Days of Awe…
This upcoming week is an especially important one in the Jewish religious calendar it is considered to be a time to reach out to those whom we may have slighted or afflicted in some way to make amends. The practice begins on Rosh Hashana (October 2 at sundown), which is known as the Jewish New Year, one has ten days to atone until Yom Kippur (October 11-12). On Yom Kippur, Yahweh (God) writes, in very permanent ink, in either the book of life or death how we have done this year. The ten days before Yom Kippur is a time when one can make a difference in their life and in the lives of others.
Being Unitarian Universalists we do not have a specific time where we intentionally review our year to see if there have been times and ways that we have faltered, or hurt others, on our path. I have often shared that in each moment we have the opportunity to begin again in love but I am interested in this time known as the “Days of Awe.” What can and should we atone for? In many ways it feels like a healthy practice to do a yearly review and ask/receive forgivenesses allowing us to really begin again on Yom Kippur with a lighter and atoned for heart.
The word atone is a special one if dissected it means “at one.” So just maybe if we take the time to review and atone we might find that we can be at one with our spiritual understanding of Self, which I often shorthand as Spiritual Self.
Here is an important note about this time of the year, if Jews repent during the Days of Awe and are found worthy by Yahweh their name will be written in the Book of Life and they will be granted another year of life. If one does not repent satisfactorily then on Yom Kippur their name will be written in the Book of Death, which as you might imagine would have dire consequences in the upcoming year. Therefore, during the Days of Awe what one does and how one atones is literally a matter of Life or Death. These days that we are about to enter are considered the most high holy days in the Jewish calendar.
One has to wonder why the early Christian community left this practice behind? I believe that it was because Christianity is based on an eschatology of the end times, Christians were and are are expecting the end and believe that people are sinners by nature so atonement is through confession to an intermediary. Thus no need for an annual atonement.
Early Christian Unitarians believed that humankind could work, atone and make oneself more Jesus-like; whom our forebearers and we consider was a human prophet. Christian Universalists on the other hand believed that God was so loving that (S)he would never damn their creation. As a denomination, spiritual community, we have come a long way from our Christian roots. Some of us still define ourselves as Christian while others self define as Buddhist, Humanist, Aetheists, Muslim, Sufi, Agnostic, Pagan-nature centered, Mystic, Zoroastrian, Transcendentalist, the list goes on and is long. Personally, I “Self-identify” as Unitarian Universalist (UU), I do not claim an identity beyond this because my journey is ever evolving and UUism allows me to follow wherever my heart and mind might lead me without boundaries to hold me back. This enables me to seek in the sacred practices of Judaism and to find a practice that holds meaning for me such as the Days of Awe and to embrace this time and make them a part of my own practice.
As with every part of my journey I invite you to join me in thinking about the year that we have each had and to ask and offer forgiveness to those whom we have friction or conflict with and then to heal as we become at one once again on the path of discovery and meaning making.
Peace to you my dearest ones,