Black woman blower

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Did you hear the Shofar Horn this week announcing the Jewish New Year on Wednesday, September 24, 2014? The holiday is called Rosh Hashanah, which celebrates health, happiness, and prosperity for the coming year.

According to the Jewish Calendar, though, the year is not really 2014 at all, but rather 5775, and the true purpose of Rosh Hashanah is to celebrate the Sixth Day of Creation, which took place on Tishrei 1, nearly six thousand years ago.

Wow, six thousand years since the Sixth Day of Creation.

I’ve been celebrating Rosh Hashanah for over 40 years, which seems like a lot of years to me, ever since Nettie and I married. She’s Jewish and I’m Catholic by birth, so we merged our separate holidays and celebrated both with varying degrees of intensity throughout our lives.

We spent this Rosh Hashanah as a guest of our daughter-in-law’s mother, Pam. Our new daughter-in-law, Jaymie, and our son Miles will be carrying on the Jewish traditions in the years ahead and we’re looking forward to them!

This week, though, I spent some time looking backward, back to that important Sixth Day of Creation. Do you remember what happened on the Sixth Day?

adam eve 2

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Yep, Adam and Eve were created.

Hmmm…Adam and Eve?

What’s the significance of the creation of Adam and Eve? And how does it relate to Rosh Hasanah and the upcoming Yom Kippur holiday just days away, the so-called Day of Atonement? And why is this the most important holiday on the Jewish Calendar?

On the surface, it’s easy to assume that a New Year alone is reason enough for significance. A new year…a new chance, a time of admitting our shortcomings…a time for facing up to our sins committed during the previous year.

Book-of-Life-tilted

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Seeking atonement for these transgressions certainly should be significant. We must atone so that our names will be written into the Book of Life rather than sealed in the Book of Death. That’s surely important, worthy of a central holiday.

(I know I’m making all kinds of assumptions about creation myths and personal belief, but that’s not the point of this post…thank goodness. So just go with me on this. I’m after something else here. Something personal and individual.)

You see, when I dug a little deeper into the dusty, stone tablets of the Google archives, I found a meaning in the Adam and Eve event that reached beyond the centuries, beyond religion, a meaning that led back to the garden itself, before the serpent, before the gate was closed…when the symbology of Adam and Eve was a guide for our life, for our journey through every minute of every day of every year of this life.

the-unremembered-gate

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In the beginning, the creatures in the garden were pure. They were in balance. Adam and Eve were in harmony with the world and, more importantly, with themselves…until outside influence, represented by the serpent, perverted their sense of self so that what they had was no longer enough to satisfy them. Desire overtook their sense of right and wrong. It became their ruination. And for that, they were cast out from their true nature, figuratively and literally. The gate closed around the garden leaving them outside of the perfect harmony they had known.

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the way back to ourselves. Sure, we can do penance for past transgressions to others, we can apologize for the idiocies we’ve committed during the previous year, but more importantly, this holiday is about contemplation of how far WE have strayed from OUR true selves.

Who were we at the beginning of this year? That’s the question to ask ourselves. What happened that led us away from that self? What can we do to realign our vision of ourselves with the actions we take so that we can become again who we are?

These questions (and finding the answers to them) are indeed worthy of a central holiday it seems to me. It’s a good time for us to pause, a time for personal reflection…a time for communion with our inner voice.

TS Eliot

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These questions reminded me of T.S. Eliot’s words, who after a lifetime of seeking, interpreting, and expounding on the spiritual, ethical, and moral struggle that is essential to the human condition, wrote his masterpiece, The Four Quartets, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize.

Near the last lines of the last poem of these quartets, Eliot calls out the message of the Shofar Horn brightly and clearly on a New Year’s morning…

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning.

— from Little Gidding  — T.S. Eliot

 

L’Shanah Tovah!  Happy New Year!

 

3 Responses to To Become Who You Are On Yom Kippur

  1. Frank Z says:

    I really like the questions you posed and am contemplating them these days as I approach 65. It feels like a rite of passage. In Hinduism, this is the time to celebrate the mother, a similar contemplation. These are the deeper questions we contemplate as we do the work to unite body, mind and spirit in meditation and Yoga practice.

    Victoria Nichols

  2. Frank Z says:

    Thanks, Elyce. I’ll look forward to your post.

    fz

  3. Lovely post, Frank. We are thinking on the same shofar echo; stay tuned for my blog post later this week. And may your name be inscribed…

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