I just finished reading this interesting blog post about Rosh Hashanah, which begins on September 16th.
What is interesting and powerful to me as a Lutheran is the emphasis on one’s own preparations and actions during this sacred time. The author writes that Jews are urged to ask for forgiveness–not just from God but from friends, family members, and even enemies–in order that they might be reconciled. She says, “Although this part of High Holidays preparation is often times the most difficult and taxing, it is incredibly freeing. Once we have done the hard work of asking for forgiveness from others, we may begin our year anew, with a clean slate.”
Further, Jews are also encouraged to do what is called a “soul accounting”–heshbon hanefesh–a kind of relational, ethical and spiritual accounting, which, as she says, allows for “a frank and often hard look at ourselves and our failings;” “it also allows us to embark upon a path of self-discovery, to see in which direction we are heading and to discern where we hope to go.”
Now, Lutherans don’t use this kind of language very often in relationship to our religious holidays: using the language we talked about repeatedly in the Religion & Media course these last two weeks, Lutherans focus on divine agency–what God is doing in, to, with and through us–rather than human agency. This is not surprising: because of the depth of human sinfulness, we don’t put much stock in human agency most of the time.
However, sometimes I wish we talked more about what we as humans can do–not apart from God’s agency, but empowered by it; not by our own reason or strength, but through the Holy Spirit, who works in us. For my part, I am glad this is something the Jewish people “tend” [to use my colleague and new friend Mary’s language] for the whole human family–it is a strength and a gift they bring to the party, so to speak, and I am grateful for it.