September/October 2015

In his recent book, For Every Season, Jeff Bernhardt recounts a story about an environmental science class he took in college. The class met early in the morning and Bernhardt, who was always punctual, liked to sit in the front of the large, sparsely filled hall. He enjoyed the lectures immensely. As the mid-term exam approached, Bernhardt prepared diligently.

On the day of the test, Bernhardt, although confident about the material, was taken aback when he entered the lecture hall. The room was packed and nearly every seat was taken. Where were these students all semester? How could they just show up for the exam and be ready for it?

Bernhardt goes on to make an analogy between his college experience and the High Holy Days. On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the large sanctuary is suddenly filled to capacity. Bernhardt raises the same question he asked

during college: how do congregants feel prepared if they only show up once or twice a year?

To extend the analogy, I’ll suggest that the way to feel spiritually and emotionally prepared for the High Holidays is not unlike studying for an exam. Do come to synagogue (of course!) but also take time for some thoughtful and personal introspection of your own. Here is a “study guide” with the kinds of questions that can be helpful to think about as you prepare for the High Holy Days.

1. What am I looking to gain this High Holy Days?

2. What does it mean to be “blessed with a good and sweet new year?”

3. Who in my family and/or friends really needs to be “inscribed in the Book of Life” or the “Book of Health and Wellbeing?”

4. Who do I especially need to ask for forgiveness of my family or friends?

5. What do I want for Israel this year?

6. What would I do if I heard the voice of God telling me to take my child and offer him or her up as an offering?

7. What do I want to change for the upcoming New Year and what do I want to stay the same?

8. Can I feeling closer to the prayers this year?

9. Which Al Het–For the sin that we have committed prayer during Yom Kippur will I identify with more?

10. When I hear the final Shofar blast, will I feel different than when the holidays started? Do I really want to?

From my family to yours, I want to wish you all a sweet and joyous Shana Tovah! May we be all inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life, health, and happiness.

Rabbi, Dr. Larry Bazer