We are fast approaching the Yamim Noraim, the High Holidays. Only three more weeks to go.As we all know people the world over celebrate their respective s New Years with drinks, with specific foods and with parties. Fireworks have long been a staple of New Year celebrations in many parts of the world along with spending time with loved ones and friends. It is a time to temporarily escape our day to day lives and forget our daily struggles and challenges. For Jews it is just the opposite. Instead of forgetting ourselves for a few hours, we try to remember. We look over the past year, identify our sins, ask for forgiveness, and resolve to do better. We engage in a process we call TeSHUVAH – a turning in to ourselves, a turning out to others, and a return to our spiritual lives and to G-d.
There are of course traditional ways that Jews have always approached this. We hope that somehow our religious services for the High Holidays will help people to do Teshuvah. But there are certain challenges for rabbis and cantors in helping people accomplish the task. Rabbis hope that their brilliant sermons will inspire people to reflect upon their lives. But that doesn’t usually work. We hope we can help people to connect their own experiences to the liturgy of the High Holidays. But that rarely works. Cantors hope that their beautiful music will touch something in the soul that will bring about true repentance. But at times it is unclear whether that works. In fact there is only one way that we can do TESHUVAH – we, each one of us, has to work!
Tonight I want to share with you a unique way of doing the work of Teshuvah. It is through a website called “Do You 10Q?” You go to the website www.doyou10Q.com and sign up. Then, starting on September 29, the first day of Rosh Hashannah, a 10Q question will arrive in your inbox along with a link. When you click on the link, you are taken to a private and personal space where you can answer the question in writing. Then you save your answer. Then, each day of the Ten Days of Repentance, you will receive another email with another question. You click on the link and answer the new question. At the end of ten days, you can click on the magic button and deposit all your answers to “the vault”. Your answers will be held securely in the vault until sometime before next Rosh Hashanah, when, one day, they will show up in your inbox for you to read.
With each question, you can choose to share your answer with the public, either anonymously or with attribution. Or, you can keep your answers private. It is up to you.
To give you an idea , here are three questions, along with some answers, from last year:
Question 1: “Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?”
Answer: “Lots of small things and nothing that big. I did realize that if I stay in one place longer, rather than traveling weekly on work, it does help my health! I’m relieved to know that things like my BP can be bought under control if I can manage to curtail travel and ensure exercise and most importantly sleep,” writes one anonymous respondent.
Question 5: Have you had any particularly spiritual experiences this past year? How has this experience affected you? “Spiritual” can be broadly defined to include secular spiritual experiences: artistic, cultural, and so forth.
Answer “I feel a lot more connected to God since I’ve gotten pregnant and had a baby. It is truly a miracle.”
Another person wrote: “I lowered my guard. I was met with kindness and connection.”
“G-d this is going to sound so dumb — but watching “Coco.” I found the film profoundly, unexpectedly, moving. I am thinking more and more of my loved ones who have passed on as a result, seeing their guidance and wisdom in some of my daily decisions. Sometimes that makes it feel like they haven’t left at all.”
Question 9: “What is a fear that you have and how has it limited you? How do you plan on letting it go or overcoming it in the coming year?”
One person answered: Fear of losing my independence. I don’t have the first clue how to let it go or overcome it. I will learn.”
Another wrote: My biggest fear that has held me back would he my fear of not being good enough for my goals/dreams …….I don’t feel worthy enough………I will conquer my fear one day at a time.
A third wrote: “I am afraid of diabetes and breast cancer. I need to take back control of my health in order to prevent the terrible diseases which are my heritage.”
These questions aim to guide us in doing the difficult work of Teshuvah. The Rabbi can’t do it for us. The Cantor can’t do it for us. The Choir can’t do it for us. Our beautiful building can’t do it for us. We must do the work ourselves. I think this website can be helpful. I have decided to use it this year and see how it works for me. I’ll post the website address on our Facebook page. Would you join me?