Always On Time

Rabbi David A. Spey

We often say that the High Holy Days are either early or late, but never on time.  This phenomenon is a result of the differences that exist between the Gregorian calendar, our American calendar, and the Hebrew calendar.  However, early or late, the High Holy Days represent for us a New Year.  Following the long, lazy days of summer, autumn reminds of the fragility of life, as the change of seasons, even in Florida becomes noticeable.  Seasonal fruits change, the weather changes, the pace of life changes, vacation season ends, and school starts.

As Jews we have the added pleasure of starting our spiritual and emotional year again.  While Autumn and the High Hoy Days are often seen as sad or depressing times, it is possible to view them quite differently.  Spending much of my teen years in New England, I grew to love the change of the leaves in the Fall, even though they mark the end of the leaves’ lives.  Shortly after returning to school, my friends and I spent many hours hiking through the hills, sipping sap out of the catch buckets on the Sugar Maple trees, amazed by the spectrum of colors that unfolded before us.  We were a year older, a year wiser, had another year’s worth of responsibility on our shoulders, and a new year of opportunities ahead of us.  We had the ability to view ourselves anew and recreate ourselves to be the people we wished to be.

Our High Holy Days provide the very same opportunity.  Rosh haShanah is our new spiritual and emotional year.  Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is not a day of doom and gloom.  Rather, like the colors of Autumn,, Rosh haShanah and Yom Kippur represent the opportunity to start anew, refreshed and rejuvenated.  Even the tradition of wearing a white kittel or shirt reflects this idea that the new year holds new opportunities.  But this does not happen without a little work or effort on our part.

Like hiking through the woods, we must travel though the forest of our souls.  In this introspective process, our tradition provides us the opportunity to reflect upon the colors that the leaves of our soul and personality have turned.  We recall our successes and find the aspects of ourselves that we wish to improve.  We can collect the memories of the past and like the free running sap of our souls, reduce it to rich syrup to sweeten our future. 

Early?  Late?  Our High Holy Days always arrive right on time to reinvigorate us as individuals, as a community, and as a people to fulfill our mission of improving the world around us.  May we all find the beauty in this Autumn and be written for a sweet, happy, and better year.  Shanah tovah umetukah.

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