The Work of Rosh Hashanah

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Rabbi Ruhi Sophia, September/October 2015

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is not characterized by parties and fireworks in the sky. The action is internal. We examine our chata’im, the moments where we’ve missed the mark. We strive to do teshuvah, often translated as “repentance,” but meaning, “return.” This season is an invitation to return to our personal paths, to correct the places we’ve strayed.

Sometimes in order to know that we need to do teshuvah, we must receive tochecha, rebuke. Leviticus 19:17 commands, “You shall not bear a grudge, but must rebuke your neighbor.” This verse immediately precedes the commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It hints that rebuke is an important aspect of love.
I have been blessed since arriving in Eugene to receive instructive tochecha from many. As I learn my role in this community, it is not surprising that I have offended and upset people. I am deeply grateful to those who have approached me to give me constructive feedback.

I have no doubt that as I continue to serve this community; I will continue occasionally to miss the mark. That is part of the growing pains of this rabbinic transition. When that happens, please let me know. It is only through the process of hearing how I misstep that I can do my own teshuvah.

I also want to invite the community into teshuvah with me, opening a conversation about Israel. It can be painful and frightening publically to discuss Israel. No single person could do justice to the topic. After the High Holidays, I will convene an Israel Program Task Force, comprised of people with diverse political opinions about Israel. The members of that group will receive dialogue training, and then that group will be responsible for planning regular Israel programming. My hope is that this will include both cultural programming and controversial conversations. If you are interested in being part of this initiative, please contact the office.

As we move into the Days of Awe, may we give and receive feedback in a spirit of love, seeking to strengthen our bonds with each other and with the Divine.