This has been a hard week to not be reflective. Maybe it was the post on Facebook from a local news station that reminded me that 12 years ago, our view of the world changed. Maybe it was thinking about where I was on that sunny September morning and feeling that same sense of the unknown that followed watching CNN footage of the events in New York, then Washington, and finally a few hours away in Pennsylvania.

Maybe it was remembering the frantic nature of not being able to reach my wife, then my girlfriend, by phone and knowing that her grandparents were flying to New York that morning. Maybe it was seeing the representatives of Pepper Pike’s police and fire department lined up outside of school during the Peace Ceremony. Maybe it was watching the flag lowered to half mast.

Maybe it was hearing about the hesed activities undertaken by the 6th grade during their retreat. Maybe it was listening to classroom conversations about teshuva. Maybe it was reading a blog post from a colleague’s wife about the need to apologize and thinking about how we value relationships. Or maybe it was just that all of these thoughts were flowing through my head during the Aseret Y’mai Teshuvah, the Ten Days of Repentance that run from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur. And my reflections have increasingly turned to Yom Kippur as it has drawn closer and closer each day.

The image that mostly clearly burns into my mind is standing in the congregation watching the chazzan (cantor) and rabbi entreat God on our behalf as the clock slowly ticks down during Ne’ilah, the closing service. We wait with bated breaths (and empty stomachs) as we eagerly listen for the final blasts of the shofar. It is a final opportunity to say the Vidui, the confessional prayer, one more time. It is a chance to engage in cheshbon hanefesh, checking the soul to see if we have lived the life in the past year that we set out to.

As we prepare to close out the High Holiday season, I am taking in all the changes in my life over the past year (new job, new city, new community) and thinking about the ones to come in the next. I am thanking my family, colleagues, and staff for their support and encouragement through all these changes and am doing my best to do the same for them. I am asking forgiveness for  those I have inadvertently hurt or offended and hoping they will accept my apologies.

Please, God, may we have the strength to ask forgiveness and to recognize the errors of our ways. Please, God, may we continue to grow and behave better to one another as  we go through the process of teshuva. Please, God, may the coming year allow us to  improve the world in which we live through acts of hesed and tikkun olam

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