Today is the holiday that Jews the world over refer to as the “Day of Atonement.” It’s a solemn day of fasting and prayer, with the fervent hope that we’ve not erred so greatly as to be offed, either individually or collectively, in the coming year.
I’ve been thinking about this ultra fear-based interpretation, and I am a believer in evolution, especially spiritual evolution.
Last week, on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, there was one sentence during the service that jumped out at me so profoundly, that I had to write it down.
“These are the days of reflection and hope.”
If ever there was something this angry world could use right now, it’s reflection and hope.
Time to put the phone down, turn the streaming shows off, the constant busyness of life, and stop. Stop to reflect. Stop to ask ourselves how we’ve shown up in the past year and if that’s really served us.
I read the word “atonement” as “at-one-ment.” To me, this day begs us to find our center again, to ground ourselves in whatever it is we believe, and to resurrect within us – hope.
Atonement means to align ourselves with where we come from, and to honor that in how we live our lives.
I believe we do that, not by cowering in the corner, but by owning our God-given power.
For too long, we have seen ourselves as small and powerless. I don’t believe the voices of hate outnumber the voices of love. I just think hate screams louder, like the schoolyard bully, and it’s time for love to stop being silent.
There is a ripple effect for goodness, for kindness, for compassion. It’s time to stop distracting ourselves and get busy with what matters.
That person you’ve lost touch with, call them.
The hard conversation you’ve been avoiding, have it.
The change you’ve been meaning to make, start now.
There is no “big reveal” like in reality television. Mountains get climbed one baby step at a time. Accomplishment happens when you make an agreement with yourself not to stop. Not to stop when it’s inconvenient. Not to stop when it gets hard. Not to stop because you can’t see the view from the top yet. Not to stop just because you don’t know how.
It’s easy to give up. It’s easy to look at our world and lament, “What could poor little ol’ me do about it? I’m just one person.”
But our atonement, regardless of religion, is individual, and it is as individuals that we will save the world. One good deed at a time. One meal for the hungry. One visit to the relative in a nursing home or hospital. One kindness shown to a stranger. One helping hand at a time.
There was one Rosa Parks. One Abraham Lincoln. There was also one Adolph Hitler.
To ask for forgiveness without a change in behavior is meaningless. It doesn’t serve us to beg for something when we are unwilling to change ourselves. God is not some magician, waving a magic wand just because we don’t want to clean up our own messes.
I have been told my unhappiness stems from my expectations not being met. That may be true, but I can’t help but believe we have the potential for peace and expect us to figure that out.
I can’t help but hope that humanity will wake up to the fact that what happens to one of us, happens to all of us, and expect us to behave accordingly. And I am unwilling to let go of the belief that we are our brother’s keeper.
It’s true, I expect a lot. And I’m heartbroken when I look at a world that doesn’t seem to grasp even the simplest idea of treating others the way we want to be treated.
But my job isn’t to tell everyone what to do, much as I'd really enjoy that. It’s not even to get it all done myself.
My job is to live my life and make my reach such that the kind of world I want to live in becomes inevitable.
It’s big. It’s bold. It’s doable.
It requires changing only one person – me.
What does “at-one-ment” mean to you? What could we all sacrifice to be "at-one?"
These are the days of reflection and hope.
May they also be the days we reawaken to our potential and become the best versions of ourselves.