“Holiness is the quality or value that things or persons have when they help people to become fully human.”  -Jewish Prayer Book

Tonight begins Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, a celebration of renewal that asks you to look at what you have created over the last year and what you aspire to the next. It is the beginning of the high holy days and the doorway to seeking forgiveness.  It is a fresh start, a chance to try again to become the person you want to be.

Reading through the prayer book, I am often inspired by the notes in the margins.  I don’t read or understand Hebrew but the sung prayers feel like they go into me deeply, like a lost language that is still at my core. I was struck by this idea that holiness is something that lives in all of us as we help each other to become more fully human. Thinking about what we accomplish in our days within this definition is clarifying and a relief.  All that is really asked of us is to show up daily and see what is most human in those around us.

Where many of us get stuck at renewal, as the rabbi so courageously shared tonight, is the place where we get stuck in our own stories of loss, grief, and betrayal- each becoming our personal narrative of crisis. The world stage is wracked with these stories as the entire middle east, country by country, fights for a new path toward freedom and justice. The pace of change, the instability of institutions and basic structures that we are all experiencing in our daily lives is forcing our hand and demanding that we choose renewal instead of crisis.

Another note that I read later in the prayer book explained the idea of sin as a failure of reflecting our true selves.  When we deny our heart’s purpose we are betraying God in us. Unknowingly, often without even our witnessing it, we allow our fears to limit who we are and who we aspire to be. This new year we have to be bigger than our fears and lean into creating our lives in the largeness of our aspirations.

It all sounds grandiose, but it gets pretty simple if you ask yourself if what you are doing, thinking or speaking is helping anyone, especially you, to become fully human. Rewriting your story is blessed any day of the year, but knowing that you are sharing in a ritual that has been practiced by millions since before recorded time is inspirational.  Celebrate a new beginning by recognizing your holiness with everyone you love.

Shana tova.