Thursday, September 25, 2003

Rosh Hashanah begins tomorrow night -- the new year of 5764 (since the creation of the world, according to the Jewish reckoning). Gershon Baskin, the director of IPCRI (Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information) sent these New Year's wishes:
To all of us and all of you we wish that this New Year coming before us is better than the one closing.
May this year be the year when we all come to our senses, when logic overcomes emotions of hatred and revenge
When we all understand that no violence is acceptable or tolerable
When we decide that we have had enough
When we all rise and stand up to say "no more!"
When we make peace a reality
When we decide to make it happen
When we no longer sit on the sidelines and just complain
When our hearts, minds, and actions rally for justice
When we can answer the question "how are you?" with a direct answer and with no reservations
That is the year we hope for.
Happy New Year and Peace to us all.

I'm listening right now to a special program on NPR for the Yamim Noraim (the Days of Awe, from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur), and they are discussing the meaning of forgiveness and of repenting of one's evil deeds.

What is repentance?

Rabbi Kalonymous Kalmish Shapira, in his Esh Kodesh, the record of his homilies from 1939-1942, which he gave to his Hasidim in the Warsaw Ghetto before his death at the hands of the Nazis, has this to say about repentance (teshuvah):
When a person repents only of a sin, whether it was committed, God forbid, in thought, in word, or in deed, he still finds himself back in the state he occupied before he committed the sin, when he was not engaged upon any great spiritual journey. So what if he is merely relieved of this particular sin? The chief principle of repentance, however, is "Return, O Israel, to God your Lord." Lest you think that contrition for your sins is all you need, the prophet cautions that the repentance must continue all the way, until you reach God, ". . . for in your sin have you stumbled." Only then will you be completely elevated, in holiness, in purity, and worship of God.

(from the English translation of J. Hershy Worch, Sacred Fire: Torah from the Years of Fury 1939-1942, edited by Deborah Miller [Jason Aronson, 2000]).

Shanah Tovah -- a good and sweet New Year.

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