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Archive for the ‘The Days of Awe’ Category

G-d, Promises and The Days of Awe

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 21, 2007

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that G-d is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.” (Alcoholics Anonymous p83-84)

“This Phase” of course refers to working the 12 Steps of Recovery 1-9.

Note that it says, “before we are half way through…” – what’s half-way through 9? 4.5 – so perhaps we are teetering on the edge of Step 5 – what an excellent opportunity to do our 5th Step right before Yom Kippur, so that we can turn to G-d having cleaned out all that old shame, fear, guilt about what we have lived through! Regardless what we decide to do, the result will be a renewal.

Another angle:

“When you make any vow to the L-rd your G-d, you must pay it without delay…If you refrain from making a vow, that is no sin for you; but you must be careful to perform any promise you have made with your lips.” (Deut. 23:22)

I seldom make promises to G-d, but I sure make them to myself all the time – and somehow I think Torah here is talking about both kinds of promises. Promising things and not keeping them, forgetting that I made that promise – somehow I and G-d always end up with the shorter end of the stick in the Promise department. They get shuffled out as “not important”. But Torah says that they are. One reason for this is that broken promises, or non-fullfilled promises erodes our trust and our sense of self-worth. Constantly making little promises to oneself and not following through is demoralizing. Torah abhors broken people, so Torah creates a mitzvah – “Follow through also on the vows you make to G-d (and yourself).”

Yom Kippur has a very specific formula to take care of the erosion of our souls tha comes from making all those little promises, commitments and resolutions to ourselves and G-d that we failed to honor: Kol Nidre.

The Ashkenazi version, which has “from this Day of Atonement until the next (whose happy coming we await)” rather than “from the last Day of Atonement until this one”, in my mind is rather useless in terms of having any healing properties, so I will quote the Sefardi version:

“All vows, obligations, oaths, and anathemas, whether called ‘konam,’ ‘konas,’ or by any other name, which we may have vowed, or sworn, or pledged, or whereby we may be bound, from the last Day of Atonement until this one, we do repent. May they be deemed absolved, forgiven, annulled, and void, and made of no effect; they shall not bind us nor have power over us. The vows shall not be reckoned vows; the obligations shall not be obligatory; nor the oaths be oaths.”

This is said 3 times – so it should give us plenty of time to let go of all those failed promises made to ourselves and G-d, during the past year, so we can step into His Presence and get straightened out, so our recovery can continue unhindered, that we may be all we can in the time until the next Yom Kippur.

May our sealing be for life, goodness and healing!



Posted in The Days of Awe, Torah | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

G-d, Lashon Hara and The Days of Awe

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 20, 2007


“Don’t tell the truth, don’t share your opinion about people – or should we call them Main Characters in Torah….because then you are lying, using evil speak and embarrassing them in public…”

This echoes the things we were taught as children, “Don’t speak, don’t feel, don’t rock the boat”, doesn’t it? Isn’t this what keeps so many of us in bondage, sexually, emotionally, physically, spiritually, tied to our abusive pasts, because we are not allowed, not only by our families, but by oversensitive and legalistic interpretations of Torah?

I agree that we should avoid embarrassing living people in public, especially if there is no need, if the issue can be solved some other way – but that one is not allowed to expound on Torah in a manner that shows that indeed the Forefathers and Foremothers were human being just like you and me, with flaws, faults, character defects and dysfunctions, that is simply ridiculous.

People in Torah were some times up shit creek with themselves. That needs to be said, or what use is it to anyone to try and emulate their good sides, if we cannot identify with them on a deeper level, that of shame, fear, suffering and anger?

None whatsoever. It only serves the disease and the abusers.

The prohibition against Lashon Hara doesn’t cover the

“times when a person is obligated to speak out, even though the information is disparaging. Specifically, if a person’s intent in sharing the negative information is for a to’elet, a positive, constructive, and beneficial purpose, the prohibition against lashon hara does not apply. Motzi shem ra, spouting lies and spreading disinformation, is always prohibited. And if the lashon hara serves as a warning against the possibility of future harm, such communication is not only permissible, but, under certain conditions, compulsory.”

