There’s a book that sits on my shelf year-round, standing out for its bright white binding with big, bold, black letters. It’s called This is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation. More than the content that fills the pages of this book, I’m constantly struck by, and aware of the title. I know the High Holy Days are real, but I’m not completely unprepared. That said, before the book went on my shelf, I was definitely unprepared, and yet the book can now sit on my shelf and no longer represent what I do not know. Rather, the book stands as a reminder of growth and transformation.
That’s what the Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe, are all about. This is our chance for growth and transformation. Our tradition elevates these days so that our words mean more now than they do any other time of the year. Our requests for forgiveness are spiritually higher than the days that exist outside of this liminal timeframe. We are more open to and vulnerable to a spiritual experience on these days. Many of us engaged in the beginning stages of this transformation during Rosh Hashanah and we carry that energy with us through the Days of Awe and into Yom Kippur.
Along the journey, we have the chance to pause by the river’s edge. We are called upon to engage in the ritual of tashlich. We hold bread crumbs in our hands and reflect on the sins we need to cast away from our being for the coming year. This is meant to be a private, personal act. One that is all about us, God, and our personal journey through life.
That said, last year I watched a small girl ferociously engage in the ritual. With each piece she tore from the loaf she narrowed her eyes, wound up her arm, tossed the piece and yelled, “For not listening to my mom!” She pulled off another piece, “For being mean to my brothers!” She pulled off a chunk, “For not doing what I was told the first time they asked!” In that moment, that little girl meant and felt so deeply each and every misstep she had taken in the past year.
It’s not about how quietly or loudly we perform the ritual, or even what kind of bread we toss, but our engagement in the ritual elevates our spiritual journey through these Yamim Noraim, these Days of Awe so that we can begin to feel prepared for the awe-inspiring moments of Yom Kippur, our Day of Atonement.
Please join us for Tashlich at Azalea Park on Saturday, October 5th from 4:30-6:30pm. This is an amazing ritual for all ages to engage. We promise not to judge the kind of bread you bring, we just hope you’ll join us!