In the month that precedes Rosh Hashanah I share some stories and sermon ideas that will not make it to the big time. Last Wednesday it was the Seminary Prof not taking the call of the Chief Justice and the need to do a better job paying attention to our families as opposed to the latest phone call or tweet.
This week I want to share an interesting pre Rosh Hashanah custom of one of my colleagues. It should resonate with non rabbis too. Here is what he writes:
“I have developed a custom in recent years that I want to share with you. On Erev Rosh Hashanah, I make the rounds of my house, room by room, and I try to think about all the sins that I have committed in each room, and I try to atone for them.”
He starts in the kitchen, and thinks of the times that he has overeaten in that room, and thereby violated the law of ushmartem et nafshotechem, you shall guard your health, and he promises to be more careful in what he eats, and in how much he eats, in the new year.
Then he goes to the closets and sees how much stuff he has. He thinks of all the people who need clothing, while he has so much, and he resolves to take some of the clothes that he never wears anymore, and some of the clothes that do not fit any more, and promises that he will give them away so that others can benefit from what he no longer uses.
Then he goes into his bedroom and thinks of how he and his wife have sometimes violated the promise that they made to each other when they got married, that they would never go to sleep angry at each other, and he resolves to keep that promise better in the new year than he has in the past year.
And then he comes to the room where he thinks that he has probably committed more sins than in any other room this past year. Do you know which room that is? It is the room where his computer is. He thinks of all the times that he has used his computer carelessly or casually or sinfully. He thinks of how many times he has used it to spread gossip, or to defame character, or to malign someone’s reputation. And he promises that in this new year, he will guard his fingers from spreading guile, and that he will commit less sins on the computer than he committed in the year now concluding.
That is what this rabbi does. For me, I would add the TV room, where I have wasted many hours watching movies that I have seen before many times (e.g. “The American President,” “Rudy,” “The Sound of Music”) or meaningless football games (e.g. most of them), and I would promise to use my time more wisely than in the past year.
What do you think? Share with me your reactions to this Rosh Hashanah warm-up, and share with me other ways you have developed for ushering in the holiday and its agenda of teshuvah, returning to the kind of person we were created to be, in the image of God.
And, have a great Wednesday. A week from tonight it’s the start of Rosh Hashanah. For me, it’s always too soon.
Best, Bill Rudolph
P.S. Wait till you see the sanctuary, rededicated this past Sunday; you may think you wandered into a different shul. Special late night prayers called Selichot happen the Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah. We pair with Ohr Kodesh, this year at Beth El. We have an early version, a late version, and a video/discussion program in between. Information is on our website, www.bethelmc.org. Check it out for the detail, also because the website has just itself been dramatically renovated and is now available for your perusal and use, and also because we have posted a unique 30 second congregant video about shofar blowing that you gotta see: