The Yomim Noraim meander

We are only a little over two weeks until the Jewish Calendar ticks into the year 5770.

The month leading up to the Yomim Noraim (“days of awe”) are a very important time in the Jewish calendar.  We take time to reflect on our accomplishments, on our shortcomings, on our responsibilities, and our potential.  The time is used in preparation, so that when we arrive to the prayer of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, and of Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, we are correctly focussed and prepared to seriously approach our task of character refinement.

Our Jewish community needs a huge culture change in the way we treat our festivals.  Sadly they are heavily abused.  Too many of us rock up to shule on Rosh Hashana, with no prior thought, and no prior action that is dedicated towards self-examination.  There are those who treat a day out at Shule like a social occasion, replete with a fashion show and a chance to talk (right through Shule), mainly on topics that are a combination of gossip and self agrandisement.

We have the chance right now to consider the best form of preparation for Yom Tov.  We can intensify our observance, do more mitzvot, build better inter-personal relationships, learn hilchot teshuvah, listen to the Shofar, and focus our attention onto matters of real importance.

It would seem that many Jews are oblivious to the opportunity they have during Chodesh Elul.  It is sad that so many Jews do not even realise that they are missing the best character and personal development program that was ever invented.  I’m not trying to push any standards or draw judgements on any one individual.  However I do want to openly reflect on this.

Our Jewish calendar has many “mood settings” within it.  We have both constancy, and variability through the combination of the solar and lunar calendars.  The solar calendars gives us stability.  We have a weekly Shabbat cycle of work and rest, and a daily cycle of renewal through our tefillah (evening, morning and afternoon).  We also have the lunar calendar.  The moon creates, grows, wanes and disappears each month.  We guide ourselves towards each cycle of renewal.   The lunar calendar governs our festive cycle.  We have different seasons, to reflect on spriritual and physical victory, freedom, covenant and inheritance, joy, sadness, and nationhood.  Through these events we grow and develop.  Each year they give us a little more to aspire toward and more knowledge, insight and lifeskill to gain.  I could not imagine how a Jewish person can let this slide by, opting not to benefit from our seasonal movements.  I struggle to comprehend how it is that a person can convince themselves that a state of constancy, status quo and no change will provide them contentedness and meaning in life.  I could not imagine my own ability to develop if I did not have the festive Chagim of the Jewish calendar to focus upon and drive me forward.

We have with us, right at the moment, the opportunity to tune into the radio frequency of Jewish living.  Once a year we can adjust the fine tuning of the frequency to deliver even more clarity and enjoy a stronger signal.  That time is now, but what are we doing about it?  I’ve heard very little said, and seen very little to suggest that Jewish Perth is focussed on what it should be.  It is as if we are just going through the motions, vaguely aware that we are a week or so out from another big yomtov fress with the family. 

Yom Tov is about so much more.  Lets take the opportunity while we have it!