High Holidays: I’ve been here before

I’m quite fond of Rabbi Raffi Asher of B’nai Tikvah in Walnut Creek.  I have known him a long time.  He is very tall and always seems to bend slightly forward to come closer to short people like me.  I like what he wrote about the High Holiday experience – I’m a fan of the film Groundhog Day so I knew just what he was referring to.  Read this and see if you can inject some newness into your experience of the holidays this year.  If you can’t, then consider doing something completely different.  Go to the beach and gaze out over the water.  Stare at a tree.  Consider yourself in relationship to the rest of the planet.  Ask yourself the question a nine year old girl asked her dad, standing at my booth on Sunday, “Why do we exist?”

From Rabbi Asher:

As in the movie “Groundhog Day,” in a few weeks we will wake up and once again we will replay the same revolving tape for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.  There’s much the same music, the same shofar calls, the apples and honey, and some of those same cheery people wishing us a Shana Tova.  And, like Bill Murray’s character, it’s easy to feel cynical about all the prayers, all the smiling faces, and the reputed power and joy of the Holydays.

There’s a little of Bill Murray in all of us.  We’re a little too sophisticated to recite the scripted prayers with any passion or tenderness.  We are a little too jaded to take the ideas of soul-searching and repentance seriously.  And perhaps we’re a little too inhibited to show any enthusiasm  for the promise of starting a clean slate for the New Year.

Bnai Tikvah is now repeating this cycle for the 29th year, and many of us “elders” can remember many more repetitions observed in different settings since we were children.  There is the part of us which enters the season reluctantly kicking and screaming.  Once in the door, there’s the part of us, like the Murray character, that wants to manipulate the hours together for our own benefit.  But maybe this year we will examine the fears and miscues of the past and resolve to apply our energies to better purpose.

There are some who bemoan the many repetitions of the Yontov prayers, and there are some who silently bemoan the cumbersome repetition of our rituals from year to year.  This year may we greet the New Year with fresh eyes, a deeper appreciation for those with whom we share the bonds of community, and with an impulse to infuse ancient words with new insights and renewed energy.

 Lshana tova tikateivu—May you be inscribed for a good, sweet year.