In the last couple of weeks through the medium of video … some very sad, disturbing and tragic events in remote or more private places have been seen by millions of people around the world. ISIS or ISIL has recorded and shared the dastardly beheading of two American journalists. The start to the NFL football season has been overshadowed by the release of a video that records one of its star players punching his then fiancé. In both cases, the videos released contained events that, sadly, are not new – either in human history or in the daily lives of some of the world’s inhabitants. And yet, the sharing of the videos served as potent catalysts in dramatically impacting reactions toward those who perpetuated the violence. ISIS/ISIL has been acting in the Middle East for months, but these videos seem to have been part of the impetus for the President to respond in the public and aggressive manner in which he did and plans to lead the country. The NFL had already punished its player for the suspected violence, but the punishment was dramatically increased once the video was released to the public.
These are two very negative and powerful examples of how actually seeing something, affects us more profoundly than hearing about it, reading about it or even just thinking about it. There exists a potent element to taking the time, utilizing the tools or technology we have to examine and understand the events that unfold around us … and within us. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur serve as a kind of spiritual technology that can be used to see our lives more closely and clearly. It is a kind of seeing that is beyond the scope of our physical senses. It is a kind of seeing that one does with our spiritual ‘senses’.
These High Holydays stake claim to set aside sacred time from our lives to examine our choices and their consequences for us and the world around us. The close viewing – witnessing – of those aspects of our lives that we many not give such close attention to the rest of the year – can be empowering and frightening; transforming and intimidating. This spiritual technology demands self-awareness and the constructive actions that follow. As raw, honest and vulnerable that we may feel by seeing ourselves so closely and clearly – those feelings cannot compare to the numbness, rigidity and stuckness that results when we do not bear witness to the life of our own souls.
As Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur approach us once again, I pray that we may all see them for the challenge, utility, necessity and opportunity they present … to look honestly, justly and compassionately on the state of our lives … and understand enough from what we see to make this next year one of growth, joy and meaning.