September/October 2019


For us, the agenda at this season is Teshuvah (turning, returning). We are instructed to turn from our mundane, banal, material and routine concerns and  "re-turn" to our true spiritual priorities.  As a High Holyday prayer (by Rabbi R. Levy) says:  "Now, is the time for turning. The leaves are beginning to turn from green to red & orange. The birds are beginning to turn and head once more to the south. The animals are starting to turn to storing food for winter. For leaves, birds and animals, turning comes instinctively. But for us turning does not come so simply. It takes a bold act of will. But unless we turn, we remain trapped forever in yesterday's ways. Turn us around Adonai and bring us back to you. And turn us towards one another Lord, for in isolation, there is no life."  

The start of a new year affords each of us the opportunity to rewind the tape of our life & begin again with a fresh, clean slate. In common English parlance we speak of "reaching the point of NO RETURN". Hardly any of us have reached that point & that; is the essence of Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur; the point of return. This is the precise meaning of the Days of Awe. The High Holidays forbid us to declare that we have passed that particular point in life: the point of no return. You may be shocked to discover how much goodness there is within you. "Israel, Af Al Pi Sh'hattah" - teaches that it's never too late for any individual among us. The fact that we choose to be here at services means that we are, Jewishly speaking, still at a point of return. The Mahazor, our High Holiday guide, makes it clear: none of us has reached that point of pessimism, boredom, frustration, lassitude & apathy which allegedly justifies one's absence on these Holy days of solemn assembly. How many opportunities for spiritual recovery & reanimation have we squandered in the year(s) gone by? How many “points of return" have we allowed to dissipate & be of no avail?  As usual, we must each decide when we have reached this crucial point in life; the point of restoration, healing & homecoming. For this purpose, our calendar designates these 10 days - Y'may Teshuva. 

Often, in our people's history it was universally assumed that we had reached the point of no return. In the wake of Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Islamic, Spanish, Cossack, Czarist, German, Soviet etc. waves of persecution it clearly looked like the end for Jews & Judaism.  But each time we experienced rebirth & renewal-revitalization, transformation & redemption. Today there are still groups that eagerly await the chance to "recite a Kaddish" over us & announce the end of our people. However, Am Israel Chai! In this New year we must each pledge to return and gather here-- to do, to read, to write, to give & to forgive, to learn & study, to help, to pray, to practice, to question, debate, challenge & to dispute, to support & organize, to take & receive, etc. while (re)building durable, permanent, bridges to neighbors, friends, loved ones, Israel & all humankind.


L'shannah Tova Tikatayvu