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Self-reflection and Self-awareness

How are you using this week? The days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are a solemn time in our tradition. The days of this week are meant to be part of the journey toward atonement and purification for this year. If you have been hurtling toward Yom Kippur without taking a few moments of quiet time for your own reflection-then tonight turn off the television.  Turn off your phone.  Refrain from Facebook for an hour.  Get out a pen and paper (How old fashioned!) and write down those the errors, sins and falsehoods that crept into your daily life in the past year and how you will make amends for those in the year ahead.

How will you become self-aware and conscious of who you are and who you might yet be?

Rabbi Lawrence Kushner writes these inspirational words in his book, “The River of Light” ( P.52-53,54: Jewish Lights, 1981 and 1990)

Sinai is the story of a time when, for just a moment, we became aware of our own awareness. Self-conscious of our own consciousness. The light of the first verses of Genesis is a metaphor for the dawning of human awareness. In one sense, all of Scripture is the story of the discovery of and straying from that light. But, until Sinai, the light was unaware of itself: a child who did not know it could see. Not until the mountain did we become conscious of the medium by which we are conscious. Vision was turned back into itself, creating the momentary sensation of blindness. The light must have been too bright, for we said, “Let not God speak to us, lest we die” (Exodus 20:16).

The Sinai story of how we once endured the self-reflection of our own consciousness, tells that there are not one, but two parts: two becomings conscious. You will recall that there were two sets of commandments….the first attempt on the part of the Holy One to covenant with Israel failed.

And then the second set is given and received without much fuss at all.

Imagine it: a sacred chest filled with shattered words and pieces of stone. We live ina time after the confusion of trying to endure the self-reflection of our own consciousness, but before we have succeeded.

This time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is the time we are to try and sort through our self reflection so that we can receive the light of mitzvot at the end of Yom Kippur.  As the gates of Neilah close we can rise up aware of our self, aware of our connection to the Divine, aware of our place among the Jewish people and purified for the year to come.

Take advantage of these days.

G’mar Chatimah Tovah