Thursday, September 24, 2015

Gratitude, Forgiveness, and Humility

At one point during Rosh Hashanah services, our rabbi asked us to hold in our minds a moment from the past year for which we were grateful. Gratitude, after all, is one of the most pure expressions of faith; it requires recognizing that something wonderful happened to/for us because of someone else without insisting that we deserved the wonderful thing.

Nine days later, at Kol Nidre, the service on the evening that Yom Kippur begins, the rabbi talked about what it really means to atone. Asking for forgiveness, she said, has three components: the "I'm sorry," the "it's my fault," and the "here's how I'm going to fix it."

I'm good at saying "thank you." I'm good at saying "I'm sorry." But too often I think that I earn the good things that happen to me and too often I refuse to acknowledge that the things for which I apologize are truly caused by me and me alone.

You know what both faults come down to? Arrogance.

During the High Holy Days, we thank God for everything He has given us despite our faults and we apologize to our friends and family for hurts we provoked despite their love. Our prayers remind us of our humility, both before God and before our fellow man.

And you know what I'm not good at? Humility.

Before the High Holy Days, Sixth & I, my synagogue, asked what we're going to welcome in with the new year. I wrote down "patience," "generosity of spirit," and "benefit of the doubt." I know we hear what we want or need to hear in sermons, but I swear the rabbis were speaking directly to me at Rosh Hashanah and on Yom Kippur, for each of those things is rooted in humility. When Rabbi Shira told a story about how fear and control often go hand in hand, when Rabbi Miller talked about accepting the unknown of Plan B when Plan A fails, when we prostrated ourselves during the Aleinu and beat our fists against our breasts during the Al Chet - when I prayed and when I listened, I understood the direction I needed to take when I left the synagogue.

So there you have it, dear readers: my new year's resolution. May I take responsibility for both my arrogance and my humility in 5776, and may I go to High Holy Day services next September much lighter of the former and much richer in the latter.

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