On September 30, we begin our collective reflection on Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg’s book, On Repentance and Repair: making amends in an unapologetic world. The reading and reflection circle will take place in the Art Gallery on Saturday morning. Coffee and tea will be available at 9:30 and the session runs from 10:00 to 1:00, followed by a light lunch.
Please use the link from the congregation’s Calendar to register so that we may make sure we order sufficient food. The book is available in our bookstore, and also can be purchased on-line as an e-book or an audio book.
We scheduled this series to coincide with the Jewish High Holy Days. In many ways, the September 24 service led by Rev. Dr. Natalie Fenimore was a wonderful touch-point for our study.
At that service, we heard a beautiful rendition of “Shalom Rav” with a special ending “B’seifer Chayim” performed by our choir. Stephen Michael Smith conducted the Ben Steinberg version, with Nathaniel LaNasa on the piano. The role of the Cantor was sung by our mezzo-soprano soloist Leah Wool. It is a performance that I have returned to each day. It moved me deeply, and goes emotionally deeper for me with each viewing.
I thought I’d publish a translation of the text here for those who are interested.
Grant abundant peace upon your people Israel forever,
for you are Adonai, the Sovereign of Peace.
And may it be good in your eyes to bless your people
at all times and all hours with your peace.
In the Book of Life, blessing, peace, and proper sustenance,
May we be remembered and inscribed,
We and all your people, the house of Israel,
For a good life and for peace.
Blessed are you, Adonai,
Who blesses your people with peace.
Dr. Fenimore made reference to Unetaneh Tokef, the great prayer that is recited during the Jewish Days of Awe and which is, in many ways, the centerpiece of the High Holy Days. I recall the first time that I heard a rabbi wrestle with its ideas when I sang the High Holy Days liturgy in the Reform congregation in Lexington, Massachusetts. Again, that preaching, like that of Dr. Fenimore on Sunday, moved me deeply. I have returned to this prayer at important moments in my life.
On Rosh Hashanah it is inscribed,
and on Yom Kippur it is sealed:
how many shall pass away and how many shall be born?
who shall live and who shall die,
who in good time, and who by an untimely death,
who by water and who by fire,
who by sword and who by wild beast,
who by famine and who by thirst,
who by earthquake and who by plague,
who by strangulation and who by stoning,
who shall have rest and who wander,
who shall be at peace and who pursued,
who shall be serene and who tormented,
who shall become impoverished and who wealthy,
who shall be debased, and who exalted?
But repentance, prayer and righteousness avert the severity of the decree.
Rabbi Ruttenberg relies on the work of Moses Maimonides whose 12 century manuscript the Mishneh Torah examines such repentance, prayer and righteousness. Maimonides draws distinctions on the paths to forgiveness, and Ruttenberg develops them. He sees a process between naming harm, making apologies, making restitution, and seeking and granting forgiveness. Our study will ask us to think deeply about how it is a people with deep historical roots—like those of Unitarian Universalism and its many sources—make amends in an unapologetic world. I hope I will see you on Saturday.