Dear TEE Community,

Each year at this time I review and update my address book.

The task began as a way for me to compile my Rosh HaShanah card list but over the years it’s become something more reflective. Looking at the names of people from different parts of my life is a reminder of how important many of them are to me. It gives me an opportunity to reflect on those relationships and what I’ve done in the past year to acknowledge and support them.

Going through my contacts also involves another, more difficult undertaking.

I face my reluctance to remove the names of those who have died.  I know that, emotionally, I confuse it with the Jewish idiom that wiping out someone’s name is the equivalent of forgetting them and destroying their legacy. In reality, there are reminders of deceased loved ones in many aspects of my life and I remind myself of those, considering how I might better incorporate the values and love they imparted to me into my actions.

Our relationships are at the heart of this season of preparation for the High Holidays.

The Yom Kippur liturgy reminds us that our relationship with God cannot be made right before we heal and balance our relationships with other human beings. In the course of our lives many of us will experience deeply painful conflicts with another person, creating wounds which may take years or decades to heal. But even in those most difficult situations, this season may provide an opportunity to take a step toward repair, whether in partnership with that person or on our own.

For the most part, however, the spiritual work of this month involves readily available solutions.

Taking time to make a phone call, write a note, or truly paying attention when someone else is speaking. Asking those near to you if there is something additional they want from you. And, most important, being honest with yourself about how you have prioritized your time and energy so that you can make changes through your behavior, not just good intentions.

On Yom Kippur we will read the words of Torah which assure us that spiritual growth, “is in your mouth and in your heart that you may do it (Deuteronomy 30:14).”

Our tradition does not expect superhuman capabilities but, rather, fully human ones. We need each other in family, in friendship, and in community. At Rosh Hashanah we will celebrate the creation and re-creation of the world. Tending those relationships brings wholeness not only to our own lives but to the wider world.

Rabbi Drorah Setel