So as we clamber through The Days of Awe, and take time to examine our conduct and reason with G-d about it, we shouldn’t be shy about speaking the truth about where we came from, both in regards to our families and in regards to ourselves and remember that

“For the mistakes we committed before You through things we blurted out with our lips” and “For the mistakes we committed before You through harsh speech”(from the Al Chet Prayer)

doesn’t speak about disclosing our parents’ disease, abuse and dysfunction.


Posted in Al Chet Prayer, Criticism, G-d, Gossip, Lashon hara, Matriarchs, Patriarchs, The Days of Awe, Torah | Leave a Comment »

G-d, Forgiveness and The Days of Awe

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 19, 2007


By Jay Litvin

“These were the days before Yom Kippur. I was lonely and couldn’t figure out why. The loneliness had been there for months.

Things were good with my wife and kids. I’d been on the phone with my sisters and in close contact with my friends.

So, what was the source of this loneliness?

I was missing G-d.

I was and had been feeling distant from Him. A strange feeling for me. Even in my late teens I had been able to connect with Him when I needed to. He always answers my calls. Sometimes I don’t even need to call. I just feel his companionship as I journey through life.

But these last months had been lonely. I had been separate from Him, unable even to call out. And I didn’t know why.

Just before Yom Kippur, I received an e-mail from a friend. He’s not a religious Jew, though we discourse often about G-d and Torah. He’s a writer and has a way with words. We also share the same disease, and talk much about our symptoms, history, fears, treatments and aches. There’s a special something that happens with people who share the same disease. We never have to worry about boring each other. All our concerns and obsessions about the daily changes in our health or symptoms, our latest internet discoveries about new cures and clinical trials may bore others, but are continuously fascinating to us.

At the end of this email my friend wrote: “Jay, this Yom Kippur, I don’t think you should go to shul and ask G-d for forgiveness. This Yom Kippur you should stay home and G-d should come crawling on His knees and beg you to forgive Him for what He’s done to you.”

When I read these lines I laughed. My friend is a sacrilegious provocateur. He believed what he said, but he mainly wrote those words to shock me. I filed his words, but paid them little attention.

As Yom Kippur drew close, I continued to wonder what was taking place between G-d and me. I worried that this day of prayer and fasting would be void of the usual connection that Yom

And then in a flash I realized that I was angry at G-d. And had been for some time. I was angry about my disease and I was angry that I was not yet healed. I was angry about my pain. And I was angry at the disruption to my life, the fear, the worry and anxiety that my disease was causing my family and those who loved and cared about me. I was angry about the whole thing, and He, being the boss of everything that happens in the world, was responsible and to blame.

And so, I entered Yom Kippur angry at G-d.

I put on my kittel and my tallit and I went to shul.”(excerpt from very long article)

I can’t help but feel that this is very apt for me, and I am sure for many in Recovery – one reason we have trouble working the Steps that includes G-d. We are angry with G-d, we feel that G-d has deserted us, cheated us, let us face all kinds of horrible things alone, and you know what?

He has. We have every right to be angry at Him.

But that is not the end of the story. Eventually we realize that what we have been through, as horrible as it was (and still is for many) it has also made us the persons we are today. We have picked some very useful skills, that perhaps originally were meant to protect us as children. Most of what we learned as children is not useful to us as adults.

Hyper vigilance f.i is not useful – but if we look at hyper vigilance we see that trimmed down to functional levels through the Program, it is nothing but a very keen sense of observation, an eye for detail and context – that is useful.

My wife said that being bullied in school has taught her compassion.

My need for control has resulted in a very neat skill – I can read virtually any document up-side down. Being dyscalculic has given me a very good memory for numbers. The fact that my caregivers never bothered to teach me things means that I have a knack for learning by watching others do, this helps me when I need to learn complicated sequences, something I have trouble with because of my dyscalculia.

