As October begins, Jews of all colors, creeds, and practices find ourselves in the midst of painstaking examinations of our actions over the past year. In synagogues across Santa Monica and around the world, the Jewish High Holy Days open our eyes to the possibility of renewal and redemption. The holy time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, from the Day of Judgement to the Day of Atonement, is a time to take an accounting of our souls and to submit to God’s intense scrutiny.
Jewish tradition urges us to spend these days jackhammering through our outer shells, seeking to excavate the best versions of ourselves, the version that God put us on this Earth to become. By acknowledging our mistakes and striving to repair them, we can then move forward to beg forgiveness from the people we have harmed and, eventually, from God. We come together to pray.
We pursue social justice. We repent, and repent, and repent until the gates of Heaven slam shut and we emerge renewed, scrubbed clean, committed to doing better this coming year.
Not even a week later, our community members build small, temporary dwellings called “sukkot” (also the name of the holiday), which represent the beauty and fragility of our lives.
We demonstrate our faith in God’s love and protection, no matter what our material circumstances. Families and friends gather to eat, sing, and revel in the abundant blessings of our lives. We rejoice. May this season be one of introspection, repentance, deliverance, and rejoicing for us all.
Rabbi Shira Freidlin is the spiritual leader of the Santa Monica Synagogue, an intimate Reform congregation founded in 1981.
Each month, we ask a member of the clergy to write a column for our readers.
By Rabbi Shira Freidlin