting where we have fallen and need to do better.

Rabbi Yehoshua said, “An evil eye, the evil inclination, and hatred of others remove a person from the world.” I don’t take this to mean that God physically separates us when we engage in this behavior. Rather, when we let a grudge come between us and our community, we emotionally isolate ourselves. When an argument with a family member feels stronger than the willingness to “start over”, loneliness lurks around the corner. Often showing that you are in the right translates into quiet paths of solitude. Paths of silence that are rimmed with anger, hurt and an unsettled soul.

John Kendrick Bangs, American author and satirist, writes the following:
If an unkind word appears,
File the thing away.
If some novelty in jeers,
File the thing away.
If some clever little bit
Of a sharp and pointed wit,
Carrying a sting with it—
File the thing away.
If some bit of gossip come,
File the thing away.
If suspicion comes to you
That your neighbor isn’t true
Let me tell you what to do—
File the thing away.
Do this for a little while,
Then go out and burn the file.

The Psalmist reminds us, “Teach us to number our days so that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Meaning, don’t waste time. Make your days count. And dwell on whatever it is that’s worth dwelling upon.

No need to be a pushover. But just as important: recognize those moments and conversations that should be pushed aside.

When we figure that out, that’s when the holy work has truly begun.

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