Religious : : Thoughts from Our Rabbi

On High Holy Days, we inventory the deeds of our lives and imagine God sitting in judgment. We are asked, in all candor, to evaluate ourselves, and to do so without what some call ‘alibiology,’ finding excuses for our shortcomings. In order to measure ourselves, we should not only recall our deeds, in addition we must also measure ourselves in the light of what God requires of us.

What is there in Judaism that enables us to size up the quality of our daily existence? There are many ways to delineate the components of our Jewish heritage. One way is through a reference to what might be called – by Rabbi Samuel Silver – the three B’s.

The first ‘B’ is Belief. A true Jew believes that the world was not something, which by happenstance occurred. A shoe points to a cobbler; a garment points to a tailor; a painting points to an artist, and the intricacies of the universe point to a Creator. As Jews, we also believe that beyond all that we hold and behold, all that we see and sense is the invisible Creator whom we call Echad… the one and only God. A corollary to our view that there is but one God is the conviction that under that “Echad” there is another Echad, another unity, the human family. We believe that God has implanted within us a seismographic device called our Conscience which points to propriety. God has given us not only the guide to goodness, also the freedom to ignore it. That free will of ours is what makes us human.

The second ‘B’ is to Belong. It is not enough to accept a credo, a set of beliefs in order for society to activate important ideas and apply them to morally uplift. We must attach ourselves to agencies that effectuate them. For that purpose, we should become members of synagogues and of other organizations committed to the broadening of social good and welfare. It is true that some people nurture beliefs, but don’t join the instrumentalities which promote them. There are some who scoff at what they called organized religion. People harbor the notion that social good can be brought about without institutional efforts. Some Jews will tell you that they are Jews at heart – cardiac Jews. Other Jews are linked through Jewish foods – gastronomic Jews. On the High Holy Days, we should ponder the question of whether the justice our world needs, the combating of prejudice and hatred and terrorism can be accomplished without our vigorous support of organizations which are committed to their realization.

It is also not enough to believe and belong. We must recognize that these convictions and affiliations must also impel us to Behave. The acid test of our earnestness and our willingness to live up to the imperatives of our heritage is to be seen in our conduct. We must do justly, as the prophet Micah reminds us.

We call it the High Holy Days because during this period we must ascend to a loftier level than the everyday one and seek to appraise our behavior. We are prone to praise ourselves but appraising ourselves is a higher demand. We call them High Holy Days because in Judaism the concept of “holy” refers not only to liturgy and to ceremonies, it refers to the way we comport ourselves.

To be Jewish is to Believe, to Belong and to Behave. May the coming New Year 5783 be one of genuine spiritual uplift. L’shana tova tikateivu v’tikchateimu, May we be written & sealed for only good

B’vrachot, blessings,
Rabbi Dennis