“We berate ourselves for the contents of the mind, for the anger and doubt, for the fear and loathing. And it is this very act of judgement of the mind, that causes us to feel separate from ourselves and all else. It is constantly rating us on our behavior and particiapation, and seldom disappears long enough for us to merge with our experience, to become one with life.” – Stephen and Ondrea Levine/ Who Dies?
Julia and I are down in South Florida to celebrate Yom Kippur with my family.
The purpose of this holiday, which comes ten days after the Jewish New Year is to allow us to reflect and take responsibility for our actions throughout the year. It is a chance to make amends so that we can be inscribed in the Book of Life. This is a metaphor for being given safe passage through this next year. These two holidays, are called the Days of Awe.
They are considered to be the High Holidays. Many Jewish folks who do not go to a temple or observe all year, may come out to celebrate these holidays. They can be construed as heavy and solemn. They can be observed ritualistically with pressed new clothing and stern faces that routely pound fists over the heart as the litany of our possible misdeeds are read out. They can also be the culmination of a spiritual practice that gets us to wrestle with our shadows, take stock in our strengths, rededicate ourselves to love and to return to wonder.
This year Yom Kippur is close the presidential election, which we have all been so inundated with, we may be numb. Both of these events inspire people to come out into the public eye. Some come to participate in the process, some to stand up for what they believe, some to be seen standing up for what they believe. There are a million variables but what I have been reflecting on is our external need to be acknowledged and recognized as something that we identify with and our ability to connect with our heritage, homeland, or particular path.
With both patriotism and religion, especially, but also with many spiritual practices, we can witness serious posturing. We can hide behind a shield with our particular symbol on it and shout loudly or even bear down on the people around us with it. We can observe all the rituals “correctly”, wear the right uniform or accuraments, wave flags and let everyone know we are this image we are projecting.
We can also meditate on what these symbols offer us. Judaism, for me, offers the ability to question everything, to wrestle with belief, shadow and light, the invitation to take personal responsibility for my actions, to bless everything around me, the chance to recognise that everything that passes my lips has the oppurtunity to be holy, the prompting to repair the world, to recognize the spark of the divine in everyone I meet and in all that I encounter, to love and promote literacy, the reminder that the world was created for me but that I am just dust, that I don’t have to do all the work but I am required to do my part, to be humble, to be joyous, to be love.
America offers us the chance to learn from those who are different from us and welcome them as part of a responsible society that works together to create a freedom that is used to promote equality, dignity and the pursuit of happiness in its truest sense, for all people. It gives us the oppurtunity to lead by example, to be a beacon that promotes peace and good will within our world village.
I believe that each practice and place offers us unique advantages and insights that can foster a more consistant ability to be true to that which is endless within us. Our life-force is a stream can never be fully understood or defined.
Whatever you identify with, may it lead you to a strength and clarity that allows you to be a beacon on your path so those around you feel free enough to connect to theirs.
When and where our paths cross, may it be sweet!