September 2014 - A High Holiday Message
In the course of our recent Reconstructionist Rabbinical Study Mission to Israel, Jodi and I heard from dozens of people from every side of the issue regarding the present impasse between Jewish Israelis, Palestinian Israelis, and Palestinian non-Israelis. Objectively, each narrative was as compelling as it was unique. Unfortunately, the only common element to every narrative was trauma – trauma personally experienced, trauma inherited from parents and grandparents, and historical trauma, too.
At the end of a daylong visit to Gaza twenty years ago, the head of Gaza City’s mental health center, Dr. Eyad al-Sarraj, told our American Friends of Peace Now group that what Gazans needed more than economic development and technological assistance was therapy. Before borders could be set or security guaranteed, Dr. el-Sarraj argued that Gazans had to come back to their pre-traumatized selves, to press ‘re-set,’ to make any political resolution possible.
That’s the function of Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur for us who live our lives within a Jewish context. More than ‘a time out,’ the High Holidays provide ritualized time for us to consider our lives apart from the affairs of the day, no matter how pressing. In anticipation of what some may consider ‘Group,’ (i.e. services), many Jews take the month before, the month of Elul, to begin to “find the spark of light within us that can shine our way to wholeness,” to use the words of our Selihot liturgy.
With our instant and constant access to the world at large with its many and critical woes, we need to look into ourselves. Resolve to take the time to work through the problems, pride and impatience that separate you from the wholeness that you seek. In the course of the month to come, work to unload the burden of old quarrels, of unbroken promises, and of missed opportunities so that you can begin to forgive yourself and then turn to forgive others. True peace with others can come only when we come to terms with the trauma within.
With hope for a productive journey into the days of turning that lie ahead, and with best wishes for a good, healthy and peaceful New Year,
I am, as always,