Thoughts for the Week

Thursday, September 14


It might not quite feel like it at the moment, as it seems as if the summer has only just begun with last week’s heat wave, but the season is turning; summer is coming to an end, and so does the year 5783.

With endings and new beginnings inevitably comes reflection and self-evaluation: how do we rate the year that has just passed and, more importantly: How did we do in it? Have we truly been the best version of ourselves as we think we could have been? Did we live up to the high expectations we have for ourselves and others?

This process of self-reflection, which comes to us so naturally, is of course part and parcel of our High Holy Day preparations.  It is what our Rabbis call cheshbon ha-nephesh (accounting for the soul), a process of self-evaluation, which precedes Teshuvah – Repentance.

Rosh Hashanah is also known as Yom ha-din, the day in which we stand in judgement before God.  We truly feel the need for atonement from God and forgiveness from our fellows, whom we have hurt or wronged during the year – whether intentionally or unintentionally.

Making teshuvah is hard work and seeking forgiveness involves more than merely saying that we are sorry. Moses Maimonides, sets out in Hilchot Teshuvah (the Laws of Teshuvah), that it involves owning up to the hurt we have caused and changing our ways. However, whilst it might be possible to improve ourselves, to diminish the possibility (or temptation even) of making the same mistakes again, we also know that some actions cannot be undone and some words cannot become unsaid… If we take teshuvah seriously, we might feel weighed down by guilt.

How do we forgive ourselves? One way to let go of our guilt and the burden of our misdeeds is by taking part in tashlich (the act of casting our sins away), which is done by throwing breadcrumbs into a body of water.  Although it is only symbolic, taking part in a tashlich ceremony can be truly cathartic, even more so if we do this communally.

Why not join us for a Mosaic-wide tashlich at Temple Mead Pond (off Gordon Avenue) at 5pm on First Day Rosh Hashanah, Saturday 16th September.  Read the notices for more information.

May we all feel lifted from the burden of our past and look forward to a truly good and sweet 5784. Shanah tovah tikateivu.

Rabbi Kathleen

September 14, 2023