So while G-d let us go through all the crap, and it wasn’t fair, and we have every right to be angry with Him, at one point or other we have to let G-d off the hook for His shortcomings, because it has made us who we are – and who we are is good, perfectly imperfect and as it should be. As much as we need G-d to reason with us, as much do we need to reason with G-d, so that scarlet and crimson can become snow white and as wool (Yeshayahu 1:18)

The Days of Awe and Yom Kippur is as good a time as any to start.

copyright Henric C. Jensen

Posted in angry at G-d, Forgiveness, G-d, missing G-d, The Days of Awe, Yom Kippur | 1 Comment »

G-d, Distance and The Days of Awe

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 17, 2007

G-d is Compassion. He looks at our efforts to rectify our ways during The Days of Awe. Even if it seems that while we are taking a hard look at ourselves and attempting to make changes, that He might be distant, He is really never closer than when we seek to correct what we have messed up, because that is when we need Him the most.

If He really was distant from us, then how can He say:

Isa 1:18

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the L-RD; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

“let us reason together” – that is not the words of Someone who has distanced Himself from someone – it’s the words of Someone who desires to bring us through the work of self-reflection and honest assessments of our wrongs, our life stories and our doubts, walking side by side with us. At the end of that walk what used to be sullied, soiled and broken will be clean, pure and healed.

There’s midrash about a king who had a son.

The son had left home a long time ago after a fall-out with his father, and had moved a long way away from where he came from. The king, his father, sent out messages telling his son to come home. One of those messages  reached the son, and he responded “I can’t, it’s been to long and it’s too far to walk”. The King then sent another message saying “It doesn’t matter, you start walking now and I will meet you on the road where ever you are and we will walk the remaining stretch together”.

That’s G-d for us – meeting us on the way, walking with us and reasoning with us about what we have been doing with out lives the past year, so we can come to peaceful, healing and constructive conclusion on Yom Kippur.

Posted in Compassion, Distance, G-d, Isa 1:18, midrash about a king who had a son, The Days of Awe | 2 Comments »

G-d, a Holy Presence and The Days of Awe

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 16, 2007


When people are loving, brave, truthful, charitable, God is present.
– Harold Kushner

For many of us, our spiritual awakening began when we first heard our Higher Power might be our group. We learned that God may exist in the connections between people in our group just as well as within each individual. As we members exchange care and help with each other, as each struggles to achieve complete honesty and wrestles bravely with old temptations, God is truly in our midst. Closeness flourishes because we felt so alone but then found friends who suffered in similar ways. It is an expression of a spirit beyond our rational control.

When we ask another member to listen to us, we contribute to the strength of this spirit. When we give someone a ride to a meeting or spread the word about this program to other suffering men and women, we make a contribution and receive its benefits. Even now, if we need a renewal of confidence in God’s presence in our lives, we can telephone another member and just talk. We will quickly sense the spirit.

Today, I am grateful to feel God’s presence in my life and within the people around me.

This entry from Touchstones actually fit very well with part of the Shabbat Shuva Haftarah Text: Yoel 2:15-16

“Blow a horn in Zion,
Solemnize a fast,
Proclaim an assembly!
Gather the people,
Bid the congregation purify themselves.
Bring together the old,
Gather the babes
And the sucklings at the breast;
Let the bridegroom come out of his chamber,
The bride from her canopied couch.”

During The Days of Awe, we spend a lot of time looking at ourselves – in company of others – scrutinizing our lives, looking for renewal of our trust and faith in ourselves, G-d and others, as well as a chance to start all over.

For us as Jews in Recovery the High Holy Days and the Time In Between them is a perfect time to reach out and ask for help, not just from G-d, but from each other. Yoel tells us that we are to proclaim an assembly, gather our people, the young, the old and those in between. And then he tells us in 2:27, the last verse of the Haftarah:

“And you shall know
That I am in the midst of Israel:
That I the Lord am your God
And there is no other.
And My people shall be shamed no more.”

When we go to meetings, attend shul, reach out and gather during the Days of Awe, G-d, the Rock of our ancestors, the Salvation of Israel is right there in or midst. We will shamed no more. Not just as a nation, but as individuals. Shame dies in the light of closeness with others and with G-d.

