Self-scrutiny is an essential part of High Holiday observance. It is the first step in the process of repentance. The High Holiday imagery of God sitting in judgment over us can make this a frightening process. This article looks at various elements that smooth the path toward repentance. It is reprinted with permission fromThe Tapestry of Jewish Time: A Spiritual Guide to Holidays and Lifecycle Events (Behrman House).
According to tradition, we do not have to travel the road to renewal alone. We have two partners in our journey: the people and God. There is comfort in knowing that around the world and for thousands of years, Jews have spent that time learning and pursuing the lessons of renewal. And for those who believe, there is an added incentive and perhaps an urgency in knowing that the Almighty, in love and in justice, watches over that personal accounting.
We can imagine that along with desiring to witness our regrets and our intentions to do better, God delights in the recounting of our achievements, and in our declaring our hopes for the future. For perfection belongs to the realm of the heavens. Here on earth, we must settle for lesser goals.
Francis T. Vincent, Jr., former commissioner of baseball, could have been giving a High Holiday sermon when he said, “Baseball teaches us how to deal with failure, that failure is the norm in baseball–that those who hit safely in one out of three chances become star players. I also find it fascinating that baseball, alone in sport, considers errors to be part of the game, part of its rigorous truth.”