The 3 R’s of the High Holy Days

Rosh hashanah (jewish New Year holiday) concept. Traditional symbolsApples and honey. The stirring sounds of the shofar. The weighty and transformational day of Yom Kippur. All of it will certainly look and feel different this year due to the unprecedented pandemic of our lifetime. Yet during the Days of Awe—the majestic, perennial season of the soul—Judaism beckons us once again to recalibrate our moral, religious, and spiritual compass for the upcoming year.

The High Holy Day season reminds me of something we all learned long ago in elementary school. Then it was the three Rs of reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic. On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, there are also three important Rs to explore and practice: Renewal, Return, and Reconciliation.

Renewal. At the start of a new Jewish year, we seek to renew heart, mind, soul, and body, “wondrously made,” in the words of the Psalmist. We aim to renew ways of living that nourish others and ourselves. We aspire to renew and enrich our relationships with our family and friends, with community, and with G-d. It is a new year, after all, potentially pregnant with hope and possibility (even amidst pandemic).
Return. It’s a holy act for this deeply soulful time. Return to the relationships and values that make life worth living. We seek to return to the best that is within us so that we can touch life deeply and authentically. A return to G-d, a return to Life, a return to the wise Jewish teachings and practices that help us turn and turn again to what is most important in our lives.

Reconciliation. Throughout the year, some of our actions and attitudes may create distance between us and the people and things in our lives. Over the past several months, the distancing that has been repeatedly spoken of is, of course, a physical one. Yet over the past year—and perhaps many years—the distance between us and the people in our lives may be much deeper than the physical.

An uncomfortable and unwanted emotional and spiritual distance may exist between family members, friends, neighbors, coworkers, classmates, and community members. The emotional and spiritual distance we experience might also be with the environment, with our work, with our religious identity, with our principles, or with aspects of our very selves.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur call us to bridge the distances—wherever they may be—and to restore and reconcile those relationships and things that make up our lives.

The three Rs of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur—Renewal, Return, and Reconciliation. They are the work of a lifetime. So, we come back to them, again and again, year after year. May G-d bless you and be with you in this season’s profoundly rewarding and enriching soul work.

Wishing you and your family a sweet, good, healthy and happy New Year.
Shanah tovah umetukah!

rick schechter, is the rabbi of Temple Sinai of Glendale, since 2005. He received ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1997.

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