Adon Olam

The Lord of the Universe who reigned
before anything was created.
When all was made by his will
He was acknowledged as King.

And when all shall end
He still all alone shall reign.
He was, He is,
and He shall be in glory.


And He is one, and there’s no other,
to compare or join Him.
Without beginning, without end
and to Him belongs diminion and power.


And He is my G-d, my living G-d.
to Him I flee in time of grief,
and He is my miracle and my refuge,
who answers the day I shall call.


To Him I commit my spirit,
in the time of sleep and awakening,
even if my spirit leaves,
G-d is with me, I shall not fear.


Posted in A Holy Presence, G-d, The Days of Awe, Yoel 2:15-16 | Leave a Comment »

G-d, Words and the Days of Awe

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 15, 2007


The Haftarot for Shabbat Shuva (the Shabbat between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur are Hoshea 14:2-10, Michah 7:18-20 and Yoel 2:15-27. The texts of Michah and Yoel follows on the same page.

“Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God,
For you have fallen because of your sin.
Take words with you
And return to the Lord.
Say to Him:
“Forgive all guilt
And accept what is good;
Instead of bulls we will pay
[The offering of] our lips.”
(Hoshea 14:2-3)

I read this and am in awe at how simple it is.

  1. Return To G-d.
  2. Take with you Words.
  3. Say to G-d: Forgive!

Yup, that simple, that beautiful. Just walk up to G-d with your words and say: “Forgive me”.

There’s more – G-d tells to us to tell Him to look at us and see what in us is GOOD, and that we are giving the best we have – Words of remorse.

  1. Accept that which is good
  2. We give the offerings of our lips.

Then let’s move on to the next part:

“I will heal their affliction,
Generously will I take them back in love;
For My anger has turned away from them.”
(Hoshea 14:5)

At which G-d response is unconditional love, because our words of teshuvah turns away or melts His anger.

That simple.

“Who is a God like You,
Forgiving iniquity
And remitting transgression;
Who has not maintained His wrath forever
Against the remnant of His own people,
Because He loves graciousness!
He will take us back in love;
He will cover up our iniquities,
You will hurl all our sins
Into the depths of the sea.”


Posted in Forgiveness, G-d, Hoshea 14:2-10, Michah 7:18-20, The Days of Awe, Words, Yoel 2:15-27 | Leave a Comment »

G-d, Intentions and The Days of Awe

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 14, 2007


What really struck a cord with me at that time was the analogy of Homer Simpson. Homer, like us, despite his failings and evident flaws as a human being tried his best to do what was good. He may have failed miserably but he tried his best. And THAT, in my opinion, makes Homer a good person. Why, I asked myself, would a just God punish Homer?

This ties in with what I sent out as a New Years Greeting the other day:

“The world was created on the 25th of Elul… Thus we find that Primal Adam was created on the first of Tishrei…at the 10th hour he disobeyed God’s command, at the 11th he was judged…. The Holy One said to him: Adam, you are a precedent for your progeny. Just as you came before me for judgment and I absolved you, so shall your progeny come before Me for judgment and I will absolve them. When? On Rosh Hashanah, ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month.'”

Somehow we have to approach the Days of Awe with hope, with confidence that G-d will forgive us and write us a New Year. He will, Tradition says, but we have to want it. Teshuvah is more about willingness to change and taking the possible steps towards such change, that it is about actually succeeding in making those changes. G-d forgives. G-d meets us on the road, however far away we are. All we have to do is take one step at a time towards Him in willingness.

G-d really is that simple-minded. Life isn’t about being good or bad, saint or sinner life is about walking with G-d in what ever manner we are capable of, and trust that when the last Neila Prayer is said and the last Shofar has been blown for us, we will be exactly where we are supposed to be, because until then we try our best to get closer to G-d on a personal level, and that is all Life is about.

He will absolve us if we let Him.


Posted in G-d, Hope, Intentions, Neila Prayer, Rosh Hashanah, Teshuvah, The Days of Awe | Leave a Comment »

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