There once was a king who had a son he loved very much. When the son was a young man, he ran away from home. He traveled farther and farther from his father's kingdom and had many experiences and discovered many new things. But after a while, he began to miss his home. His friends said to him, "Go home, for surely your father misses you a great deal!" But the son replied, "I have gone too far, and I do not have the strength to travel the whole way home by myself." So he sent his father a note and the reply came back immediately. His father wrote, "Come back as far as your strength will take you, and wherever that place is, I will meet you."
That story, from the classic rabbinic work Pesikta Rabbati, reminds us what the High Holiday season is all about. These days are calling us back to home. The season is about making amends with family members and friends, people we've grown far from over the year or have wronged in some way. It is about nurturing our spiritual lives and our emotional well-being; it is about remembering that we each have that balancing point at which we feel and do and live our best. It is about feeling at home in our skin, in the way we walk through our lives, because we are being true to ourselves and to our highest ideals. Rosh Hashanah calls us back to wonder: Are we balanced? Are we really at home in our lives? Who and what is calling us and what does it take on my part to find our way? And on Yom Kippur, we begin again, a chance to start a new year with hope and fresh eyes and a fresh heart.
For some, the "king" in the story above is God, the Source of All Life. For others, it is a sense of connection to nature or a general feeling that there is something out there larger than all of us, that indescribable sense of being alive that we catch in snatches at the top of a mountain or at the birth of a child or in witnessing a random act of kindness on the subway. Either way, one thing is clear: We need one another to really find our way home.
That is why our prayers are recited in the plural. That is why, on Yom Kippur, we confess to sins we might not personally have committed-but that someone else in the community probably did. That is why we find our way back to one another and community at this time of year. Because no one can find their way home alone. We all need to live knowing that there is someone there, waiting for us, no matter how far we've gone, no matter how long it takes to get back.
Rabbi Abigail Treu
Director, The Center for Jewish Living
and The David H. Sonabend Center for Israel
by Judy Bernstein Bunzl, Katja Goldman, and Lisa Rotmil.
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Blueberry Honey Cake from The Nosher
Need a place to go for Rosh Hashanah services?
Check out these no-membership-required options:
High Holiday Services for Families at JCC Harlem
JCC Harlem is delighted to be offering a full roster of High Holiday experiences. Browse an inclusive landscape of Jewish life programs and services aimed to deepen our transition to the New Year.
Stand Naked: Learning and Spiritual Preparation for the High Holidays
Thu, Sep 6, 2-4:30 pm
Baking with Honey + Apples for Rosh Hashanah for Families
Fri, Sept 7, 2-3:30pm
Preparing to Meet the Divine:
Spiritual Preparation for the High Holidays
Sun, Sep 16, 3-4:30 pm
Fresh Start for a Fresh Year
Sun, Sep 16, 4-5:30 pm