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The Days of Awe

I am not Orthodox, but might be considered as such by some within the Messianic community. It has been said that our shul is one of the most 'orthodox' communities in the country, but I don't know, to be honest. When I see other congregations or hear of their celebrations, it makes me believe that it is somewhat true, however.

We are truly blessed with our own resident Torah scholar, Mr. Tim Hegg. I cannot thank HaShem enough for bringing him into my life. (Wow, that was an understatement!) I have 'sat at his feet' and learned from him, in good Hebrew fashion, for about seven years now and I feel pretty well versed in the ways of Torah. We discuss everything, including the ways of the various sects and observances of Judaism, which leads me to the Days of Awe.

Sandwiched between the festivals of Yom Teruah (Rosh Hashanah) and Yom Kippur (Yom HaKippurim) are the ten Days of Awe. In this time period we are to be preparing ourselves for Yom Kippur with introspection and meditation on the promises or vows we have made, whether we have kept them or not, and any people we have wronged. A good and needed thing to do at any time during the year, but immediately before Yom Kippur is most appropriate.

Among the customs of this time, it is common to seek reconciliation with people you may have wronged during the course of the year. The Talmud maintains that Yom Kippur atones only for sins between man and G-d. To atone for sins against another person, you must first seek reconciliation with that person, righting the wrongs you committed against them if possible.

Another custom observed during this time is kapparot. This is rarely practiced today, and is observed in its true form only by Chasidic and occasionally Orthodox Jews. Basically, you purchase a live fowl, and on the morning before Yom Kippur you wave it over your head reciting a prayer asking that the fowl be considered atonement for sins. The fowl is then slaughtered and given to the poor (or its value is given). Some Jews today simply use a bag of money instead of a fowl. Most Reform and Conservative Jews have never even heard of this practice.
~Judaism 101
Fascinating tradition, to be sure. Kapparot is never something we have done in my congregation, but it is not surprising that such a physical portrayal of the inner repentance would be a part of Orthodox tradition. Physically playing out a command or emotional reality is very much a Hebrew way of doing things (for example sitting in sackcloth and ashes or rending your garments during times of grief or anguish).

This whole idea of repentance and reconciliation is one that is difficult for us to think about. Humbling yourself and doing away with the pride that creeps into our lives is, at times, painful and difficult. Taking a risk and making yourself vulnerable to others is something that is not the 'norm' in our modern culture nor do I see it encouraged, but it is something that is required to make right those things that have been twisted and torn. Just the thought that you may screw up the courage to humbly apologize and seek forgiveness from another with the possibility that they may not accept your offering is daunting. But it is oh-so necessary to stand righteously before the Master.

In my pondering, I have come to accept these things as true:
To truly apologize means that you are grieved that you caused hurt and will make every effort to not commit the offense again.

Forgiveness doesn't always mean that relationship is restored.

Trust takes time and effort that most are not willing to invest.

Most often doing the right thing means doing the hardest thing.

He has show thee, O Man
What is good and what the LORD requires of thee.
But to live justly and to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with thy G-d.


Ari C'rona said…
Oh, well stated!

This so reminds me of the many hours we've spent discussing these and other deep issues. Thank you, my dear friend, for challenging me to look at and deal with the hard issues of life. :o)
J Antonelli said…
I'm obviously not jewish but can respect you as a friend and your devoted faith. :)
Hendel D'bu said…
Thanks J, your friendship means a lot to me, despite the distance between us. You are as much a part of my life as is any friend who is close by. :-)
Mama Cache said…
You are representing these days, this entire season, so very beautifully. As is always the case, I read and read again, deepening in my appreciation each time, for you and for the Lord who has drawn you to Himself. Thank you.

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