The “Awe” in Days of Awe is most frequently associated with fear and trembling over the Day of Judgement (another name for Rosh Hashanah) and over our own mortality. “Who shall live and who shall die?” asks the U’netaneh Tokef prayer. No person can know who will die in 5782, nor can any of us feel sure that we will be written into the Book of Life. The liturgy’s rhetorical question reminds us that the mortality rate for Jews and non-Jews, in every time and place, is 100%. We only have so much time. Eventually, I will wear my kittel (High Holiday robe) as a burial shroud, and someone will say Yizkor (the memorial prayer) for me. Confronting Divine Judgment and human mortality over the High Holidays inspires us to repentance that is serious, urgent, heartfelt, and hopefully, lasting.
At the same time, “Awe” is also inspired during the Days of Awe because of amazing examples of virtue. We remember – and seek to emulate – God’s character: “merciful, compassionate, long in patience, abundant in lovingkindness and truth, treating multitudes with kindness, and forgiving purposeful sin and rebelliousness, as well as missteps.” High Holiday Torah and Haftarah readings describe ancestors like Hagar, Abraham, Isaac, and Hannah, who underwent terrible trials and nevertheless opened their hearts, remained authentic and vulnerable, and bravely tried to connect with God and other people.
Reply below to share:
What acts of goodness have awed you?
Which stories or role models give you goose bumps?
Who has inspired you with their goodness, and how might you emulate them in some small way them this year?