This weekend is the high point of the Jewish high-holydays. Tonight and tomorrow is the Sabbath of Repentance, and Sunday night through Monday is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. On these days, in Jewish tradition, the creator of the world is sitting in judgement and we are all supplicants to be written in the book of life. Ancient words ring through the synagogue, and who cannot be moved by them:
"who shall live and who shall die, who at the predestined time and who before their time, who by water and who by fire, who by sword and who by beast?"
The mantra for these days might well be "Return, Reflect, Repent". The word for repenting in Hebrew is actually very close to the word meaning return, and as well as repenting, we talk about returning to our best selves, returning to God, to doing the right things instead of the wrong things. Reflection is my twist on the heavy prayer quotient of these days. From before sundown on Sunday through to nightfall Monday Jews will spend several, up to 15 hours, praying. It can be uplifting, and it can be very hard going. Nigel Savage, founder and executive director of Hazon has written a beautiful piece on the prayer marathons of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, which I recommend to all. The net of it all is lots of time to reflect... not a bad thing for our times.
On Yom Kippur we fast, and we seclude ourselves away from almost all of the everyday world. Many do not drive, do not shower, and we certainly don't use very much in the way of electrical goods like TVs or PCs. We reach, for that one day, the nirvana of "reduce, reuse, recycle" - our ecological footprint on the world is as small on Yom Kippur as on any other day.
This Monday will be a pretty good time to be a Jew and a Venture Cyclist: "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle ... Return, Reflect, Repent".
While you can, and if you haven't, please go ahead and sponsor Hannah or me for the Hazon 2006 New York Bike ride.