I really love this time of year. The trees are beginning to change and there is a hint of fall in the air. Apples are fresh, crispy and juicy. This season is matched with such an important time in the Jewish calendar. Right now we are in a period of deep introspection between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is a time to look inward as we evaluate who we are, what we do and how we do it.
We learn that during the High Holidays we ask God for forgiveness from all transgressions. Together we apologize for all of our wrongdoings together as a community, even if we are not guilty of the particular sin for which we are asking for forgiveness. We are reminded that this is a time of year that we need to ask people for their forgiveness too. And that we must do personally.
Whether intended or not, there are times when we say things that are unkind or behave in a way that can upset others. I know that top of my list of people to ask forgiveness from are my husband and children who do not always get the best of me. Sometimes it is those people that we love the most who do not see our best side.
In our High Holiday prayers we say that by engaging in prayer (tefilah), teshuva (repentance) and tzedakah (charity/righteousness) during the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we can ensure that we are inscribed in the book of life and seek forgiveness. Over the past 48 hours of reflection, my thoughts and prayers have been with family and friends in North Florida who are currently weathering the most devastating hurricane the area has seen in more than 118 years.
My career began in Jacksonville, Florida. My husband and I met there and my children were born there. My family in Jacksonville were part of the founders of the Jewish community, which is the second oldest in the state of Florida, after Tallahassee. I will always think of Jacksonville as a home away from home. One of my dearest friends in Jacksonville is originally from Nassau, Bahamas. I heard from her yesterday that while her family is safe and unharmed, her childhood home has been destroyed and from her brother’s account “it looks like an atomic bomb went off.”
Many of us have connections with Florida and I know we share a common concern, worry and fear about Hurricane Matthew and its potentially devastating impact.
As our Federation system does so beautifully, because we are always at the ready to respond, an emergency mailbox has been set up to help victims of Hurricane Matthew. If you are interested, you can make a contribution here. One hundred percent of your donation will go to the Hurricane Matthew Relief Fund to help the tens of thousands of people impacted by this devastating storm.
I will continue to ask for forgiveness. I will continue to pray for those I hold close in my heart and those I do not know who are currently weathering Hurricane Matthew. The worst of the storm is still to come. We will not see the full impact of the devastation for the next 24 to 48 hours, at least. We can only hope that everyone will make it through and will be able to recover with grace and dignity.
I look forward to our continued work together in 5777. Together we will strive to meet the needs of our community, respond to emergencies like Hurricane Matthew, care for our fellow Jews in Israel and around the globe and create a vibrant Jewish life.
As you reflect on your year, I wish you an easy and meaningful fast and a year full of good health, joy and love. May you be inscribed in the book of life.
Shabbat shalom –