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The Power of Jewish Traditions in Times of Uncertainty
Judy Finkelstein-Taff

Dear CJDS Community, 

Yesterday and today students in each cohort performed the simple ritual of tashlich. Facilitated by Tamar Cytryn, students reflected on behaviors that they want to throw away so they can change and do better in the coming year. Students wrote down their thoughts or drew pictures, and in the case of our youngest students, on paper that dissolved when they threw it in the water. Each cohort walked to the river, which has a newly finished access and a running path directly across the street from CJDS. They quietly sang Avinu Malkeinu, performed tashlich, and concluded with the sounding of the shofar. I was able to join with several cohorts over the two days and I couldn’t help but think about the beauty of our traditions. 

Consider the brilliance and simplicity of the tashlich ceremony combined with the concept of teshuvah (repentance) as we ask for forgiveness from those we have hurt intentionally or unintentionally.

How many opportunities do we get in life to erase our mistakes, throw them away, and start over with a clean slate? Not only does Judaism give us permission every year to make changes for the better, but our tradition encourages us to let our mistakes go, to not beat ourselves up, and to build on the good. But in great Rabbinic tradition, we are also encouraged to directly communicate to those we know we hurt and ask for forgiveness. It’s not enough to ask God to forgive our transgressions, we need to ask the people we have hurt to forgive them as well. The most interesting piece of these rituals to me is the prescription that if you ask someone to forgive you three times and they don’t, then God will forgive you. The idea that there is a limit to the number of times a person can ask another person for forgiveness is fascinating. Forgiveness is a Jewish value and something we need to move forward from our mistakes. Judaism recognizes that need and gives us a path to being forgiven by fellow humans and, if not, by God.

In my opinion, these rituals underscore an understanding of the acceptance of the idea that human beings make mistakes and that being forgiven for those mistakes is and should be part of the human experience. I hope if I have hurt you in any way, you will accept my apology. And in the year of the Pandemic, I hope God will accept our collective prayers as we promise as a community to do better. I hope God will answer our prayers for healing our broken world, restoring good health to our community, and guiding our scientists in their quest for the knowledge to protect us from this virus. 

Avinu Malkeinu אָבִֽינוּ מַלְכֵּֽנוּ

ah-vee-noo mahl-kay-noo

Our Father, Our King!

שְׁלַח רְפוּאָה שְׁלֵמָה

shih-lach rih-fooh-ahh shih-lay-mah

send complete healing

לְחוֹלֵי עַמֶּֽךָ

lih-choh-lay ah-meh-chah

to the sick among Your people.

אָבִֽינוּ מַלְכֵּֽנוּ

ah-vee-noo mahl-kay-noo

Our Father, our King!

בָּרֵךְ עָלֵֽינוּ שָׁנָה טוֹבָה

bah-raych ah-lay-noo shah-nah toe-vah

bless us with a good year. Let us say Amen. 

Shabbat Shalom and G’mar Tov, may you have an easy fast on Yom Kippur,

Ms. J (Judy)