Atoning and Facing the New Year

Living Your Faith, part 3

Rosh Hashanah this year began in the evening last Sunday, Sep 9. Yom Kippur ended on Wednesday evening, Sep 19. In between were the Days of Awe and Repentance. It's the Jewish New Year. How are you going to live your faith this year?

We have options for ways to exercise your caring and compassion muscle on behalf of justice for a bruised and hurting world. We have SJTs -- Social Justice Teams – pick one. Maybe two, but at least one.

Our social justice teams each have a chair, or two co-chairs. They each have a leadership core of five people. Then there are the active members, who show up at the monthly meetings and at events that are the work of the team, who answer and share emails about the team’s activities. Finally, each social justice team has its “on-call” list. These are the folks who don’t go to most of the monthly meetings, who quickly skim and delete the emails about the team’s activities and deliberations, but who have agreed to be “on-call” – to receive those emails, and willing to be called upon for those times when a big project needs all the help it can get.

Some of our Social Justice Teams need some core leaders. Maybe you. All of our Social Justice Teams need all the active members they can get. And if you can’t be an active member, at least be an on-call member of at least one of our Social Justice Teams. (On Sun Sep 16, after the service, CUUC had a Social Justice Team Fair -- with each of the teams staffing a table and display about their activities. A list of CUUC's SJTs is HERE.)

As we think about the new year and atoning, let us consider how we will, in the coming year, engage in healing the world -- tikkun olam. Our SJTs provide us with structures and resources for making a difference, for healing the world, for nuturing our spirit -- for nurturing our spirit BY healing the world, even as our worship experience help us heal the world BY nurturing our spirit.

Rabbi and poet Chaim Stern wrote “Atonement Day”:
Once more Atonement Day has come.
All pretense gone, naked heart revealed to the hiding self,
We stand on holy ground, between the day that was and the one that must be.
We tremble.
At what did we aim?
How did we stumble?
What did we take?
What did we give?
To what were we blind?
Last year’s confession came easily to the lips.
Will this year’s come from deeper than the skin?
Say then: why are our paths strewn with promises like fallen leaves?
Say then: when shall our lust be for wisdom?
Say now: Love and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall embrace.
We are called to follow the right path, and to atone for straying from it. What does this require? The prophet Micah considers the possibilities:
“With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil?Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
No, none of these, says Micah.
“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
So let us be recommitted in the year ahead to doing justice, loving kindness, walking humbly the way that seems most right.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur call us to consider how we have lived in the year past, and how we may live in the year to come. Traditionally the faults and failings the Jewish people are particularly enjoined to examine at this time are these:
“We failed to work for peace
We kept silent in the face of injustice
We have ignored the poor in our own midst
We have withheld our love from those who depend on us
We have distorted the truth for our own advantage
We have conformed to fashion and not to conscience
We have sinned against ourselves and not risen to fulfill the best that is in us.”
The invitation of Yom Kippur is to reflect on how, in the New Year, to go deeper – deeper into connection, care, love. And thereby into a fuller life of joy and peace.

Yes: next year we will confess the same faults. That doesn’t mean we haven’t done better – it might mean we’ve raised our standards on ourselves. Last year’s work was too easy only by the higher standards we are now expecting from ourselves.

And it’s not all on you. Peace and justice must be built together, collectively.

There’s a name for this constant re-adjusting of our balances and our expectations for ourselves, constantly seeking to care more and more effectively: it’s called life. May you be inscribed in the book of life. G'mar Hatima Tova.

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This is part 3 of 3 of "Living Your Faith"
See also
Part 1: The Infirmary and the Gym
Part 2: At the Center of Joy and Peace

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