Judaism is Personal
The High Holy Days are a time for gathering and finding the sweetness in our lives together. No other time draws us so into the same space through intentional prayer and reflection. The entire Jewish world sings the same song even if the melodies vary by custom or region. In the words of one of the poetic flourishes in the machzor: “All on Earth come this day to praise you.”
And at the same time, no other occasion places each person in such a unique position. We hear the same words read out of the Torah and think about the same themes. We read from the same book, more or less, but everyone carries with them their own story. That story is a sacred text in and of itself that is open to interpretation but cannot be fully understood. Even by ourselves. Our story is a sacred scripture that is read by G-d.
Our rabbis teach that G-d creates us in the divine image like a sovereign would stamp their own likeness on a coin. Yet while the coins minted by rulers are identical, each coin made by the Holy One is unique. No human being appears before G-d like any other one. No voice, even in the same key, is the same as any other one. No matter what the family resemblance or similarity of features across our tribes, none of us is like any other.
The beauty of the High Holy Days is that they remind us that being Jewish is neither about the individual nor about the community. Judaism is personal. A personal journey within the communities we live in. A personal story and a personal relationship with G-d.
Judaism is the opposite of the famous movie tagline: It’s not business, it’s personal. Another year to be ourselves awaits.
Rabbi Michael Bernstein is the spiritual leader of Congregation Gesher L’ Torah.