When our children were young, we would walk to the river and stand on the rocks in contemplation. Usually our daughter, who liked to be first at most things, would dig a hand into her pocket and pull out a speck of pocket dust. One by one, all four of us would throw our tiny pocket-sized flecks of cotton dust into the water. Because this is the start of the Jewish New Year, and we knew it was time to think about our “faults.” In this quiet time of self-examination, Jews all over the world were symbolically shedding their sins (my term) in order to start over – to begin anew. One by one, all of our shortcomings could be thrown into the river and washed away.
Growing up Catholic, I always knew that whatever I did during the week, I need only confess to a priest on Friday and all would be forgiven. I’m a sucker for pomp and tradition. I loved marching to a beautiful grotto dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the forest around Camp St Joseph for Girls. Singing Ave Maria with the nuns there among the sun-dappled trees, gave me goose bumps. But in this ancient tradition of Bob’s family, we only had one shot at forgiveness. On Rosh Hashana God opened the Book of Life, and for Ten Days of Awe, He (or She) would inscribe the names of those who would be admitted to heaven. On Yom Kippur, the Book is closed. Ten days out of 365 to get it right. Ten days to make amends and start over.
Christian, Agnostic, Jewish, Atheist, Muslim, or Hindu, Buddhist or Hedonist, whatever you profess to believe – even you Secular Humanists and Unitarians out there, on these holiest of days in the Jewish calendar, I wish you a sweet year. And I sincerely pray that the Israelis and Palestinians will break bread together.