To any and all random rabbis and/or studied Jewish persons who might be reading this, please accept my instant and premature apology. I write this from an incredibly limited and ridiculously secular view of Judaism. I humbly apologize, before you read even another word. Below please find simply my experience. Everybody else, all faiths, sizes, shapes, please do read on. These teachings are powerfully relevant.
I believe that the Jewish High Holy Days give us the opportunity to cognitively re-pattern our brain. The rabbis tell us that, although our fate is determined on Rosh Hashanah, liturgy promises that “repentance, prayer, and charity can temper judgment’s severe decree.” This is profoundly cool. Our actions matter! The promise here is not the reversal of the decree; it is the cultivation of our capacity to relax and be with it. In doing that, its severity is softened.
For example, if fate is determining the outcome of my book proposal (Book, yes? Or, perhaps, book, no?), I surely can’t control that. Yet I can take all right action to shepherd the proposal to the right eyes. And I can learn to live within the void of rejection. Most importantly, I can soften my response to its ultimate “fate”. This is profoundly yogic. Moses, were you a yogi? Yoga, too, teaches us to live skillfully, to practice cognitively re-patterning our brain, empowering us to live the way we choose to live.
Let’s look at these three right actions, “repentance, prayer, and charity”.
First, there is repentance. In my eyes this encourages behavior change. Larger, louder and deeper than any “I’m sorry”, it urges measurable change in action. Living an amend means literally changing behavior. For example, during these ten Days of Awe, as I consider my behavior last year with both rigor and compassion, I see that I was less than available to a family member. Repentance, or living amends to that person would be showing up, being there and reaching out, to be a more consistent presence in that person’s life. This can surely soften any decree; the empowerment of behavior change is powerful, potent and alive.
The second right action is prayer. To me, this is an invitation to consistently find a practice that quiets my mind. It allows that which is not my mind to emerge. Any activity that quiets down that wacky computer ticking between our ears is good news. With daily consistency, what do you do that quiets your mind, that brings you into that place of sanctity and prayerfulness that is silence? It might be a walk in the woods, yoga, a hot bath, or cuddling with a dog (preferably one you know). In this flow state, the silence of prayer emerges. Here we connect with a power greater than ourselves, deepening our commitment to change. My intention to be more present for my family member is enhanced when I partner with that which is not my mind, that place of prayerfulness and grace.
And finally, the third right action is charity. Really? Charity? Strange word, no? This implies selfless service, the giving of ourselves without habitual rewards. Being present for another, letting a driver yield into your lane, taking the supermarket carts back inside, opening the door for a stranger—as “insignificant” as these actions might sound, these random acts of kindness repair the tear in the world. Through “charity”, this practice of kikkun olam, or repairing the world, we are spared life’s severity. No matter what is happening, don’t you always feel softer and lighter when you get out of your own way, offering a smile, saying hello, acknowledging another?
Thank you, ancient Jewish folk, my people, you yogis in the desert for forty years. Thanks for the blueprint. We lean toward change, we lean toward practice, we lean toward growth. We decide how we choose to live. Now please bless us with the patience and the tolerance to practice.
What about you? Jews and non-Jews, all; what resonates here for you? On this Birthday of the World, how do you choose to realign with the truth of who you are?