We say a special psalm everyday in the month before Rosh hashanah and through the last days of Sukkot, Psalm 27. The whole Psalm is very powerful and beautiful, but there is one intriguing line that I would like to focus on, toward the end.
“Lulei heemanti lirot btov hasham beretz chaim.”-
“I believe I will see God’s goodness in the land of the living.””
What other land is there? We do not think of the afterlife as a land. Only this world has a land. I think it means that we live, but we are rarely really alive. We go through the motions of our lives, and then feel that everything is kind of unsatisfactory. We have missed so much even though we were supposedly there.
Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg had a great saying. He said, “You have done it, but you haven’t been there.” The entire purpose of the high holidays is to make us alive to the world we live in, and the way to do that is take away our barriers that prevent us from living happy lives and having good relationships with other
We often think that the reason we are supposed to take care of our relationships and the difficult things we do to each other before the High Holidays is because we want God to forgive us for our transgressions to God. I think this is actually backwards. We cannot hurt God, so we really cannot sin against God.
I think what God is saying is that if God did not hold out the promise of forgiving our alleged spiritual sins, then we would not heal our relationships with other people in the way that we should.
In many ways, preparing for the holidays is more important than the holidays.
This of course is not easy, but it is worthwhile. The process can start with some quuestions. Ask yourself if there is even one good thing about the person we are not too happy with. Ask the sameabout ourselves. What did we do last year that we really did not pay attention to, but if we had, we would have really liked it?
What were the things we thought were terrible, outside of tragedies, that turned out to be not so bad? Can we approach these things differently? These sounds like relatively small things, but can make a huge difference.
I do not write a lot about politics, not just because discussions about politics are so angry, contentious and unreasonable, and that no one is listening to the other, but because I believe that the more we create happier individuals, families and communities, we will create a more compassionate and healthy world.
We may not be able to change the world to be exactly the way we want, but maybe we can make our own place in the world an eretz chaim, a land of those who are truly alive, and bring some joy and appreciation into the rest of a world that really needs it. That is what God is waiting for.