With that in mind, during holiday services I read a beautiful, medieval poem called Ya-Aleh (a Hebrew word meaning “rise”) which is the lead in to a series of prayers about confession and forgiveness.
Here’s one translation of the final stanza from Ya-Aleh:
Let our confessions rise up in the evening;
May it blaze across the skies at dawn;
So the forgiveness of all appears by dusk.
Because in Judaism holidays tend to start in the evening (with the rising of the moon), the poem suggests that we begin our introspections with the onset of the holiday observance, encouraging us to engage in the process of looking back on the past year and thinking about how we want our lives to be different in the future. The prayer book my congregation utilizes (Mahzor Lev Shalem: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. New York: The Rabbinical Assembly, 2014) describes it this way:
“…it is as if, throughout the day, we move back in our recollections, allowing the events of the year to pass before our mind’s eye. This day is set aside for introspection: At different hours, in different light, we may see different aspects of our lives; and as we move inward, we can be in touch with the way our lives might be renewed, until we arrive at the point of origin.”
What a lovely concept: To take time to reconsider the past 12 months, thinking about our own actions and interactions and how we want to improve them going forward. As such, I, for one, will be working through these memories all day today. Of course, the bulk of my mindshare will be focused on RELATIONSHIPS – the strong, healthy ones in my life; the ones that could use some concerted attention; the ones of which it’s may be time to let go; the ones I hope to establish and nurture. Whatever your faith or tradition, please join me in this endeavor. For us all, I imagine we will gain a sense of renewal, rejuvenation and restoration.
To each of you, I ask for your forgiveness for any wrongdoing I committed against you this past year – knowingly or unknowingly. For those observing Yom Kippur, I wish you an easy and meaningful fast. Happy, Healthy New Year!