Thursday, September 28, 2006

Some Thoughts on These Days Before Yom Kippur

I have been an observant Jew for more than 27 years, and before that I actually attended synagogue three times a year - twice on Rosh HaShana and once on Yom Kippur. That said, I still haven't really "figured out" this period of time - the ten days of Repentance.

I just have some personal observations - and I would love to hear other's thoughts on the subject.

One thing that I have noticed, is that people have different ideas about their relationship to G-d - and they usually correspond to what type of relationship they have had with their parents. Observant Jews are taught that we must both love and fear G-d. Those people who have had wonderful parenting can usually get the love part, and have a harder time with the fear. Those who unfortunately have had bad parenting, have the opposite reaction - fear is easy, love is hard.

Since we have to do both - we all have work to do, especially during this time of year. Another contradiction in observant Judaism is the idea of how we think about ourselves. We are told that we have to imagine having two scraps of paper - one in each pocket. One says, "We are but dust and ashes (compared to the eternity of G-d)". The other says, "G-d created the entire world just for me (we each have a unique place in this world and a job to fulfill)". So, am I supposed to feel guilty now, in order to do better in the coming year? Or should I feel encouraged, knowing that I still have a special role in life? The answer of course is both - but I always have a hard time with this.

Another problem to throw into this mix is the unavoidable comparisons to others. I know I am supposed to be thinking only of my personal journey up the ladder, but I can't help peeking around at others (which is silly, because you can't tell from outward appearances what is really going on in someone's life - G-d is the only one who really knows).

The only thing I can say for sure is that being religious doesn't mean we have all of the answers - which I used to think back when I wasn't observant. Now the only thing I know for sure is that I still have a lot of questions!

Your input is welcome.

For some great posts on this same topic, check out Beyondbt.

13 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should read todays beyond BT blog - puts a spin on how to think of teshuva

3:54 PM, September 28, 2006  
Anonymous Jeremayakovka said...

The "fear" seems to pack more moral than emotional punch. Fear of judgment, for example, which is a spur to become closer, dearer, purer. With what word(s) does Hebrew indicate "fear"?

Thank you for the conversational and relevant post.

12:02 AM, September 29, 2006  
Blogger Jerusalem Joe said...

"The only thing I can say for sure is that being religious doesn't mean we have all of the answers - which I used to think back when I wasn't observant. Now the only thing I know for sure is that I still have a lot of questions!"

loved that!
i wish more religous jews felt secure enough to talk openly about their difficulties, instead of pretending, to themselves or to others, that everything is fine. i could really enjoy that kind of honest company!

thanks for another beautiful post.

1:13 PM, September 30, 2006  
Blogger muse said...

good questions, but I don't find any personal paralel with my relationship with my parents and G-d, more the opposite

I wrote about prayer and repentance:
http://me-ander.blogspot.com/2006/09/to-pray-lehitpallel-to-judge-oneself.html
http://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/2006/09/repentance.html

6:20 AM, October 01, 2006  
Blogger aliyah06 said...

Hmmm....I read somewhere (can't remember where, getting old...) that the 'fear' was more of an 'awe' than of being scared. I connect with the 'love' more easily than with the 'awe/fear' although I try to keep both in mind....Like muse, I find that there is no parallel with my parents but rather the opposite.

And I appreciate Jerusalem Joe's feedback--believe me, a lot of us have become more religious/observant precisely because we know we don't have all the answers and this is the direction our search has taken us.

My personal take on Judaism is that it is a tapestry--and that every Jew is a thread in that tapestry, and whether we're married or divorced; male or female; chareidi, dati-leumi, chiloni, Masorti; old or young; right-of-center, left-of-center or middle-of-the-road; we're all here as part of H"S's weaving, and we owe each other the respect and courtesy due the Master's handiwork.

11:40 AM, October 01, 2006  
Blogger westbankmama said...

jeremayakovka - it is interesting that the Hebrew root for the word fear is the one for "seeing" also...

jerusalemjoe - I was not born into a religious family and came to it by choice - that is why I am comfortable with questions - which is what led me to be observant in the first place

muse and aliyah - so I guess my theory, with you two at least, is not correct

8:42 AM, October 03, 2006  
Blogger bec said...

i think the one thing i've found in the journey back to odoxy is that while before, i didn't know what questions to ask, now at least i can easily ask what i want to know because i have the knowledge to know of what i don't know. (i hope that wasn't as cryptic as it sounds.)

10:40 PM, October 04, 2006  
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