Harold Kirtz’s 2021 Rosh Hashanah Message
Rosh HashanahCommunity

Harold Kirtz’s 2021 Rosh Hashanah Message

Read community insights, perspectives and opportunities seen as we enter into the 5782/ 2021 New Year.

Harold Kirtz
Harold Kirtz

Civil Discourse for the Sake of the Community

We are in the midst of Elul, the final month prior to Rosh Hashanah. This is a month in which to spiritually prepare for the High Holy Days season of reflection and repentance.

Elul is traditionally a time of introspection and personal stock-taking, known in Hebrew as cheshbon hanefesh — literally “an accounting of the soul.” This process is conducted in preparation for Rosh Hashanah when, Jewish tradition teaches, all of humanity is called to account and a divine judgment is issued. The customs associated with Elul are all intended to help cultivate the proper mindset for this preparation.

The proper mindset during Elul and at other times is often difficult to achieve. We encounter so much conflict and confrontation that the voices of others and our own voice are drowned out. We are unable to hear — really hear — one another.

We want to take stock, but we often fail to use the resources available to us. Our Jewish tradition has tools and customs to aid us in taking stock. But how do we access them?

We need a willing heart and a receptive mind to listen to the voices of ourselves and others. We must start from a place of acceptance of what those voices have to offer. Once we are in a place in which we can have civil discourse, the benefits from such work can be developed. We can then listen, hear, and benefit from the wisdom that others and we have.

As we move forward during Elul and throughout the year, we must assist each other in achieving discourse that is civil and productive. May each of us commit this coming year to engage in civil discourse and have an accounting not just for our own individual soul, but for the soul of the whole community.

Harold Kirtz is president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Atlanta.

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