An airplane plunges into the ocean, killing all onboard. The ensuing investigation pits safety experts investigating what went wrong against officials trying to deflect blame. "One of the world's important divides," observed a writer, "lies between nations that react well to accidents and nations that do not...The first requirement...the intention to get the story right, wherever the blame may lie."
Denial is a powerful impulse - for governments, organizations, and people. We've evolved to protect ourselves from threats and we often perceive information as threatening.
No one enjoys coming to grips with their flaws; we construct narratives that cast ourselves in a positive light. We judge others by their actions, because it is their actions we experience. We judge ourselves by our intentions, which are often more noble than our actions. However things turned out, we know we meant well. Cognitively, we are set up to give ourselves a pass. Getting the story right, wherever the blame may lie is a tall order.
Getting the story right, wherever the blame may lie, is at the heart of the six-week process that began on Rosh Hodesh Ellul in early August and ends with the Neilah (concluding) service on Yom Kippur. That process is often referred to as teshuvah (repentance) and cheshbon hanefesh (accounting of the soul). In a sense, the tradition sets us up to conduct our own personal investigation. For sure there has been a mishap or two over the past year, if not a full-blown crash. Teshuvah is about getting the story right, wherever the blame may lie.
Teshuvah is a brilliant invention. It's better to know what caused a crash, than to protect someone's job or national pride. In the long run, it's better for our relationships and our souls to understand how we have caused hurt and pain than to protect our egos. This is difficult and counter-intuitive. Teshuvah offers a guide for conducting this investigation.
Ethicist Louis Newman, in his book, Teshuvah, outlines seven steps: culpability, remorse, confession, apology, restitution, soul reckoning and transformation.
(Read the full message on our blog with more on these steps)
Teshuvah, a sophisticated learning system, developed over thousands of years, takes work, study, and practice. As with any serious subject of study (and the subject here is our lives, our relationships, our souls) - there are no shortcuts. So often, our attention, our teaching, our learning, involves the trappings of these holidays, at the expense of the essence. It is the season of soul renewal.
We can't do accounting of our souls all the time - we'd never get anything done. The tradition sets aside time for serious reflection, accountability, and atonement. Now is that time. Holiness may be the end goal, but there are many other benefits, including healing and forgiveness. Real teshuvah is not trivial, but neither is it impossible. As Moses says in the Torah portion for the week of August 31, "it is not distant, it is not in heaven...rather it is very near you, in your mouth and your heart."
We at Jewish LearningWorks wish you a happy, healthy, and sweet new year, a year of learning, growing, and healing.
CEO, Jewish LearningWorks
Make the High Holy Days your own.
Use these resources to enrich your Holiday celebration
in your classroom or in your home.
Connect Rosh Hashanah to Israel with
from our Israel Education Initiative.
Take control of your holiday experience when you visit our growing DIY section for craft ideas, rituals and prayers, recipes (hello, gluten free honey-apple cake) and more.
Like us on Facebook
to participate in Project Elul, a thought a day Q+A prompt leading up to Rosh Hashanah. Or visit the Project Elul page
to use our prompts in your own classroom or with your family.
Get the whole family involved when you atone for your sins with the help of eScapegoat
from our friends at G-dCast.
Looking for a service, meal or other Holiday celebration? NEXT, a division of Birthright Israel has put together this interactive map
showcasing opportunities in the Bay Area and beyond.
If you plan to celebrate the Holidays with kids, check out this printable guide
Especially for educators, this Resource page
from the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education is full of lesson plans to spark some inspiration.
Coming This Fall!
Featuring a wide range of topics taught at an adult level by leading experts in the field, Exploring the World of Judaism is a great way for parents to broaden their Jewish horizons, enrich their Jewish experience, and show their kids that Jewish education is important.
Whether you're a rabbi or someone who has never attended a day of religious school, you are certain to find these speakers engaging and fascinating.
To find sessions in your area, visit our website or email ExploringWJ@JewishLearningWorks.org
Exploring the World of Judaism is a partnership between Jewish LearningWorks, the participating organizations and is supported in part by the Newton and Rochelle Becker Charitable Trust.
Announcing Jewish LearningWorks' 2nd Annual
ONE BAY ONE BOOK
Join in a yearlong conversation stimulated by Dara Horn's upcoming novel, A Guide for the Perplexed, and connect to readers throughout the Bay Area in shared discussions, events, and conversation. One Bay One Book brings together adults from diverse backgrounds for ongoing and lively Jewish learning.
Kesher is here to help you add Jewishness to your life in ways that work for you - in your home, with friends, within the community. Our service is free and open to all families on the Peninsula.
August 2013 / Elul 5773
Special High Holy Days Edition
Yoga for Realignment
Rooted in Jewish Mystical Teachings
One Day Workshop
Sunday September 08
2:00pm - 5:00pm
4th Street Yoga, Berkeley
The High Holy Days are a powerful time of reflection and transformation. This gentle grounding Iyengar-based yoga and movement practice will explore themes of reflection, realignment, and renewal. Open to all.
Join Rabbi Yosef Levin in an exploration of what the Kabbala says about the deeper meaning of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. No prior knowledge or observance required.
Finding Personal and Sustainable Meaning in the Jewish Holidays
Purify and renew your body, mind and spirit in this gently grounding Iyengar-based yoga class. Reflect on the past year and set intentions for the year to come. This free event is open to all.
Join us to hear Dara Horn discuss her new book, A Guide for the Perplexed. Connect with the author and fellow readers at the opening program for One Bay One Book, a year long conversation that transforms reading from a solitary activity into a communal one.
Rooted in Jewish Mystical Teachings
This 6-week series spans the High Holy days, encouraging students to connect to this time of transformation and reflection through physical movement. This gentle Iyengar-based yoga and movement practice is appropriate for all adults.
No previous experience with Yoga or Judaism required.
For more details, visit our
Event Calendar and
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