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August 29, 2014  RSS feed
Rabbinically Speaking

Text: T T T

For High Holy Day season, make lists of blessings and wrongdoings

By Rabbi GARY KLEIN Temple Ahavat Shalom Palm Harbor

Our High Holy Day experience can be greatly enhanced if, in addition to sharing festive meals with family and friends and worshiping in the synagogue, we engage in some serious thought.

I find it very helpful to spend a little time thinking about the themes of the holy days and reviewing the way I conducted my life during the past year.

An ancient Jewish sage observed that two major purposes of the High Holy Days are to help us acquire a sense of awe of God and of God’s creation and to help us atone. My colleague, Rabbi Richard Levy has suggested that there are several things we can do during this season that give our process of introspection the direction that it needs in order to be most effective.

He suggests every few days beginning during the weeks prior to the High Holy Days, we take a few minutes and quietly reflect upon the blessings that God has given us during the previous year. He suggests that perhaps we list three blessings each time, so that by the time we worship on Rosh Hashanah we can bring a list of perhaps a dozen blessings for which we are especially grateful. Rabbi Levy writes his blessings on little pieces of paper that he inserts at various places in his High Holy Day prayer book, so that expressing awe and gratitude for those particular blessings becomes part of his worship experience.

Regarding atonement, Rabbi Levy suggests we engage in a similar process where we make lists of the things we did wrong. With these lists, he suggests that we also write down the pleasure those indiscretions brought us and the pain they caused us and/or others. These lists he inserts throughout his prayer book on Yom Kippur acknowledging that confronting our sins, which is an essential process of atonement, is not easy. Our natural tendency is to avoid this painful process. Seeing them in our own handwriting in the prayer books while we worship forces us to confront them.

I plan to have these lists in my prayer book this year. I hope you will also adopt this process. I think it’s worth a try.

The Rabbinically Speaking column is provided as a public service by the Jewish Press in cooperation with the Pinellas County Board of Rabbis. Columns are assigned, on a rotating basis by the board.

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