High Holy Day Welcome Message – Temple Israel – 5778

Welcome: B’yachad – Together ~ A Message from Rabbi Harvey

Bruchim Ha’ba’im. Welcome everyone to our High Holy Day season here at Temple Israel.  It is an absolute joy to be part of a Temple with such a strong history, a congregation filled with such kind, devoted, and passionate Jews.  I feel blessed to have joined this community, and am excited to spend our first High Holy Day season b’yachad, together, so that we can comfortably be at our most vulnerable, thinking and speaking about sensitive and challenging subjects: forgiveness, error, and judgement. 

As we find ourselves b’yachad this season, we can take comfort in the fact that despite our differences, we are all human and, thus, we all err.  No one among us can go through 365 days without a mistake of some kind.  Those who try to bring kindness to the world inevitably, inadvertently leave a colleague, friend, or stranger feeling neglected, undermined, or embarrassed.  Those who attempt to “please everyone” realize the futility of such an effort when they discover that every choice made to bring joy to one may simultaneously have a negative impact on another. Doctors, mechanics, lawyers, teachers, professors, factory workers, rabbis—no profession is devoid of the risk of hurting another person by accident.  Don’t be fooled by the social media posts on Facebook or Instagram, painting a false picture of perfection and undeviating happiness. The grass is the same color on every side and we are all equal in our humanity.  We are all in this b’yachad – together.

The beauty of the High Holy Days is that they provide us with an opportunity to reflect on our moments of imperfection, and to take comfort that we are not alone. The Midrash teaches us that even God is imperfect. In fact, when God was creating the Earth, our world was not the first.  Rather, the rabbis tell us that God created (and subsequently destroyed) 974 worlds before creating ours.  Each of those worlds was destroyed and tossed aside because God felt each world was not perfect.  When God created our world, again God saw that the world was not perfect—humanity was not perfect—and moved to destroy it.  At that moment, an angel argued to halt our world’s destruction.  The angel told God to let the world be though it may not be perfect, and to charge us, humanity, with the work of perfecting it. 

Yes, friends, even God makes mistakes; even God makes difficult choices, some right, some wrong. 

In the Torah and Tanakh, there are countless examples of God showing regret, God’s mind changed.  This beautiful trait is one God passed on to humanity.  The ability to grow, change, and learn. The ability to reflect.  Humanity and God are in this b’yachad – together.

It is our connection to each other, and to God, that allows us to offer and receive forgiveness each year. It may seem difficult, it may seem painful, but when you look at someone who has hurt you, you are looking in a mirror, as you are just as capable of hurting another.  When you see someone who has erred, know that God, and all of humanity, has erred.   Accept this fallibility as a divine gift rather than a blemish on our souls. It is an opportunity to grow, and to emulate God. Forgive yourself, and it will allow you to forgive others.  Forgiveness is a divine gift that God shares with us.  Just as God has opened the gates of forgiveness for all to walk through, we bring with us the ability to bring peace to others who are suffering, to calm their minds, to grant and accept forgiveness. 

May this be the task that we embark upon this High Holy Day season b’yachad – together.

L’Shana Tova,

Rabbi Michael Harvey


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