Rosh Hashanah begins this Monday night, and Yom Kippur starts on the evening of Sept. 15.
You don’t have be an observant Jew to feel the shift. As humans, we are sensitive to all changes in our environment. And, in many ways, this summer’s dose of humility – with COVID-19’s surge and all of the rain and humidity – served as an elongated Days of Awe. It’s a reminder that despite all of our planning, and intention, nothing in life is promised.
Not even the truth, which is now a central issue facing the world’s population. Because people spend most of their days online, the Internet now serves as the central disseminator of all information. But, since anyone can post anything they want online – without a traditional gatekeeper who would vet the content, the Internet is now the main publisher of misinformation. This seething farrago often brings conspiracists, racists, antisemites and xenophobes under the same umbrella with corporate and political interests. Those who fund larger campaigns of disinformation seek to disrupt the daily news cycle and let mainstream Americans argue it out while they seek more profits, working the backrooms of Washington to create legislation to protect their interests.
The Days of Awe is a period of reflection where we judge ourselves, and our judged by our Creator. They offer an opportunity to disengage from this misinformation, and allow us to focus on ourselves and our similarities – rather than our differences. We all have a finite amount of time on this earth, and the High Holidays remind us of this fact. And our sages have guided us on how to create a better world during these days and throughout the year: Teshuvah, tefillah and tzedakah, or repentance, prayer and charity, can avert the severity of the decree.
With COVID-19 preventing many of us from returning to synagogue, we have a lot of time to reflect during these days in September. As we shift from the warm winds to the cooler days, let us contemplate the miracle of life, and connection and love. Each day we have a new opportunity to help create a new world. Whether you’re observant or an atheist, this is a good period to take stock in your role in making the earth a better place.