In the weeks leading up to Yom Kippur, the Cape Board and Mensch hosted an all men’s group to discuss issues around gender-based violence, gender equality, what it means to be a man and how we should be treating each other.
The discussions were powerful, honest and at times, brutal. I found myself relieved that Yom Kippur was around the corner, to provide me a space to reflect and work on myself. In preparation for this High Holiday season I had signed up for two WhatsApp groups with one overarching theme; Teshuvah. Repentance. The aim of the Whatsapp groups was to view our behaviour and then take corrective steps to make better choices and live a life free of transgressions against God and our fellow humans.
On Erev Yom Kippur, I took part in the Birkat Ha’Banim, the blessing of my children, at their school. As I held my hands on them and said the words of blessing, I prayed that they would always have the bravery to live a life that was authentic, and good. That they would treat their world with love and respect and look at it through a kind lens. I said this prayer for myself as well.
Yom Kippur is a day of reflection for me. I reflect on the fact that our lives are a gift. Not all of us are guaranteed to be here next year. When we performed teshuvah this Yom Kippur it was to remind us of our value to our community and that we need to widen that communal tent and that we need to focus on our relationships. When we focused on tefilah this was to promote the bonds of our connection to Judaism and our community. When we gave tzedakah this was to better the lives of all people around us.
Our task coming out of the High Holidays is not just to convince our friends, colleagues and God that we have transformed, but to acknowledge that change is slow, that it’s hard and that to merit another year we need to remember that the message of Unetaneh Tokef requires us to ask ourselves not who shall live, but how shall we live?
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