Most Jewish holidays are tied to an event in our people’s past. Pesach commemorates the exodus from Egypt. Sukkot recalls our wandering in the Sinai desert while dwelling in temporary shelters. Chanukah exults in the victory of the Maccabees. Purim celebrates the triumph of Jews in ancient Persia against the wicked Haman.
But the Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig teaches us that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are not holy days connected to an event in the past. They are, in fact, ahistorical.
The themes for the High Holy Days are eternal. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur compel us to ask: Who am I? What is my relationship to God? Have I been good to other people? If not, from whom do I need to ask forgiveness?
We examine our actions from the past year in order to set ourselves on a better path for the New Year. During the Days of Awe we ponder: Where am I headed in my life? What new directions do I desire to take? What actions can I take to create a more beautiful world for my descendants?
This month of Elul and the coming High Holy Days are a time for introspection. What gives us strength is the knowledge that we are not alone as we engage in reflection. In the company of friends and in the context of community, we find insight and support. As members of this sacred congregation, let us seek together to bring forward a New Year of blessings and peace.