“L’Shanah Tovah!” These are the words you may hear from your Jewish friends this week, since the start of Rosh HaShanah, or the Jewish New Year, occurred on October 5. Thus begins the High Holy Days between now and Yom Kippur, or “Day of Atonement,” on Tuesday, October 11. Other symbols of Rosh HaShanah include the shofar, an instrument generally created from a ram’s horn, which is blown one hundred times in the first two days of the celebration, reminding the people to meditate on God’s blessings.
When I lived in New York as a professional singer, in addition to my work at various churches, I also sang at a synagogue. Our quartet of singers was especially busy during these holy days, particularly on Yom Kippur, a day of fasting and prayer and chant. remember well the cantor – a woman, a mezzo-soprano who had been an opera singer before going to seminary – and how she sang so much and so beautifully, even though she herself was fasting that day. Her leadership and beautiful spirit is woven into my own discernment story.
Today, I am well aware of the many blessings in my life, as well as the many ways in which I have fallen short, or sinned. Jewish practices during these holy days include “Tashlich,” or “casting off,” in which a person tosses bits of bread into flowing waters, symbolizing the way God washes away our sins. This began during the Middle Ages, based on a writing by the Hebrew prophet Micah: “God will take us back in love; God will cover up our iniquities, You [God] will hurl all our sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19)
The waters have been moving very swiftly for us all here during my first nine months as your Rector! During that time, we have experienced many successes, and we are still facing some challenges. I know I myself have made some mistakes, and may have done or said things that may have hurt or upset some of you, for which I am truly sorrowful. If you harbor any feelings like this, I humbly ask that you come directly to me, so that we can talk together and become reconciled. Please, do not talk to othersabout me, but come and talk with me. “Parking lot meetings” do nothing to build up our Church, and can instead erode and undermine the good work we are all striving so hard to do together.
Then we can focus on all the sweetness in our common life! My favorite practice of the Jewish New Year is dipping apples – perfect in Washington! – into honey, as a remembrance of the sweetness of life. There is a prayer that is said when dipping the apples, or pieces of challah bread, baked into a round to symbolize the cycle of life: “May it by Thy will, O Lord, Our God, to grant us a year that is good and sweet.”
May the coming year bring great blessings and loving relationships to everyone in our church family.
Yours in Christ,